Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Svetlana Alexievich

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0393336867

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War

Svetlana Alexievich

Language: English

Pages: 224

ISBN: 0393336867

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Winner of the Nobel Prize: “For her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time.” ―Swedish Academy, Nobel Prize citation

From 1979 to 1989 a million Soviet troops engaged in a devastating war in Afghanistan that claimed 50,000 casualties―and the youth and humanity of many tens of thousands more. Creating controversy and outrage when it was first published in the USSR―it was called by reviewers there a “slanderous piece of fantasy” and part of a “hysterical chorus of malign attacks”―Zinky Boys presents the candid and affecting testimony of the officers and grunts, nurses and prostitutes, mothers, sons, and daughters who describe the war and its lasting effects. What emerges is a story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory in its similarities to the American experience in Vietnam. The Soviet dead were shipped back in sealed zinc coffins (hence the term “Zinky Boys”), while the state denied the very existence of the conflict. Svetlana Alexievich brings us the truth of the Soviet-Afghan War: the beauty of the country and the savage Army bullying, the killing and the mutilation, the profusion of Western goods, the shame and shattered lives of returned veterans. Zinky Boys offers a unique, harrowing, and unforgettably powerful insight into the realities of war.

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face or bite your arm to keep awake. A para runs as fast as he can, then as fast as he has to, to keep alive.’ And so on. My father’s an academic and my mother’s an engineer. They always brought me up to think for myself. That kind of individualism got me expelled from my Oktyabryata group [an approximate Soviet equivalent of the Cubs and Brownies] and I wasn’t accepted into the Pioneers for ages. When eventually I was allowed to wear that bright red Pioneer scarf I refused to take it off, even

the manageress stared at me in a very hostile way, and I just longed for her to make trouble. I would have told her: ‘You don’t like the way I’m dressed? Too bad! Make way for a hero!’ Just let someone even hint they don’t like my field-uniform! For some reason I’m looking for that someone — I’m spoiling for a fight. A Mother My first was a girl. Before she was born my husband used to say, girl or boy, he didn’t mind, but a girl would be better because she’d be able to do up her little

from folklore: a beautiful young girl. ## The model Pioneer camp for gilded Soviet youth. The Pioneer movement is roughly equivalent to the Scouts and Guides, but far more politically inspired. *** See p. 29 above. ††† Until recently a compulsory subject at Soviet universities and indispensable for the acquisition of a degree. ‡‡‡ As part of the regime of military secrecy conscripts are generally sent to their units straight from training-camp. �§§ Battles of the Russo-Japanese War. The war

Never be the first to spill blood, or you’ll forever be shooting yesterday’s old man and yesterday’s donkey. We fought the war, stayed alive and got home. Now’s the time to try and make sense of it all … A Mother I sat by the coffin. ‘Who’s in there? Is it you, my little one?’ I repeated over and over again. ‘Who’s in there? Is it you, my boy?’ Everyone thought I’d gone insane. Time passed, and I wanted to find out how my son was killed. I went to the local recruitment HQ. ‘Tell me how and

just escapes me. It all seems so petty and trivial and irrelevant compared with what I went through there. OK, so someone bought a new kitchen table and a TV, so what? But that’s the height of excitement here. My daughter’s growing up. She wrote to the CO of my unit in Afghanistan. ‘Please send my Mummy back to me as soon as possible, I miss her very much.’ Apart from her I can’t get interested in anything now. The rivers there are incredibly blue. I never realised water could be such a

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