Zinky Boys

Zinky Boys

Soviet Voices From the Afghanistan War

Book - 1992
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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. In Zinky Boys journalist Svetlana Alexievich gives voice to the tragic history of the Afghanistan War. What emerges is a story that is shocking in its brutality and revelatory in its similarities to the American experience in Vietnam - a resemblance that Larry Heinemann describes movingly in his introduction to the book, providing American readers with an often uncomfortably intimate connection to a war that may have seemed very remote to us. 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; even today the radically altered Soviet society continues to reject the memory of the "Soviet Vietnam." 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. Svetlana Alexievich has snatched from the memory hole the truth of the Afghanistan 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 and the turbulence of Soviet life today.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton & Co., 1992
Edition: 1st American ed
Description: xix, 197 pages ; 23 cm
ISBN: 9780393336863
Branch Call Number: 958.1045 Ale


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Jun 05, 2017

This oral history contains the accounts of those men and women who were sent to Afghanistan and of family members whose children did not return. It paints a picture of horror and brutality. I was struck by the number of landmines and the many who lost all of their limbs as a result. However, the book provides no context of the war as a proxy war against the US funded Afghan mujahedeen, nor of the Russian failed efforts at building infrastructure and providing education for Afghan children.

May 01, 2016

Bold, powerful, distressing. By the way, the "zinky" in the title refers to the material used for the coffins holding the remains of soldiers returning from the Afghanistan war.

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