Untangling history’s greatest controversies

Every month, host Zach Cornwell takes a hard look at the historical conflicts that raise difficult questions, stoke controversy, and send our moral compasses spinning.

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Ghosts in the Mountains: The Soviet-Afghan War – Part 1

When Soviet Russia invaded Afghanistan in December of 1979, few could have imagined what a seismic impact it would have on the modern world. In an attempt to prop up a wobbly client regime, the Soviets sparked a transnational jihad, inflamed Cold War tensions, and hastened the downfall of their own empire. Often referred to as “Russia’s Vietnam”, the Soviet-Afghan War is an overlooked, deeply misunderstood, and immensely important conflict. In this first installment of a multi-part series, we will explore how the Soviets found themselves ensnared in the “graveyard of empires”, through the eyes of the everyday people who experienced it firsthand.

SOURCES:

Ahmadi-Miller, Enjeela. The Broken Circle: A Memoir of Escaping Afghanistan. 2019.

Ansari, Mir Tamim. Games Without Rules: The Often-Interrupted History of Afghanistan. 2012.

Barfield, Thomas. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. 2010.

Borovik, Artyom. The Hidden War. 1990.

Braithewaite, Rodric. Afgantsy: The Russians in Afghanistan, 1979-1989. 2011.

Coll, Steve. Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden from the Soviet Invasion to 2001. 2004.

Dobbs, Michael. Down with Big Brother: The Fall of the Soviet Empire. 1997.

Feifer, Gregory. The Great Gamble: The Soviet War in Afghanistan. 2009.

Fremont-Barnes, Gregory. The Soviet-Afghan War, 1979-89. 2012.

Galeotti, Mark. Storm-333: KGB and Spetsnaz Seize Kabul. 2021.

Grau, Lester W. The Bear Went Over the Mountain: Soviet Combat Tactics In Afghanistan. 1996.

Hosdon, Peregrine. Under a Sickle Moon: A Journey Through Afghanistan. 1986.

Kalinovsky, Artemy. A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan. 2011.

Kaplan, Robert D. Soldiers of God: With Islamic Warriors in Afghanistan and Pakistan. 2001.

Rosen, Ethan. The Bear, The Dragon, & the AK-47. 2017.

Tanner, Stephen. Afghanistan: A Military History of Afghanistan from Alexander the Great to the War Against the Taliban. 2009.

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