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Soviet Soldier in Afghanistan


I went on HuffPo live to talk about this story:

A former Soviet soldier has been discovered hiding in Afghanistan under an assumed identity 33 years after going missing.
Bakhretdin Khakimov disappeared during the first months of the nine-year war that was sparked when Soviet tanks rolled into Afghanistan in late 1979.

The ethnic Uzbek, originally from Samarkand, was wounded in battle in 1980 and rescued by nearby villagers, according to the BBC. He later adopted the local name Sheikh Abdullah and has lived by practicing herbal medicine learnt from his saviors.

Khakimov was found two weeks ago by members of the Warriors-Internationalists Affairs Committee, or WIAC, a nonprofit, Moscow-based organization, who spent an entire year retracing his steps, reports Russia’s RIA news agency.

Anyway, remarks below go something like this; events like this aren’t so unusual, as American defectors from Vietnam and Korean wars remained in both countries post-war (as well as third states such as Sweden); it’s hard to know how many more former Soviet soldiers might still be in Afghanistan; we don’t know if this gentleman’s story is true (some Soviet defectors, especially from Central Asia, joined the mujahideen for ideological reasons); and we’ll likely never get the full story. Enjoy…

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  • Data Tutashkhia

    mk.ru says that during the 21 years this WIAC existed it found 29 people. 22 returned, 7 refused and chose stayed in Afghanistan.

    I don’t think there’s anything ideological here. Probably more like the ‘mutiny on Bounty’ sort of thing.

  • Also it should be recalled that the northern regions of Afghanistan are ethnically identical to the neighboring Central Asian states. There are a lot of Uzbeks, Turkmen, and especially Tajiks in Afghanistan. That makes it easier for an Uzbek from the Soviet army to remain in Afghanistan, he can already speak one of the languages.

  • cpinva

    i suspect that, as the soviet occupation dragged on, if you were a conscript from a close by area, this may have been a potentially attractive option.

    i have wondered, given the brutality of the revolutionary-era british army (if you weren’t an officer), how many british soldiers, who had limited prospects back home, should they survive, defected to the colonial cause? seems like that would be a great topic for a graduate/phd paper.

    • Actually it was early on in the war that most of the defections of Central Asian conscripts took place. Initially they sent quite a few thinking it would give them an advantage in the war. Kind of like the British using West Indian troops in the Gold Coast. But, a number of Central Asians deserted early on. Later on the Soviet government was more careful about which Uzbeks and Tajiks it sent to Afghanistan. Although it could never do without them. Tajik or Dari is the second language of Afghanistan after Pashtun and Tajik translators really could not be completely dispensed with.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Certainly, some Hessian mercenaries did.

      Captured in the battle of Trenton, sent as POWs to live with (german-speaking) Amish families, with all the local agricultural abundance and young female company, signed up for the American side and headed west after the War.

      Washington was a pretty shrewd fellow, and converted POWs to his side and as future allies and citizens. Compare and contrast with a more recent dumbshit CIC.

  • There was a similar phenomenon in the Civil War, though it didn’t involve POWs.

    The Civil War had a dramatic effect on Maine’s population. Between 1860 and 1870 Maine was one of only two states in the nation to experience a net loss in population, New Hampshire being the other. In the rural uplands and along the eastern coast, population loss was dramatic and profoundly discouraging to those who stayed behind.

    The usual explanation is that during the war Maine soldiers learned of the vast opportunities in the virgin soils and timber in the Midwest and followed Horace Greeley’s advice, but here again out-migration was nothing new to Maine.

    Bangor’s lumbermen had been eyeing western timber since the 1830s, when advertisements first began appearing in the Bangor Whig and Courier enticing loggers to the western lumber districts, and by the Civil War, Bangor lumberman Samuel F. Hersey already had towns named after him in Michigan and Minnesota.

    Certainly the financial burdens of the war, the new sense of mobility, the rising taxes, and the declines in shipping and fishing activity encouraged the New England diaspora, but the loss of Maine men and women to industrializing cities of the Northeast and to the deep soils and lofty forests of the Midwest issued from more basic causes.

    Set in motion by the 1816 “Year without a Summer,” outmigration was accelerated by completion of the Erie Canal in 1825, the discovery of gold in California in 1848, the opening of the Midwest by railroad development in the 1850s, and most of all, by the gradual liberalization of federal land policy culminating in the Homestead Act of 1862.

    The war’s impact was indeed extraordinary, in psychological and cultural terms, but its economic and demographic significance is more obscure.

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