February 15th marked the 30th anniversary of the troops withdrawal from Afghanistan. The Russian Ministry of Defense established a new informative and historical section with declassified documents from the Central Archive of the Military Department.
“A new documentary project reveals the history of military units that from the first days performed international duty in Afghanistan, and tells about the exploits and heroes who did them. Among them – Lieutenant-General Ruslan Aushev, who later headed the Republic of Ingushetia, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Federation in 1992, General Army Viktor Dubynin and poet Lieutenant Alexander Stovba,” a Russian MoD statement said.
It is noted that among the documents presented in the section are electronic versions of the historical forms of the 149th Guards and 181st Motorized Rifle Regiments, as well as the 122nd Rifle Regiment, the combat duty of which began in the years of World War II.
During the Afghan war, the regiments were involved in military operations to encircle and destroy the rebels and to assist in the establishment of people’s power in the liberated areas of the country.
From the declassified documents opening this section, visitors can learn about the goals and objectives of a limited contingent of Soviet troops in the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan, the seizure of important documents by military personnel of the Soviet army, large stores of weapons and ammunition, as well as awarding distinguished Soviet soldiers.
Some of the more interesting stories are the following:
- The withdrawal of the Soviet Army began on May 15th, 1988 and ended on February 15th, 1989. The last 40th Army commander, Lieutenant-General Boris Gromov, led the withdrawal. He was the last of the soldiers of a limited contingent of Soviet troops in Afghanistan. On February 15, at 10.30 am, he crossed the bridge across the Amu Darya River, which divided two states in the Termez city.
- The main opponents of the socialist government were the radical Islamists who declared a holy war (jihad) to them. Detachments of the Mujahideen were organized, which later became the main opposing force – the Soviet army fought with it.
- The withdrawal took so long because the Soviet Army wished to protect and continue construction of national economy facilities. With the help of the USSR, more than 200 industrial facilities were built in Afghanistan, including a hydropower plant, a gas pipeline, airfields, a house-building factory, an asphalt concrete plant, a highway and the Salang tunnel, and much more. A whole Soviet neighborhood was built in Kabul.
- The limited contingent of the Soviet troops included military units whose combat history began in the difficult years of the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945. The 149th guards motorized rifle regiment was formed in June 1941 in the city of Pervomaisk, Odessa region, at that time it was called the 3rd airborne brigade.
- During their placement in Afghanistan, the personnel of the regiment participated in the conduct of hostilities to encircle and destroy the rebels, assisted in the establishment of people’s power in the liberated region. The officers and soldiers of the regiment not only fought, but also helped the local authorities and residents. They gave presents to Afghan children from pioneers and schoolchildren of the Tashkent Palace of Pioneers.
- The 122nd Rifle Regiment in February 1980, having received the order of the commander, the regiment crossed the state border of the USSR and the DRA and, after making a 300-kilometer march, concentrated its main forces at the airfield of Kunduz.
- In the future, the regiment received a combat mission for the protection of sections during the passage of columns, and also guarded the Hairatan crossing, the nitrogen fertilizer plant, the gas processing plant, and the pipeline.
- The 181st Motorized Rifle Regiment had no placement for almost 30 years, and on the night of December 25th, 1979 received its order as part of the 108th motorized rifle division, to cross the USSR state border with Afghanistan near Termez to provide military assistance to the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan against external enemies.
- They were positioned east of Kabul. During their service in the Afghan war, three soldiers were distinguished with the title “Hero of the Soviet Union,” among many others receiving various awards.
The declassified documents also contain stories of some of the Heroes who fought in the Afghan war. They are as follows:
- Ruslan Sultanovich Aushev: In May 1982, he was awarded the Order of Lenin and the Gold Star medal with the title Hero of the Soviet Union for rendering international assistance to the Afghan people. He served as commander of a motorized rifle battalion of the 180th motorized rifle regiment, and then chief of staff of the regiment.
- Viktor Petrovich Dubynin: In command of the 40th army, which took an active part in full-scale hostilities in Afghanistan, on April 30, 1986, Major General Viktor Petrovich Dubynin took over. Soldiers used to say of General Dubynin that he – “… this is the standard of honesty and integrity. Possessing extraordinary organizational skills and a keen mind, as well as showing personal courage, he organized and carried out very complex and responsible operations. He was a bright figure … “. Lieutenant-General V.P. Dubynin on November 11th, 2003 was posthumously awarded the title Hero of the Russian Federation.
- Yuri Verikovich Islamov: He was the junior sergeant of the special forces group and was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union in March 1988. The junior sergeant Islamov committed his feat on October 31st, 1987, when he was wounded twice in a battle near the village of Duri, near the Pakistani border, but continued to fire at the Mujahideen. Being surrounded by the enemy, he entered into a hand-to-hand fight with them, after which he blew himself and several rebels with his last grenade.
- Nikolay Anatolevich Kuznetsov: A special task force commanded by Lieutenant Kuznetsov Nikolai Anatolyevich on April 21st, 1985, was given the task of destroying a unit of Mujahideen in the area of the villages of Sangam and Daridam in the Kunar province. During the battle private Bakhmutov was seriously wounded. Lieutenant Kuznetsov took him to the shelter, and he returned to the group. He then ordered his soldiers to break through the encirclement, while him and three others remained to provide cover. At that time his leg was injured. When Kuznetsov realized that the enemy wanted to capture them, he ordered his other three soldiers to withdraw, as he alone provided cover fire. When he ran out of ammo he started throwing grenades, saving the last one to blow himself and the rebels that approached him. The title of Hero of the Soviet Union was awarded posthumously to Nikolai Anatolyevich Kuznetsov on November 21st, 1985.
- Alexander Ivanovich Stovba: He is known as a warrior-poet, he gave his life in the Afghan war. His work received its deserved recognition, and he was posthumously admitted to the Union of Soviet Writers. His feat was evaluated in the Decree of the President of the USSR of November 11th, 1990, when Alexander Ivanovich was awarded the title Hero of the Soviet Union. On March 29th, 1980, near the town of Churan, Lieutenant Stovba’s unit was surrounded by the superior forces of the rebels, he ordered his soldiers to retreat, while he, wounded in the leg, grabbed a machine gun, got out of the burning infantry vehicle and began to cover this soldiers’ withdrawal. Also published on the website is a poem by Stovba, however it has no English translation.
The cases of Islamov, Stovba and Kuznetsov demonstrate that the heroic behaviour is not something uncommon for Russian soldiers. In all these cases the soldiers sacrifice their lives to help their comrades.