Among them more than 20 000 soldiers were from Qazaqstan. It is worth noting that about a thousand soldiers did not return to their families. They died in Afghanistan.
It was difficult for Soviet soldiers and officers to fight with the Mujahadeen in a guerrilla war because in 1986, Dushmans controlled 70 percent of the country's territory.
The decision to bring troops into Afghanistan was associated with the fact that Afghanistan bordered the Soviet Union and the unrest on the borders was viewed by the country's leadership as a potential threat to its security.
Yerbol Smagulov, a colonel reserve officer, a lecturer at the Military Department of the L.N. Gumilyov Eurasian National University told us how the spirits of the harassed troops were cheered up.
“On April 28, 1987, I flew by helicopter MI-8 to the place of permanent service, to the province of Logar, the settlement of Baraki. I was the only passenger on the helicopter. The flight was performed at night. On the floor in the middle of the helicopter there was a pile of paper bags, I saw even a few sheets of newspapers. I realized that the helicopter was transporting a mail. We landed at night. A duty officer met us on an infantry fighting vehicle. We quickly unloaded everything from the helicopter and left.
The most interesting thing I keep in mind by now was this moment: the duty officer read out the names of soldiers and officers in one of the barracks. At the same time, the soldiers, living in field dugouts, came up to him and took letters addressed to them. Nobody slept that night. They waited for the helicopter. It was time when there were no smartphones, it took so much time the paper letters to reach their destination.
Each warrior waited for a letter from home. Receiving a letter from home could help boost morale. If a letter comes from home, you know that your family is waiting for you, they love you. It was equally important for both: a warrior and an officer. If you do not receive a letter you could have the opposite effect.
Reading letters was a tradition that symbolized a connection with the Motherland. The tradition played a vital educational role.
A personal example plays a great educational role for any officer, whether it is a Deputy Company Commander for Political Affairs or a Platoon Commander. As a rule, the life of each soldier depends on the Commander. If an officer is competently prepared, he can save the life of his soldiers. Our soldiers of a Separate Special Purpose Brigade were trained in Chirchik, near Tashkent (Uzbekistan). Of course, physically they were prepared very well, they wore all day in backpacks broken stones. They removed them from themselves only during the meal and at night when they went to bed.
In this way the soldiers were trained six months. During this time, they learned how to jump, shoot automatic rifles and were trained physically. But upon arrival in a combat zone they saw that a situation here is much more different than in the country they arrived from. Military conditions require to be always on your guard. A disposition of forces was attacked almost every day. Then there was the order of the Commander of the 40th Army not allowing new soldiers and officers to be on the fields of battle for two months. It was suggested that within this period of time new comers would adapt to a new reality.
Furthermore, before the reconnaissance team was sent to perform its assigned task, it was composed in such a way that half of the group, or even more, should consist of experienced soldiers. And only 1 or 2 young soldiers were added into the list of participants of an operation. It was done to make them easier the process of adaptation.
It was also taken into account that sometimes soldiers were countrymen. I remember an Azerbaijani and an Armenian soldiers served in our troop. Both of them were from Baku and spoke fluently in Azerbaijani. They were never separated.
War is war. There are always victims. In the bunker, as a rule, there was always a bed with a red border and a blue beret of the paratrooper, it was a bed of the comrades-in-arms. It reminded every soldier of the value of life. When you take part in a war you want to live even more than before. In war, a person becomes superstitious.
Awards on the chest of a soldier ... You should wait long for a delivery of an award. It may take six months or a year. Medals usually come earlier, than orders. When the awards were delivered, we arranged a special ceremony. We turned on a music in a car that we had and conducted the award ceremony in a solemn setting. Soldiers and officers were awarded by the Squad Leader. They cheered up by the feeling that the Motherland appreciated them. The idea was to give the warriors feeling that they did a very important in terms of moral values task.
Unfortunately, we did not have any vacations. Today the situation is different. As a rule, only officers went on vacation. It was very seldom when soldiers were leaving. It could happen when a real tragedy happened at home. Mostly soldiers served a year and a half, the officer had to serve for two years. Due to length of service in the army an officer could go on vacation once in two years.
It was a big tragedy in the battalion when the soldiers died. The dead soldiers in the zinc coffins were sent to the Soviet Union. They were escorted on the way to the infantry fighting vehicle. The car drove in front of the line, the soldiers took off their berets, dropped to their knees, then loaded the coffins into a helicopter.
This ceremony played a great educational role. It obliged the person to be careful and alert, to take care of his friend, his comrade. Now, thanks to the Internet, you can watch any movie, but at that time there were not modern devices or opportunities. The only joy that we had was watching movies that were brought to us once a month. We could watch the same movie several times, when we had some spare time, of course. We had strong nostalgic feelings towards our Motherland.