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  Blood spilt and machines destroyed are not the measure of this war. This is our Jihad, we are the mujaheddin and thusly we are invincible, for God is Great!

On Christmas Day 1979, the USSR launched an invasion of Afghanistan to support the pro-Communist government there against rebels, including Islamic fundamentalists, with the additional aim of forestalling movements of that sort in the Central Asian Soviet republics.

The net result of this invasion was to kill the already seriously wounded détente and start what became known as the "Second Cold War". A large scale boycott of the 1980 Moscow Olympics followed, as well as an embargo on U.S. grain sales to the USSR.

The United States, Pakistan and some other countries, provided arms to the rebels, known as the muhjahadden, inadvertently creating Al-Qaeda in the process. The Soviets ended up in a Vietnam War-style quagmire.

The Soviets pulled out in 1989 and, much like the United States in South Vietnam, left behind a government which sustained itself for only a few years before collapsing in 1992. Afghanistan's civil war continues to this day, as part of The War on Terror.

This became a rather popular setting for Western media in the 1980s, as for many the proof that the Soviet Union was an Evil Empire was an orphaned girl in a Pakistani refugee camp. This usually led to portrayals of any mujaheddin as noble, heroic underdogs versus said Evil Empire, which can be a bit jarring in light of current events.

Following the collapse of the USSR, Russian media took a look at one of its darkest hours. There are also plenty of Afghan works set here.

Examples in media:

Anime and Manga

  • Balalaika from Black Lagoon served in Afghanistan as an officer with the VDV. Many of her subordinates served in the war either with the VDVs or with the Army Spetsnaz.
    • There technically weren't (and still aren't) Army Spetsnaz in Soviet Army in the sense of the US Army Rangers or Green Berets. All Army Special Forces (except VDV's, which are separate service, despite traditionally grouped up with the Army) are subject to GRU[1] control, and GRU Spetsnaz traditionally masquerades as VDV Recon units.
  • Sōsuke from Full Metal Panic was a rebel child soldier in Afghanistan, despite being ethnically Japanese (It Makes Sense in Context). Also in the back-story of Full Metal Panic original novels the existence of Arm Slaves allows the Soviet Union's support of the pro-communist government to succeed.


  • Charlie Wilsons War, based on a book.
  • Rambo III. These days it's pretty ironic to see one of the iconic movie series that support a Type 1 Eagle Land include a dedication to those brave Afghani rebels (it was slightly altered post 9/11).
  • The comedy Spies Like Us.
  • The Living Daylights.
  • Afganskiy Izlom (Afghan Breakdown), the first Soviet movie made about the war in 1991.
  • The Beast of War, about a Soviet tank crew.
  • The Kite Runner
  • The 9th Company, a very successful (if wildly inaccurate) Russian movie about the Battle for Hill 3234.
  • Red Dawn had one of the main characters (the Russian) get into a discussion with another Russian character about Afghanistan, even saying that he was always on the side of the Afghans in that war. The story as a whole was inspired by the invasion, asking the viewers "What if it happened here?"


  • Zinky Boys is a series of interviews with Soviet veterans of the Afghan war. The title comes from the sealed zinc coffins casualties were sent home in, to hide the fact that the Soviet "advisors" were actually fighting the war, not just providing training and logistical support as the central government claimed.
  • The Tom Clancy novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin is partly set in Afghanistan. The mujaheddin are mostly portrayed as righteous but naive, while the CIA officer in charge of aiding them frequently notes that they're being used (in internal monologue). The Russians, on the other hand, are portrayed sympathetically as well.
    • Soviet veterans of this war also figure in Red Storm Rising, generally portrayed as knowing a thing or two about hard fighting.
  • Many of the characters in Red Army served in Afghanistan.
  • In the 1990s Lester Grau of the US Army wrote two tactical-level studies on Afghanistan, The Bear Went Over the Mountain and The Other Side of the Mountain. The first examines and analyses Soviet tactics in Afghanistan; the second one does a Perspective Flip and studies Mujahid tactics. Both are required reading for US infantry officers, and both examine why the war turned out the way it did from the ground up.

Live Action TV

  • The MacGyver episode "To Be A Man" has Mac parachute into the country to destroy a crashed spy satellite.


  • The Pet Shop Boys cover of Sterling Void's "It's Alright" adds lyrics addressing this. The song was released as a single in 1989 but the album version came out the previous year.

Video Games

  • Revolver Ocelot served in Afghanistan.
  • The Truth About 9th Company.
  • Syphon Filter 3 has a few missions set during the invasion, where both Gabe and Lian are carrying out covert operations against the Soviets for the U.S. and Chinese governments, respectively.
  • World in Conflict: Colonel Orlovsky previously served in Afghanistan.


  1. Main Intelligence Directorate, the chief army command that oversees all Soviet and then Russian military intelligence and special ops.
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