Soviet–Afghan War in popular culture

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The Soviet–Afghan War had an important impact in popular culture in the West, due to its scope, and the great number of countries involved. The Russian-Ukrainian film The 9th Company,[1] for example, became a blockbuster in the former USSR earning millions of dollars and also representing a new trend in Russia in which some domestic films are "drawing Russian audiences away from Hollywood staples."[2] The use of the war in Russian cinema has attracted scholarly attention as well.[3] Some of this attention focuses on comparisons of the conflict with other modern wars in Vietnam and Iraq.[4] Other work focuses on the war and fictional accounts of it in the context of Soviet military culture.[5] Even when not directly portrayed, service in the war is sometimes used as a backstory for Russian characters to explain their combat prowess, such as in the manga and anime series Black Lagoon.

Non-fiction books[edit]

  • Charlie Wilson's War: The Extraordinary Story of the Largest Covert Operation in History by Crile, George. Atlantic Monthly Press. 2003. ISBN 0-87113-854-9
  • Ghost Wars:The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 by Steve Coll. Penguin (Non-Classics). 2004. ISBN 0-14-303466-9; ISBN 978-0-14-303466-7
  • Alexievich, Svetlana (1992). Zinky Boys: Soviet Voices from the Afghanistan War. W. W. Norton & Company. ISBN 978-0-393-33686-3.

Fiction books[edit]

Media and popular culture[edit]

  • Afghan Girl is a portrait of an orphaned refugee during a bombing of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union in 1984.
  • Billy Joel's song, "We Didn't Start The Fire" mentions "Russians in Afghanistan" in its lyrics
  • "Blood Type" is a protest song by the Soviet rock band Kino concerning the Afghan War.
  • "Guns for the Afghan Rebels" is a song by the English Oi! punk band Angelic Upstarts from their 1981 "2,000,000 voices" album, concerning the Soviet-Afghan war.
  • Rambo III (1988) was an action movie with Sylvester Stallone set within the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. It earned over $100 million internationally and originally ended with the statement that "This film is dedicated to the brave Mujahideen fighters of Afghanistan." [6]
  • Spies Like Us, a comedy about two totally incompetent applicants, Emmett Fitzhume (Chevy Chase) and Austin Millbarge (Dan Aykroyd), are chosen from a CIA recruitment program. They are parachuted into Pakistan and eventually end up in Afghanistan, chased by the Soviets, where they learn they are being used as decoys to draw out the Soviet defenses.
  • The song Washington Bullets by The Clash has heavy political content. The last verse of the song comments on both the People's Republic of China's violent mass murder of pacifist Buddhist monks during the Cultural Revolution and the USSR's invasion of Afghanistan.
  • The Beast is a movie released in 1988 about the crew of a Soviet T-55 tank and their attempts to escape a hostile region, set during the invasion of Afghanistan in 1981.
  • Afghan Breakdown (Afganskiy Izlom), the first in-depth movie about the war, produced jointly by Italy and the Soviet Union, in full cooperation with the Red Army, in 1991.
  • The 1987 James Bond movie The Living Daylights, with Timothy Dalton as Bond, was set in Soviet-occupied Afghanistan.
  • The 9th Company, the biggest Russian box office success to date.[7] Based upon true events (but largely fictionalized too), it details the 9th Company being left behind as the Soviet Union withdrew from Afghanistan and was slaughtered before the withdrawing Soviets came to the rescue.[8] Some versions available with subtitles.
  • The Road to Kabul ("الطريق الى كابول") Arabic television series explored Arab youth participation in the Afghan war.
  • Afgan is a documentary by Jeff B. Harmon about the war in Afghanistan shot from the Soviet side.
  • Jihad is a documentary by Jeff B. Harmon about the Mujahideen fighting in Kandahar province.
  • Afghantsi is a documentary by Peter Kosminsky about Soviet soldiers serving in Afghanistan.
  • Charlie Wilson's War, the 2007 movie about the real-life Congressman Charlie Wilson and his relentless efforts to increase CIA support for anti-Soviet Afghan insurgents. Tom Hanks plays the role of Congressman Wilson.
  • The Kite Runner a multi-awarded film that showed the escape of a family to Pakistan during the start of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.
  • The Truth About 9th Company is a first Russian documentary video game dedicated to the Battle for Hill 3234.
  • Peshavarskiy Vals, a 1994 film by Timur Bekmambetov about uprising of Soviet war captives in Badaber training camp occurred on 26 April 1985.
  • The 2001 PlayStation game Syphon Filter 3 features several levels that are set in and around Kabul during the war, in 1987.
  • In Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, the character Nikolai compares the chaos taking place in the campaign mission "The Enemy of My Enemy" to the time he served with the Soviet military in Afghanistan.
  • In Black Lagoon, the fictional group Hotel Moscow is composed of veterans of the Soviet Afghanistan war led by a VDV Captain nicknamed Balalaika.
  • In the book Shantaram by Gregory David Roberts, he describes his experiences fighting with the Mujahideen in Afghanistan.
  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 features a flashback mission in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, as a CIA-SAD operative, Alex Mason supporting the Mujahideen in Khost.
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain is largely set in a Soviet occupied region of Northern Kabul, Afghanistan during the war.
  • The Soviet–Afghan War is a recurrent theme in the TV series The Americans.
  • In the Russian film Cargo 200 the Soviet–Afghan War serves as a story backdrop.

See also[edit]

  • War rugs - decorative rugs woven in Afghanistan depicting war and social topics


  1. ^ The 9th Company (Russian: «9 рота») is a Russian / Finnish film by Fyodor Bondarchuk about the Soviet war in Afghanistan released in 2005
  2. ^ "From Bitter Memories, A Russian Blockbuster Film About Soviet Defeat in Afghanistan Is Reminder Of U.S. Experience in Vietnam, Fighting in Chechnya" By Peter Finn, Washington Post Foreign Service (Thursday, October 20, 2005): A16.
  3. ^ Elena Shulman, "Russian War Films: On the Cinema Front, 1914-2005 (review)," The Journal of Military History 71.3 (July 2007): 967-968. The article discusses how "The book begins with a discussion of films set in the context of World War I, the Russian Civil War, World War II, and the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan..."
  4. ^ "The Literature of Vietnam and Afghanistan: Exploring War and Peace with Adolescents" by Francis E. Kazemek, The Alan Review 23.3 (Spring 1996).
  5. ^ "A Glimpse into Soviet Military Culture" - "Review of The Military Uses of Literature: Fiction and the Armed Forces in the Soviet Union by Mark D. Van Ells on H-War (August, 1996).
  6. ^ "Rambo III Synopsis" Internet Movie Database
  7. ^ Afghan war film makes box office history in Russia
  8. ^ "Russian film recalls 'shame' of Afghan war" By Peter Finn, The Washington Post (Saturday, October 22, 2005).