Afghanistan: A Russian Soldier's Story
by Vladislav Tamarov
Release Date: November, 2001
Mr. Tamarov has undoubtedly written one of the most poignant first-person accounts of war-time action that I have read in a very long time.
Sent to find a not-to-be-won war in Afghanistan when he was a 19-year-old from St. Petersburg (Leningrad at the time), the author provides us with a first-hand version of this tragic and ill-fated venture by the Soviet politicians. This book, complete with his own photographs, is not one for the faint-hearted but is one that sensitive (and sensible) readers will not want to put down. It is a stirring account of "one man's view" of war and it will bring tears to your eyes. The book possesses an innocence that is at once fascinating and then, when that innocence begins to dissolve, in more tragic tones.
Well done and without whining, young Mr. Tamarov views this conflict in years far beyond his own. A good read!
Afghanistan A Russian Soldier's story by Vladislav Tamarov is an intensely personal book. The reader learns only a little about the strategy and tactics used by the Soviet forces to fight the war in neighboring Afghanistan. Rather, this is a document that reflects the process of maturation of its author. He starts as a 19-year-old man being drafted into the Russian army. His naivet� in volunteering for the commandos (which will take him in short order into the task of defusing enemy mines) mirrors the bravado and sense of indestructibility that is the main reason that men of his age have been used as soldiers for as long as there have been armies.
The story is told in episodes - not as plot for it's own sake, but rather to communicate the range of emotions and intensity of fear unique to the battlefield soldier. Some of my favorite writing comes from letters sent home by Confederate and Union soldiers from America's civil war. These documents are important not because of the credentials or social standing of the writers, but instead because of the intensity of the experiences these writers were living. Vladislav Tamarov continues this venerable tradition and extends the genre to new depths of insight. Probably the most obvious lesson learned was that after such a prolonged ordeal, one cannot "go home again". The effects of fighting the fghan war changed Mr. Tamarov's values so much that he was unable to fit back into the life that he idolized and longed to survive long enough to resume. We all know many stories of disaffected soldiers who live out their lives on the bitter fringes of society. Mr. Tamarov provides hope not only through his own strength and resiliency, but, later in the book, by his activism and involvement with international veterans groups to improve the lives of men often forgotten by all of us.
A parallel story of maturation is told by the wonderful series of photographs that illustrate the book. These pictures chronicle not only the events in his story, but more importantly, give the reader a glimpse into the development of author's remarkable photographic artistic maturation. The photos give the book a visceral link to that timeless reality captured best by a photographer of Mr. Tamarov's skill. It certainly left me wanting to follow-up more of his later work.
I highly recommend Afghanistan A Russian Soldier's story. Because it is so personal, it resonates deeply with the universal things that unite us as humans. It is set against the backdrop of a futile war in a foreign land, and then home transformed into the unfamiliar. The development of his personal strength to transform his savage experience into something that makes him a stronger man is inspiring. I especially recommend this book to those who appreciate war memoirs, those who like books about personal transformation, and to all who love great photographs.