One mother wrote in the letter to Politburo 'Why did you ruin my son, why did you spoil his mind and his soul?'. While physical disability was relatively easy to prove and to cure, the psychological damage was far more complicated to diagnosis and to treat. Modern counter-insurgency wars involve a particularly high incidence of psychological damage; generally Post-Traumatic stress disorders, symptoms which include flashbacks, emotional numbness, withdrawal, jumpy hyperalertness or over-compensatory extroversion. This was caused partly because of the critical stresses of combat and injury. In most cases mental disorders were caused by unclear front-line zones. Soldiers had experienced mostly 'road war' without clear front-line meant that no place was safe. Soldiers were always ready for the battle alarm; there was no time to rest. 'Knowing their terrain well, the resistance fighters can move with ease at night and night vision equipment would enable them to train accurately their weapons on enemy targets...' And how could soldiers relax, knowing that an unguided rocket could penetrate almost all security perimeters, that even a ten year old boy could carry and use a pistol or a grenade? One veteran recalled:
...the leading vehicle broke down. The driver got out and lifted the bonnet - and the boy, about ten years old, rushed out and stabbed him in the back... We turned the boy into a sieve.
Veteran of Afghan War
Another historical testament to that violence was found in a different source:
'...in early May 1981 they killed a number of children in the village of Kalakan, the stronghold of SAMA. The Russian soldiers were stated to have said, 'When the children grow up they take up arms against us'...'
How can people who killed a ten year old boy live normally after coming back to the motherland? Without safe place, restless - these circumstances may cause a healthy adult to become mentally imbalanced. What can it do to nineteen year old boys, who had been drafted just after finishing their school and who had not seen life yet? They can easily lose their minds. But psychological disorders became classified adequately to the status of invalid only later. Yet, no category of invalidity was given to that disability. Thus, mentally sick veterans had to live almost entirely on support from friends and family. In this way the government ignored the impact of the war, which was started by its decree, on soldiers' lives.
In a normal society the killing of another man is not permitted; killers receive the death penalty. During the war this situation had been changed and in Afghanistan soldiers had received a license to kill their enemies, who were also human beings. With a machine-gun soldiers received the power of life and death and the feeling of authority to do what they wished became common among Russian soldiers in Afghanistan. Problems ensued when soldiers were unable to overcome that feeling once they has left their guns behind. Some soldiers, unable to square the demands of war with the demands of their conscience, were stamped with amorality. Others became compulsively violent. '...they killed thirty-one villages, slaying them inside mosques, in lanes, or inside their homes.' These circumstances created another impact of the Afghan War. By the end of 1989, about 3,000 veterans were in prisons for criminal offenses, while another 2,540 soldiers were imprisoned for crimes committed while serving in Afghanistan. Thus the Afghan War created criminals who were trained to kill. Among the crimes committed by soldiers in Afghanistan, the most common were hooliganism 12,6%, rape 11,8%, theft of personal property 12,4%, robbery 11,9% and murder 8,4% (these percentages were taken from the total number of 2,540 soldiers convicted of crime).
Thus the war had affected all of the soldiers who experienced it. Some became criminals, others became invalids without any actual support from the government. The rest had to face the psychological impact of the war, which was called as 'afghan syndrome' by the media. Most of these people decided to dedicate their lives to helping the victims of the Afghan War. In Leningrad, several organizations were created with the aim to aid physical and psychological victims of the war. LAVVA (Leningrad Association of Veterans of the War in Afghanistan), 'K sovesti' Leningrad Information-Publication Organization, 'Modul' Cultural-Leisure Center for Veterans of the Foreign War Association - these are just a few of many organizations created throughout the USSR. Left andunsupported by the government, these organizations aimed to provide extra facilities for the treatment of injured veterans, to compensate veterans fully or partly for the expenses of necessary treatment, to develop sports for invalid and to force the government to support the invalids' rights.
Thus the experience of the Afghan War had a twofold impact on soldiers' lives: first, the impact of the war itself and second, the impact of returning to a peaceful life after the war. In the words of one veteran:
What did the war give to us? Thousands of mothers who lost sons, thousands of cripples, thousands of torn-up lives.
While in Afghanistan, soldiers experienced discrimination by the older soldiers and by the officers. The foreign land, the experience of fighting, the death of friends, the highly difficult conditions of living, and the absence of a stimulus to fighting made most of the soldiers addicted to drugs and alcohol. Drugs became an easy source of relaxation because Afghanistan is one of the biggest suppliers of marijuana on the black market.
The term 'lost generation' can be applied towards the veterans of the Afghan War. This war had created a generation of alcoholics and drug addicts. It also made many young people invalids unable to work and to earn money on their own. The other 'creation' of the war in Afghanistan was the increased rate of violence and immoral behavior among soldiers and veterans of the war. These circumstances had made criminals out of 19 year old boys. Discrimination by the public opinion and media, and the unwillingness of the government to help victims of the war even increased the number of criminals, alcoholics and drug addicts among the veterans of the Afghan war.