A recurring theme in Zinky Boys is how little the general population knew about the war in Afghanistan (especially at first). The Soviet government told everyone that they were building bridges and giving medical treatment and planting trees and whatnot and went to great lengths to cover up what was really going on - refusing to allow coffins to be opened, having gravestones merely note that the soldier in question had "died" (not that he had been killed in action), heavily censoring letters home, having funerals at night to keep attendance low, etc. Many people simply accepted the war as necessary without question; the government is doing it for the public good, so it "must" be right.

On the other hand, numerous soldiers interviewed for the book complained about poor treatment, especially compared to World War II veterans. One soldier who lost an arm in battle complained about being hassled when he stood in the special line for war veterans at movie theaters because, according to the hecklers, what had he actually done? (The same soldier also complained that the newspapers, which he didn't read and didn't trust, were calling them murderers now).

I'm slightly confused as to the book's explanation for the reason for this type of treatment. Did people think that Afghanistan veterans somehow had an "easy" job building bridges, or did they believe that they were fighting in an unjust and pointless war? Or am I missing something else entirely?

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In one case it was a victory which has always been glorified up to the extent of unimaginable. In the Soviet Union it was like - you live in a country where you cannot go to the shop and buy toilet paper but then you go home and switch on your b&w TV and watch patriotic films about the great war.
In the other case it was a failure. Glorification impossible. What do people think? It may be different - bridges, pointless war, ..., anyway they see Afghanistan veterans not as heroes. Disabled persons receive help from the state, and that's it.

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