Early on in the Soviet war in Afghanistan, the Soviet government went to great lengths to cover up the exact nature of the war, telling everyone that the troops were planting trees, building bridges, etc. They held funerals at night to try to prevent people from knowing about the large number of soldiers dying there.

However, in Your Ad Could Go Here (in the Girls short story), the government was openly honoring people who died in Afghanistan:

... and Soltys, well, they'll commemorate him separately, and it would be good to someday make a trip to the cemetery, absolutely (at this moment everyone is confident that someday they'll go) - at Berkovtsi, in that unfenced area where row on row of short pillars topped with red stars stand at attention, announcing that they all did their noble international duty in Afghanistan, though they now say it's permitted now to put up crosses.

Berkovtsi evidently refers to a cemetery in Kyiv.

If I recall correctly from Zinky Boys, graves were originally marked in a fairly "generic" way to try to cover up what was actually happening there. However, given that the memorial here openly honors them for dying in Afghanistan, this evidently changed at some point (or at least varied by region).

That being said, when and why would this memorial have been put up?

  • does it say that "the government was openly honoring" or that there was a separate section in the cemetery and families and friends mourned their fallen ones and their comrades?
    – Andra
    Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 16:49
  • @Andra At a minimum, there was apparently clear indication in the cemetery of their cause of death, which wasn't the case in the beginning of the war at least (at which point their graves gave no indication of that). Commented Jul 3, 2022 at 23:11

1 Answer 1


Disclaimer: I don't know about the graves and cemeteries.

The turning point in admitting the casualties was Gorbachev and the glasnost.

There is a document, dated June 19 1985, which permits publication of

facts of care of Soviet Army personnel who served at the DRA territory and became disabled there, of family member of perished in Afghanistan

It is a beautiful example of Soviet bureaucratic lingo, my translation doesn't bring this flavor. Original below

факты проявления заботы о советских военнослужащих, проходивших службу в войсках на территории ДРА и ставших инвалидами, членах семей погибших в Афганистане

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