Skip to comments.FORGOTTEN WAR (HISTORY BUFFS - ASSISTANCE REQUIRE)
Posted on 10/14/2004 11:00:42 PM PDT by struwwelpeter
THE "FORGOTTEN WAR" - a special by Novaya Gazeta, whose purpose is to assemble an anthology of memoirs from Soviet officers and soldiers who served in the 'local wars' of 20th century.
The editorial staff of Novaya Gazeta turns to the readers and visitors on this site with a request to send us their recollections, evidence and stories on this theme.
From the extract of the federal law concerning veterans quoted below, you can recall when and where Russian soldiers and officers participated in the wars. These events have been erased from the active memory of people born in this post-Soviet era, but they cannot be crossed out from the history of Russia, or from the living recollections of those Russian servicemen who carried out their international duty abroad.
Countries, Cities, Territories and periods of combat with the participation of citizens from the Russian Federation
Civil war: 23 February 1918 - October 1922
Soviet-Polish war: March - October of 1920
Combat operations in Spain: 1936 - 1939;
War with Finland: 30 November 1939 - 13 March 1940
World War II: 22 June 1941 - 9(11) May 1945
War with Japan: 9 August 1945 - 3 September 1945
Combat operations for the liquidation of banditism: October 1922 - June 1931
Combat operations in the region of Khasan lake: 29 July - 11 August 1938
Combat operations on the Khalkin-Gol river: 11 May - 16 September 1939
Combat operations during the reunification of the USSR, West Ukraine and West Belorus:17- 28 September 1939
Combat operations in China: August 1924 - July 1927, October - November of 1929, July 1937 - September 1944, July - September of 1945, March 1946 - April 1949, March - May 1950 (for personnel from PVO Air Defense), June 1950 - July 1953 (for the personnel of the military subdivisions, which participated in combat in North Korea from the territory of China)
Combat operations in North Korea: June 1950 - July 1953
Combat operations in Hungary: 1956
Combat operations in Cuba during the Caribbean crisis: July 1962 - November 1963
Combat operations on Damanskiy island: March of 1969
Combat operations in the region of Lake Zhalanashkol' : August of 1969
Combat operations in Tadzhikistan: since 1990;
Combat operations in the Chechen republic: since October of 1994.
Combat operations in Laos: January 1960 - December 1963, August 1964 - November 1968, November 1969 - December 1970
Combat operations in Vietnam: January 1961 - December 1974
Combat operations in Algeria: 1962-1964
Combat operations in the Yemen Arab republic: 18 October 1962 - 31 March 1963, November 1967 - December 1969
Combat operations in Ethiopia: 1962-1991
Combat operations in Egypt (the United Arab Republic): 18 October 1962 - 31 March 1963, June 1967 - 1968, March 1969 - July 1972, 5 October 1973 - 31 March 1974, June 1974 - February 1975 (for the personnel of ships and auxiliaries from the Black Sea and Pacific Ocean fleets, which participated in the mine clearing of the zone of the Suez Canal)
Combat operations in Syria: 5-13 June 1967, 1 March - 31 July 1970, 1 September - 30 November 1972, 6-24 October of 1973
Combat operations in Mozambique: 1967-1969, November 1975 - November 1979
Combat operations in Cambodia: April - December 1970
Combat operations in Bangladesh: 1972-1973 (for the personnel of ships and auxiliaries in the navy of the USSR)
Combat operations in Cyprus and in the adjacent sea area: July - August 1974
Combat operations in Angola: November 1975 - 1994
Combat operations during the Sino-Vietnamese conflict: 17 February - 18 March 1979
Combat operations in Afghanistan: April 1978 - 15 February 1989
Combat operations during the of the Iran-Iraq war: September 1980 - August 1988 (for the personnel of the USSR navy, which ensuresd navigation in the Persian Gulf)
Combat operations in Syria and Lebanon: June 1982
Combat operations in South Sudan: 1983-1994
Combat operations during the Yemeni - Saudi conflict: 1 December 1983 - 31 January 1984
Combat operations in the People's Democratic Republic of Yemen 1 - 31 January 1986
Combat operations in the territory of Libya and adjacent waters in the Bay of Sider: 23 March - 15 April 1986
Combat operations in Somalia: 1991-1994
Combat operations in Kuwait and adjacent waters of the Persian Gulf: 17 January - 28 February 1991
This is part of a long-term research project, which I began after running across this memorial in Omsk.
Any freeper history buffs who can help me with this, please give me your observations here or by Freepmail.
The Russian forum that this came from has some interesting stories already, but, unfortunately, it has devolved mostly into an America-bashing thread.
They would have a heck of a time documenting all those pogroms and forced starvation periods
The monument I saw in Omsk listed 'Hungary 1956, Czechslovakia 1968, Yugoslavia 1993-95'. There was also a rebellion put down in E. Germany around the time of the Hungarian uprising, IIRC, but it's not listed on either one.
Right now I'm translating a Soviet submariner's recollections of the Egyptian navy, and LMAO ;-)
There must be some astounding stories to tell. I'm sure we would be amazed to learn where our own forces have conducted operations in the last sixty years.
From a the recollections of a podvodnik (submariner) who trained the Egyptian navy:
An Egyptian tragedyHis observations on different nationalities reminds me of something out of The Hunt for Red October:
And then there occurred a whole bunch of catastrophies, as if to spite headquarters. The Jews stole a brand-new radio-location station, using a helicopter. The flew in across the canal, smashed the weak guard detail, hooked the wagon up to the helicopter and just took off with it. We we set up a new air-defense station, but the enemy just would not give up. They'd fly in before we got them in operation, and blow them to bits. Many of our air-defense officers were killed.
Another big event: three torpedo boats left Port Said to set some AMD-500 sea-bottom mines. The first boat flops around and then breaks off. The second drops its mine and then blows up on it; nothing was left. The third boat turns and took off to who knows where, we searched for it for a long time. The (Egyptian) command had been following them, to review their heroism, but was located on the second torpedo boat. The Arabs were setting these mines independently, without our instructors.
And so, here comes our Soviet command. It's an emergency situation. The entire directorate of mines and torpedoes comes from Moscow. The Hyde Park hotel was full of these specialists, though it's true that many never made it out of the bar. After this, the Arabs didn't trust our weapons. Bagir would follow me around, whinnying like a horse: "I've got six torpedoes at ready and six in reserve. Twelve altogether," and the he'd look at me, to see what I'd say, waiting.
So, the Egyptians decided to have a test. They'd secretly select a boat, point to whatever torpedo, and order it fired. I see that Bagir is afraid that he'll be the one. What if it blows up again? But they found another boat, they fired and all went okay. The Egyptian combat commander himself came, and brought with him a piece of an exploded torpedo: "Oh, Mister Volodya!" Why this "Oh!"? He's carrying this hunk of metal and shaking all over. Pure children.
Politically incorrect memories
Egyptians struck me as nice peopple. A bit intrusive, if you are a guest in their home - everyone demands that you eat something with them. They are disorganized like children, however. Once we had surfaced, and at any minute I might declare a crash-dive. One of their sailors is standing on the deck, listening to a tape-player. It doesn't occur to him that there's a war on. The ship commander comes out, and I point him out. The commander goes up to the sailor and tosses the Japanese tape-player overboard.
Every nationality fights differently. You can't really say anything about Russians, they are all different, like a mixed-up salad. The cossacks are the most steadfast. On watch they are hardy and efficient. You can count on them. Lithuanians can be described with only the very best of words. If I was taking part in selecting my crew, I always tried to grab as many Lithuanians as possible. They are the cleanest and most efficient of sailors, straight-A.
Latvians, however, are very different from Lithuanians. They are lazy and untrustworthy, but the worst nationality for any service has to be Muscovites. The biggest headache for a commander will always be from these.
If we have to speak of seamanship under non-standard conditions, or making technical decisions, the best of course have to be Ukrainians and Russians. Latvians are simply retarded. Tartars are often sent to the underwater fleet, and are practically identical to Russians. Jews don't serve poorly, but during all my years of service I never saw more than 5 Jewish sailors, though they make irreproachable officers. By the way, Armenians on a ship - hardly ever.
Of my former assistants, seven became ship commanders, though one later burned out. This is a very rare recommendation. Even Petrov, commander of cadres in Moscow, made a report of my example. Something along the lines of 'There are captains who brought up seven commanders, among them two Jews, outstanding commanders. For example, Zverev, who later became Combat Operations Commander, and now chief of the Baltic Fleet'.
Some Georgians came my way. They are a temperamental people, though they try from the heart. Two of my chief petty officers were Georgians. Azerbaijanians usually end up in the bilge, no one trusts them with serious jobs. They have deficient educations, no understanding whatsoever of electronics, and you can't adapt them to complicated mechanisms. The backbone of the sailors and petty officers were Slavs, but the crew of a submarine could only live as a single organism. All the boys quickly found their place in it, and acted like the fingers of a single hand. Life depends on it, even in peacetime. Although in the Army the nationalities may bunch together, it's simply not possible on a submarine. When the hatches are slammed shut and the boat dives, nationality disappears.
Some submariner war stories for you in post #5.
Oops, I mean six.
May or may not qualify, but the Anglo-American intervention in the Murmansk region in 1917-1918. Book on the subject called "The Ignorant Armies."
Krushchev, in an unguarded moment, was supposed to have revealed that the CCCP lost a million men fighting the Finns in 1939, most of it to clumsiness. Ye Gods!
From Noviy Vestnik (Karaganda, Kazaskhstan, July 20th, 2005.
"Egyptian"Karagandan took part in the last Arab-Israeli war
Karaganda resident Danakan Nurgaliev is a man with a rare history. He is the only one in our city with the rights and benefits of a soldier-internationalist, though he was never in Afghanistan. Danakan Kasymovich did his duty in a country a bit further away - in Egypt, during the Arab-Israeli war of 1973.
"I was born in the Taldykurganskaya district in 1952," Danakan said. "When called up for military service, I was sent first to Amur, in the air defense forces. After about a half-year they sent us through an intensive training course. A bit later we found out that we were to be sent to 'a hot spot'. They didn't say which one, but we all thought it was going to be Vietnam. Our deployment day arrived and we were dressed up in civilian clothes and told that from then on, oficially we were sports instructors. Then we boarded a ship, but we didn't end up in Vietnam. Our ship docked at the port of Alexandria."
Even today, little is known about the USSR's role in the Arab-Israeli wars. Officially, there were no Soviet soldiers in the Near East. The Soviet Union actively assisted the Arab nations, sending weapons and equipment, what else could they do? The Soviet Union just could not stand by while their eternal enemy, the USA, lavished forces and materials in support of the new Israeli government, which was waging war to the left and right almost from her first day. The first war between Israel and the Arab world began in 1948, when the Israelis seized 7000 square kilometers of Palestine. Nine hundred thousand Arab residents were driven from this territory, even though the land had been assigned to them by a 1947 UN resolution. In addition, Israel grabbed the western half of Jerusalem, despite a UN demand that Jerusalem remain an independent administrative entity. The eastern half of Jerusalem at that time went to Jordan. In 1967, Israel seized the other part of the holy city. Thus, it was not difficult for the Soviet Union to justify helping 'fraternal peoples in a just struggle against Israeli extremists and their overseas accomplices'.
"EVERYONE WAS SCRATCHING THEMSELVES"
The first Soviet troops started to arrive in Egypt in 1970, mainly as pilots and and anti-aircraft artillery gunners. Their mission was to fix up the nation's air defense forces, since Israeli 'Phantoms' felt themselves to be the undisputed masters of the heavens above the pyramids. One must admit, these 'sports instructors' succeeded rather quickly - overflights soon dropped to zero.
"In Alexandria, we were put on a barge and went up the Nile," Danakan recalled. "An interesting place. Big river, along the banks just a few dozen kilometers of greenery, then nothing put sand. Somewhere in the desert we had a base. I spent eight months there. The conditions were the worst - unusual climate, exotic diseases, a huge number of crawling, jumping, and flying insects. During formation everyone was scratching themselves - soldiers and officers both. Not everyone could stand it, and we had to send a few back home. Moreover, almost every day the Israeli aircraft flew over, and this didn't have a beneficial effect on our nerves. Our base was never bombed, though, and they fed us pretty good. But we never had a real bath or shower for eight months. Sometimes they took us to a nearby city, to a swimming pool. The locals treated us variously. Some regarded us sullenly as enemies, while others were the opposite and greeted us from the bottom of their hearts."
"A PLAIN SERGEANT GOT AS MUCH AS AN EGYPTIAN ENGINEER"
Once Egypt obtained aid from the Soviet Union they were able to consider retaliating against Israel for the first time in many years. So began the 1973 war, the biggest of the Arab-Israeli wars, both in number of combatants and material, as well as in losses. The Americans thought that the Soviets recommended that the Egyptians 'start a little incident' in order to stir up the diplomatic process, but 'those maniacs clearly went too far'. This was not the case: the Soviet Union was well-informed about the Egyptian offensive under preparation - in fact, the day before the beginning of the war, they began evacuating the families of Soviet citizens, and Soviet warships steamed away from Egyptian ports.
Simple Soviet soldiers such as Danakan Nugaliev, however, knew nothing of these political strategems and calculations. They simply did their job.
"Our unit had two missions: testing new weapons systems and instructing the local personnel," the soldier-internationalist recalled. "I remember we were paid in Egyptian pounds. A plain sergeant got as much as an Egyptian engineer. Officers got a lot more. A lot of them bought cars when they got home."
Before their attack on Israel, Egypt made a pact with Syria. As a result, the armies of the two outnumbered that of Israel three to one, in both men and armor, and the first days of the war went poorly for the Israelis. Soon euphoria gripped the Egyptian and Syrian commanders. They ceased listening to their Soviet advisers, and began to make fatal errors. In particular, they stretched their forces too thin, creating a broad, but shallow front. General Sharon exploited this, and with only seven tanks he broke through the front, crossed the Suez canal, and headed straight for the Egyptian capital, Cairo. With reinforcement he could have seized Cairo and, who knows? Perhaps even joined Egypt to Israel, or some large part of it. When Sharon was only 100 kilometers from Cairo, however, the US ordered Israeli forces to proceed no further, otherwise the Soviet Union may have entered the war, and it would not have been a handful of sportsmen in a conspiracy, but the regular army. Soviet air divisions were on alert, and a large part of the air transportation command was preparing for troop deployments to the Near East. Soviet ships were nearing the Egyptian shores as well.
There were rumors of nuclear warheads on board Soviet vessels which were steaming through the Dardanelles towards Egypt, and so negotiations began, and under pressure from the USSR, Egypt and Israel signed an armistice.
"WE DIDN'T EVEN BRING HOME SUNTANS"
Relations between the Soviet Union and Egypt failed after this unsuccessful venture. Egyptian president Anwar Sadat subsequently decided to make friends with the United States, and Soviet soldiers quit Egypt forever.
"First they were going to send us to Syria, but they decided to send us home at last," said Danakan Nugaliev. "They put us back on a ship, which by the way was the one where they filmed the movie 'Elusive Avengers', from the series 'Crown of the Russian Empire'. We were happy to be going home. I'm ashamed to say that after eight months in a foreign country, we didn't see anything but our base. I only saw the pyramids on television. We didn't even bring home suntans. At first we had suntans, but after a bath they quickly faded. I remember the rice. I ate enough for a lifetime, three times a day. When we got back to the Soviet Union, they threw us a holiday supper. So we come in, and there the main course is rice pilaf - what a nightmare! We were so annoyed, we asked for potatoes with herring and a piece of black bread."
"THERE IS NOTHING IN MY MILITARY RECORDS"
After Egypt, Danakan Nurgaliev returned to Amur and served out his term. His relatives did not even suspect the their son had been in such faraway lands.
"It was a big secret," sighed the internationalist. "I wrote letters home, but just generic ones. You know, 'alive and well, serving, all is okay'. If one word about Egypt was ever mentioned the censor would tear up your letter. And so I couldn't talk about Egypt until after demobilizaton."
Danakan Nurgaliev does not use the word 'mission' randomly. No document mentions that he performed international service or took part in combat operations - officially it is modestly called a 'special mission'.
"There is nothing in my military records about these eight months, it's as if I was never outside the Soviet Union," Dakanan said. "No awards nor benefits. It wasn't until 1986 that a congress of the Supreme Soviet made us - the 'Afghanis', 'Koreans', 'Vietnamese', and 'Egyptians' - equals with the veterans of the Great Patriotic War. But, equals or not, just try to prove that you were there! I didn't decide to do this until the 1990s, already after the USSR fell apart. I wrote to Moscow to the Ministry of Defense's central archives. At the enlistment and registration office they told me that it was a just a waste of time. You know, the archives only have one answer - 'no information', but I sent in my request anyway. A year and a half later they sent me confirmation. Take a look."
With these words the participant in the Arab-Israeli war pulls out a well-worn form, bearing the stamp of the MoD's central archives, stating that 'Nurgaliev Danakan Kasymovich was on a special mission in the United Arab Republic (as Egypt was known then - author) and took part in combat operations'.
This document has not brought a lot of benefit, really not much more than a feeling of deep satisfaction. Back then a sovereign Kazakhstan did not have much use for soldier-internationalists. Nowadays this relationship has changed. After many years of hardships, Danakan Nugaliev received a new three-bedroom apartment from the government. He earned it.
Sergey Tereshchenko, photo Valeriya Kalieva