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Russian Films About the USSR in Afghanistan
The USSR (Soviet Union) invaded Afghanistan in late 1979 under a flimsy pretext that the Afghan government had "invited them". Regardless, the Soviets fought the Afghan fighters until 1988, when they tossed in the towel and pulled out. As one Soviet officer noted, "no one has ever conquered Afghanistan". As America now tries in vain to defeat the same enemy, these words have an eerie echo.
Since the collapse of the USSR in the early 90's, several excellent films have come out depicting this war. One American, two Russian. The two Russian films, 9th Company (2005) and Afghan Breakdown (1990), portray the Soviet battle in a very realistic manner without the political spin so common in Soviet movies. In both films, it shows that despite the immense firepower of the Soviet war machine at the time, it was not always enough to defeat the enemy. The situation has an prophetic ring to it even today. The Soviets had outposts, just like the Americans do now. Some were overrun then, as they are now. Both Russian films are based on real events and end with the Soviets losing the battle, and the enemy, demolished, as the Soviets retaliate with its modern weapons. In effect, a bloody draw. As movies go, both are well made, hollywoodish productions with authentic Russian tanks and weapons. All have key characters you care about. The focus is on the Russians, the enemy is portrayed like ghosts mainly in battle scenes. There is no look into what the enemy is like when not fighting.
9th Company is available on DVD with English subtitles, it won Best International Film in 2005 and grossed over $7 million in Russia. Well, worth watching for this genre. However, The Beast is so engrossing, you may wish to add it to your DVD collection.
The third film, ironically, is American, The Beast (1988). This is an intense character study of a Soviet tank crew in a T-62 tank than is on an convoy escort mission when it becomes separated from the convoy after an ambush. The tank's crew has diverse personalities from a the rambo patriotic commander to a kid who was drafted. As the tank breaks down, the crew is left to continue on foot and encounter enemy fighters and women, who stone the injured soldiers. It is the most gripping film of the three. Most of the film's strength is the situation and the tank's crew when faced with dire war situations. The hunter becomes the hunted!