The M88 Afghanka is one of the most popular uniforms from the Soviet era. Most people get into the topic after seeing one of these uniform sets in a movie or on other reenactors. But this regular M88 Afghanka, full of pockets, was not like that initially. The prototype predecessor, produced in large enough quantities to be issued widely in Afghanistan, was seriously different. Nowadays it is one of the rarest and most desirable pieces of Soviet Army uniforms in Afghanistan.
The history behind the pre-Afghanka uniform
The history of the Afghanka uniform is full of mysteries. It is safe to assume, that the general idea was taken from the OKZK-D - a unique set of clothing for the Airborne Forces which was supposed to be issued and used in case of nuclear warfare.
But this would be the story of the regular Afghanka, which will appear on this website later on. The prototype Afghanka is a more confusing set of uniforms. While it generally resembles the OKZK-D it has significant differences which are hard to comprehend.
Apart from that, the winter version of the prototype Afghanka exists. It has similar pockets and other features to the summer version, but unfortunately, it is unknown if any are in private (or public!) collections. Overall, we are lucky enough to have these beautiful photos of the summer set.
Use of prototype Afghanka Soviet Army uniform
Even though the war in Afghanistan was in full swing during the time of adoption, the experimental Afghanka somehow managed to get into other units of the Soviet Army. Maybe they were issued with this uniform to be tested before it was deployed to Afghanistan, but it seems more likely that it was tested for other climate zones alongside testing in Afghanistan.
It is very hard to specify, in which Army units or even regions of the Soviet Union this uniform was actually sent to. The number of photos which was found to date is also very limited and hence we cannot say anything else about it. But the results of testing are talking for themselves - the M88 Afghanka was later on adopted for the whole Army and stayed untouched for years to come.
Practical use in Afghanistan
Back in my day©, no one knew about the existence of experimental M88 Afghanka. Even worse, if it was to appear in the collectors' or reenactors' circle it would probably be considered defective and used during airsoft games.
But approximately in 2015 Afghan war research community started to notice that in some photos, dated 1981, M88 Afghanka is already present. And the strange absence of the right shoulder pocket was noticed and a lot of work was done digging up photos with these experimental Afghankas. Some of these are presented in this article, but presenting all of them would be close to impossible - there are so many of them.
Regarding the actual reviews from the veterans - none of them are known to this day and it is unlikely that we will ever find any. For a regular soldier or officer, this was just workwear. Moreover, it was almost identical to the regular M88 Afghanka, which phased out the experimental version fairly quickly. So, for most of the initial users, these two sets of uniforms were too similar to notice and write anything about it in their diaries or memoirs.
If you ever manage to get one of these uniforms, which is, however, very unlikely, or, if you are to make a replica, here is the list of Soivet Army units that used this experimental uniform:
To make a replica of the uniform is easy - just remove the right-hand sleeve pocket and the arrows on the pants. Then wash it a couple of times to remove the traces. These two things are the only visible differences from the regular Afghanka.