Updated: Jul 31
This is a short guide for anyone who wants to get into Soviet-Afghan war reenactment. This first part will be about the Soviet Army reenactment, and the part about the Mujahideen will be added later.
The point of this guide is to prevent a newcomer from the following:
overspending on useless stuff
get in conflicts online because of his appearance
getting embarrassed at the events
Well, chances are, some of these things are still likely to happen. But you will be better prepared for them!
How to begin
First of all, for reenactment purposes, your rank should depend on your age. Please read our article on the typical ages of Soviet soldiers and officers in the Soviet Army.
After that, it all depends on the event in your area - if they actually exist. I was lucky to be in a place where events used to take place quite often, hence this guide will be based on such experience. Because if you are all alone in your area, you make the rules.
Anyhow, the most important part of the reenactment is to get your calories. And you need proper gear for that. Nothing is as sad as seining well-dressed reenactors eating some recyclable plates with plastic forks. Luckily, these items in the photo are neither rare nor expensive. There is a combinational mess tin with an aluminum spoon and a mug. This pretty much summarized all the cutlery Soviet soldiers would typically experience during his compulsory military service (though he would usually eat of an aluminum plate instead of the mess tin, when in barracks).
Second most important part of the reenactment is getting some sleep. But sleeping gear for the Soviet-Afghan war is quite tricky and will be discussed in a separate article. For beginners it is strongly advised to start with summer events where you can just sleep in the field like my friend here.
Basic items for Soviet-Afghan war reenactment
To attend any decent event you need to have uniform, to at least pose in a base camp. I will give the example of the airborne uniform, as this is what I have photos for. However, it is the same for other branches of service, except the color of shoulder boards and the pins.
On this photo you can see pretty much everything that would be issued to a conscript from day one. These were personal belongings, which were given to a soldier, unlike almost any other clothing and equipment which was assigned to the military unit.
Here is the list:
- underpants (blue) - striped undershirt (white for other branches)
- boots (jackboots for winter or temperate regions)
- uniform (open collar M69 for tropical regions)
- belt with shiny buckle
- canvas trousers belt
- panama hat
- blue insignia
Now, getting all this stuff, especially originals and especially in right sizes can be a challenge. Especially boots and uniform - it is almost impossible to get originals nowadays. So here is the quick advice on everything. Get original belts, insignia and preferably the panama hat, they are still around. Looks for a modern made underwear, there is usually someone producing them in post-soviet countries. Any full leather, not too tall black boots will do fine to begin with.
The uniform can easily be the most challenging here. But there are two main loopholes. First one is to get a regular, temperate weather M69 uniform. It comes with breeches, however, so you really have to wear it with the jackboots. You may look for some Soviet workwear trousers of the similar material and make them into tropical M69 trousers, but that's another challenge and there will be a separate article about it.
Second option is to get M88 Afghanka uniform. Sure it is not as classy and certainly doesn't work for early war impressions. But it is still available at reasonable price and in good sizes. Make sure you get one set anyway, they are not produced anymore. Give it another 5-10 years and they will be as rare as it gets.
After you get all this and finally put it on, you will look like this:
Now, for the best part! Just like you would be advised to start WW2 reenactment with a single action bolt-rifle of your fraction, you are advised to start Soviet-Afghan War reenactment with AK(s)-74. Of course, no one can stop you from buying a BTR and install AGS-17 on top of it - pretty sure any team will accept you. Yet, you will still need a personal weapon!
Here you can see a full set of equipment issued with an AKS-74. Well, the set is not full - we are missing an oil bottle and a cleaning kit. My bad.
But anyhow, the personal weapon of choice for Soviet-Afghan war reenactment is a regular AKS-74. Or AK-74, if you are reenacting non-airborne unit. There are exceptions, as always, but they need an article (long one) of its own.
Bayonet was issued along with the rifle. AKS-74 was supplied with 6X4 bayonet, which was worn on the belt, on the left hand side of the buckle. Every rifle would also be supplied with 4-cell magazine pouch and 4 magazines respectively. Magazines were usually orange bakelite, but from 1983, the production of the plum magazines has started and they were supplied alongside each other. The ammo clips were not really used, thought in theory you would have 4 of them (with 15 rounds in each) in your pouch.
Now, depending on your country of residence, you would usually have a choice of getting a blank firing, deactivated or airsoft weapons. Or none are allowed, if you are unlucky. Anyway, the point is - try to stick to 5.45 caliber for Soviet-Afghan war reenactment. Even though AKM and AKMS were both used, they are not the best choice. And again, a separate article will be written on this topic later on.
At the end of the day, with your weapon, you will look something like this:
The basic equipment is what a conscript would get for training at base camp or in mainland (non-Afghan) army. For a paratrooper it was pretty simple - backpack with attached pouches, water flask and entrenching tool. There is plenty of stuff which is supposed to go into the backpack, but it was never packed by manual in Afghan so it won't be covered here.
The pouches, flask and spade are all pretty straightforward, I hope. And all of these can still be found for sale even in 2023, for reasonable price.
And that's about it. At least for the begginer. There is, of course, more equipment you will eventually need for Soviet-Afghan war reenactment. But you will find out about it along the way, as you progress in collecting and reenacting. And by the way, here is how you are going to look like if you get all the clothing and equipment described in this article. Minus the cool night vision googles of course. This photo is from the book, by the way.