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Soviet Afghan war music

During the Soviet-Afghan War, Soviet soldiers had limited access to most forms of entertainment, but they did have some options for listening to music. In this article we are discussing some examples of the music that Soviet soldiers may have listened to during the war.

Patriotic songs

Soviet soldiers were encouraged to listen to patriotic songs that promoted loyalty to the Soviet Union and its Communist ideology. Many of these songs had a military theme and were intended to boost morale and inspire soldiers.

As it usually happens, people tend to dislike whatever is enforced on them. The popular soviet patriotic songs would be either about the civil war time or about the Second World war. Since both of these wars had not much to do with the 18-19 year old conscripts in Afghan, their reaction was somewhat similar to that in the famous scene from the "Jarhead"

Anyhow, it was usually available and units would sing these songs from time to time during parades and drill practice.

Soviet popular music

A big portion of music listened by the soviet soldiers in Afghanistan was whatever soviet stage had to provide at the time. Soviet pop music of the time was pretty universally loved by different generations, but more importantly it was widely available on vinyl. Soviet soldiers would listen to such artists as Alla Pugacheva, Yuri Antonov, Oleg Dal and others. Each new wave of recruits would bring pop culture news to their comrades who were in Afghanistan and had limited access to newest hits.

Vladimir Vysotskiy
Vladimir Vysotskiy

But perhaps the most popular artist in the military was Vladymir Vysotskiy. He has died couple of month into the Soviet invasion to Afghanistan, but has made an enormous input into Soviet culture of the time. He wrote and performed songs in different genres, about different life situations and professions, so basically there was something for every listener. However, his audience would usually consist of the middle aged people and so his songs would be more appreciated by the soviet officers rather than soldiers.

Western pop music

Western pop music was technically banned in the Soviet Union during the Cold War. And as always, restrictions on the official level only make it more desirable. Western music was very desirable both in the mainland USSR and in Afghanistan. Some would make a fortune on smuggling or copying vinyl disks with modern western music, while their unlucky partners could easily get in prison for this.

One particular hit by Modern Talking brought quite a few people into the Soviet-Afghan topic!

Being in Afghanistan greatly helped soldiers obtaining desirable music, which they had little to no chance of getting back in the mainland Soviet Union. However, being a strict Muslim country at the time, Afghan music market was also quite limited in what was available in big quantity and for the decent price. Anyway, any music vinyl disks with the western music from the 1960-1980s were very valuable for Soviet people and would be listened thousands of times.

Local Afghan music

Soviet soldiers stationed in Afghanistan may have also listened to traditional Afghan music, for obvious reasons. To be honest, I can't recall any memoirs which would mention this, but given that the portable radios would only broadcast what was around, it is very possible that soldiers would have very little choice of what to listen.

Soldier from the southern regions of the Soviet Union, like Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, would probably appreciate this type of music more than their slavic comrades, as it closely resembles to the traditional tunes from the area.

Locally composed army songs

Such music genre as "soldiers song" has probably originated in Afghanistan. And the soldiers Afghan songs instantly became a new subgenre. The music of such songs is usually very simple and made with 3-4 chords on a regular guitar. The text of these songs could be about the actual battle operations and hence the song would be played in major key. But the majority of such songs were made in minor key and the text is dramatic and sad - usually about the lost comrades or about missing home.

The Blue Berets Band
The Blue Berets Band

There were a number of popular bands who started as simple soldiers of the Soviet-Afghan war. They gained popularity in mid to late 80s, when the Afghan war was still a popular subject within the Soviet community. One of the most successful examples is the Blue Berets band, but there were dozens of them across the Soviet Union and post-Soviet countries. Some of them still exist, even though the performers are now quite old.

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