Missing Soviet soldier found after 33 years


Some 33 years after disappearing in Afghanistan, a Soviet veteran of the Afghan War has been located by his former countrymen.

The soldier, found by ex-Soviet troops, now lives with Afghans in the western province of Herat and has adopted the Afghan name Sheikh Abdullah, according to Russia’s RIA news agency.

An ethnic Uzbek, he was wounded in battle in 1980, shortly after the beginning of the nine-year Soviet war in Afghanistan.

Rescued by local Afghans after being wounded, the soldier, whose original name was Bakhretdin Khakimov, is now semi-nomadic and practices herbal medicine, the Russian news agency added.

The head of the official veterans’ committee, Ruslan Aushev, said the long-missing soldier was tracked down in Afghanistan’s Shindand district after a year-long search. He had served with a motorized rifle unit, according to the BBC.

At present, more than 250 Soviet soldiers are listed as still missing in Afghanistan. In the first decade after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 the veterans’ committee found 29 missing soldiers – and 22 of them decided to return home, while seven opted to stay in Afghanistan, RIA reported.

Map of Afghanistan, with province of Herat in red.

Map of Afghanistan, with province of Herat in red.

Abdullah bore the scars of his war wounds – a shaking hand and shoulder and nervous tic, according to a veterans’ committee official.

The ex-soldier, from the city of Samarkand, was able to name his former place of residence in Uzbekistan and the names of his relatives. He understood Russian but spoke it very poorly.

Some 15,000 Red Army soldiers and more than a million Afghans were killed during the conflict, which began in late 1979 and ended in early 1989 and pitted a Soviet-backed government in Kabul against mujahideen fighters armed by the West and Islamic neighbors.

(Above: Soviet solider in Afghanistan. Photo Credit: Wikipedia.)


2 thoughts on “Missing Soviet soldier found after 33 years

  1. Interesting article. How fortunate that this Russian soldier was not found by the Taliban. The story would have had a far different ending, I’m sure. Proves one thing: not all people are evil or see killing as the ultimate answer to their problems. Instead, we find mercy and compassion in places we may not expect to find it — among ‘primitive’ peoples — toward strangers in their own land — an enemy occupying force determined to kill them.

    Lots going on here — e.g.,reference to the ancient, almost mystical. place ‘Samarkand;’ this Russian’s, and several others’, desire to not return home; his difficulty with his native language.’

    One has to wonder how many of our soldiers, wounded, or otherwise, have decided to remain in Afghanistan even though our official pull out has not begun in earnest. It is not unheard of for soldiers in a war serving in a distant land to make that decision. Could it be that they had found something that they felt was missing … in their lives? … in their own country? What a fascinating study that would make.

    (p.s. Have to look up the meaning of Asian names that end in “istan.” Am wondering if they all belonged to one land mass in some ancient time. I seem to recall that, in modern geographic history, some may have been part of the U.S.S.R.)

    • It is interesting to note that this soldier was taken in and, apparently, nursed back to health by people in the country his nation had invaded. Of course, I think most people in most nations, given the choice, would opt for peace and the chance to help their fellow man if they felt they weren’t going to be punished for their actions.

      I’m not sure many American soldiers have opted to remain in Afghanistan, if only because there are those on the opposing side who would never trust an American in their country. I do recall reading about a handful of US soldiers who defected to North Korea during the Korean War. As I recall, they ended up leading very sad lives.

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