“Moscow tried to find us, but I don’t want them to find us because I don’t know my country anymore.”

after the end of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, nearly 300 deserters and missing soldiers stayed in this barren and volatile country. Since then, they have been forgotten by the outside world and witnessed the changes of the world in the next 20 years. At present, most of these veterans are dead, and the survivors still remember everything in the past. They are worried that NATO will repeat the mistakes of the Soviet Union, but also worried about their own future.

after 30 years from atheists to Muslims,

, Gennady zeyuma still clearly remembers the prayer that spread throughout the mountain village. It floated over the fields and rivers, breaking the silence of the morning. At that time, zeyuma was a Soviet soldier guarding the ferry in Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan. Whenever the prayer sounded, he felt his hair stand upright. Like many comrades, boredom and carelessness haunt the young man more often. After 10 months of service, driven by curiosity, he “accidentally” became a deserter.

comes from a country that pursues atheism. He is eager to understand what prayer is about. “Our checkpoint is next to the village. Every morning when the mullahs call the villagers, I have no idea what will happen and think they are plotting to kill people,” zeyuma told Time magazine. “So one morning, I secretly left the base to find out. When I was close to the mosque, I saw an old man sitting there, and several armed men suddenly appeared and surrounded me. After that, the ‘jihadists’ threatened me to convert to Islam, or my head would fall to the ground. I thought it better to live than die, and I became a Muslim from then on.”

in the past 29 years, zeyuma and hundreds of Soviet veterans who were forgotten in Afghanistan like him have witnessed the most turbulent period in this barren country. After the Soviet Union became a historical term, they continued to live and fight like locals. From the withdrawal of the Soviet Union to the withdrawal of NATO (scheduled to be completed in 2014), the surviving veterans have witnessed the reincarnation of the times.

despite the great improvement in life over the past 10 years, zeumar – whose public name is Nick Muhammad – still feels that there will be murders in the future. “Although there are roads and street lights now, let’s wait and see what will happen after a period of time? The lights will go out and the war will start again,” he said. “People will loot everywhere and start killing each other again. What about this small village? Life may continue, but it must be very bad.”

“Muhammad” turned off the TV. He wore a traditional Russian man’s long shirt to watch the Afghan satellite program. “Moscow tried to find us, but I don’t want them to find us, because I don’t recognize my motherland,” he seemed to see through the past and future. It’s unbelievable. After becoming a “follower of Allah”, he claimed that he didn’t shoot again.

“the hope of finding survivors is gradually lost.

” most of them are now about 50 years old, but they look like old people in Huajia. ” According to lavrentev, vice chairman of the Russian veterans Commission, in the chaotic situation, the lost Soviet veterans will dissipate like a wisp of smoke at any time. After repeated confirmation, 29 persons with similar conditions to zeyuma are still alive, of which 22 have returned home, and the rest choose to stay in Afghanistan for family or religious reasons. There are still 266 missing persons, many of whom are estimated to have been buried elsewhere.

the hope of the Russian authorities to recover more living veterans is disappearing. According to Rashid’s estimation, only 20-40 of the 266 missing persons may be alive. As time goes by and history is forgotten, there will be fewer and fewer clues. “We won’t be able to find an experienced person who can describe this history soon, because everyone is nearly 60 years old, and the average life expectancy of Afghans is not long.”

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after the withdrawal of the Soviet army, zeyuma slowly gained freedom and became a long-distance truck driver for several times to transport goods to northern Afghanistan. He was lucky to escape the civil war in the 1990s. Surprisingly, life under the Taliban made him feel easier. “The Taliban have never been in trouble. They are proud that I have become a Muslim.” Today, he has formed a family with a Tajik woman in a neighboring province, has two sons and a daughter, and is integrated into the local “community”. However, as the date of NATO withdrawal approached, he began to worry about the future of his family, saying that friends, neighbors and relatives were also worried.

Sergei krasnopenov agrees. Krasnopenov first became a deserter because he was worried about being disposed of by military law because of the smuggling of military materials. He took the initiative to join the “Jihad” organization, converted to Islam, changed his name to “Nur Muhammad”, fought with the Soviet army, and even worked as a bodyguard of the famous warlord Abdul Dostam. He also married an Afghan woman with six children. Now he works part-time in the local power department and occasionally goes to chakhcharan City, Gul province to repair trucks.

“you don’t know who is the person of the government and who is not the person of the government.” Krasnopenov said in a telephone interview. “Even in cities, there is a lack of confidence in the ability of the government. You can kill two or three people and then jump on a motorcycle and run away without being asked or followed.” Rural residents are also generally worried that once foreign aid dries up, the Afghan National Army and police will disperse. “These soldiers and policemen are paid, but they don’t fight at all. They do nothing and get paid at the end of the month; they don’t represent either side, they only recognize money.” His perception of Karzai’s government is equally bad. “They only know how to take bribes. If the Americans are not there, they have no power at all. They are just a gang of thieves.”

cycle is the logic of history.

the third veteran Alexander livinez also lives in Kunduz. He firmly believed that history is cyclical – after the Soviet army left, “the Afghan regime was completely destroyed; Now we have the army and the police. If the United States leaves, they will be finished, and there will be no one left. ” Like “Nur Muhammad”, levinez once sold goods to the enemy. After being caught by the commander, he fled the army, drove a taxi and raised five children with his wife as a teacher.

by contrast, Gennady zeyuma, who drinks Afghan green tea, knows little about the current situation, but is rather pessimistic about the future. “Americans have made few mistakes since they came here,” he praised the new occupiers. “There was no electricity before, but now there is electricity; there was no good road before, but now there is; there was no hospital before, and now there is.” But he didn’t know what the future would be like. “After the Americans leave, things will suddenly clear up in another way. The government can’t control the Taliban.”

“in the end, it is the people who suffer. Once the Taliban, all those who have done something for the United States will die, because people want to fight for power and everyone wants revenge.” As for the current regime, he agrees with other veterans. “Karzai said to everyone, ‘we will defend our country. No one will attack here. Everyone will stand with us. Foreign friends will help us’, but what help? Rely on God. Unfortunately, all this is just talk.”

the calmest and most pessimistic is still the taxi driver Lewin Nez, who changed his name to Ahmed. He is always observing and looking for the internal logic of history. “Before the Soviet army left, Moscow also gave great assistance to Kabul, and Afghanistan was once very peaceful. After the aid stopped, the war broke out again. Everyone only fought and worked for money. People can do anything for money.”

when dusk came, zeumar asked us to stay for dinner and expressed concern about the safety of foreign visitors. “I’m glad to have dinner with you,” he said. “After all, this is Afghanistan. You can’t talk or move. It’s not safe for foreigners to leave early.” When he stepped out of the door, he suddenly muttered to himself, “we need to climb out with ‘claws’.” I remember, this is a Russian proverb, which means to escape as soon as possible, because “God knows what will happen next.”