The Soviet war in Afghanistan was a grueling debacle that has striking lessons for the twenty-first century. In The Great Gamble, Gregory Feifer examines the conflict from the perspective of the soldiers on the ground. During the last years of the Cold War, the Soviet Union sent some of its most elite troops to unfamiliar lands in Central Asia to fight a vaguely defined enemy, which eventually defeated their superior numbers with unconventional tactics. Although the Soviet leadership initially saw the invasion as a victory, many Russian soldiers came to view the war as a demoralizing and devastating defeat, the consequences of which had a substantial impact on the Soviet Union and its collapse.
Feifer's extensive research includes eye-opening interviews with participants from both sides of the conflict. In gripping detail, he vividly depicts the invasion of a volatile country that no power has ever successfully conquered. Parallels between the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq are impossible to ignore—both conflicts were waged amid vague ideological rhetoric about freedom. Both were roundly condemned by the outside world for trying to impose their favored forms of government on countries with very different ways of life. And both seem destined to end on uncertain terms.
A groundbreaking account seen through the eyes of the men who fought it, The Great Gamble tells an unforgettable story full of drama, action, and political intrigue whose relevance in our own time is greater than ever.
“Feifer brings to life in spirited detail the bloody, eight-year struggle that killed a million Afghans and tens of thousands of Russians and broke the back of the Soviet Union, which disappeared within two years of the war’s end. You think it can’t happen to us? Read Feifer.”
“Feifer’s thoughtful, deliberative use of eyewitness testimony gives an intensely close-up sense of what the war was like for those who fought it.”
“This is a provocative and important book, telling us what the Soviet military was thinking and feeling as it lost its war in Afghanistan. Gregory Feifer vividly shows that their campaigns there amounted to a manual of how not to do it.”
“Tracing the arc of the Soviets’ military disillusionment in Afghanistan, Feifer, who is an NPR reporter in Moscow, provides essential historical background to the present war in Afghanistan.”
“Fascinating….A highly readable history of the conflict.” —New York Times Book Review
In The Great Gamble, a groundbreaking account of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, former NPR Moscow correspondent Gregory Feifer vividly depicts the war that contributed greatly to the demise of the USSR, and that offers striking lessons for the 21st century, as well. Told from the perspective of the Russians who fought it, The Great Gamble offers valuable insight into the history of Afghanistan’s troubled government and the rise of the Mujahideen and Al-Qaeda. In the words of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, “Feifer has done truly extraordinary research… For all its heft, [The Great Gamble] is an effortless read—an unusual and gratifying combination.”