On the eve of 1980 the USSR invaded Afghanistan with invitation from the ruling body. Quickly the USSR inserted its own leader, Babrak Karmal (Geldern.) This led to a decade long war that robbed the USSR of precious public support, money and resources, and positive international attention. But why did the Soviet Union do this? Afghanistan was an underdeveloped foreign country. And what implications did this military and political move have on the Soviet people?
According to Pravda, or The Truth, the Soviet Union involved itself because of, “the imperialist interference in the internal affairs of democratic Afghanistan… that jeopardized the republic’s very existence,” (Petrov). Untold in the article, the Soviet Union was also in the midst of economic downturn, social pressure to reform, and international tension. Afghanistan looked like a solution to almost all of these problems because of its location and resources.
In the 1960’s the Soviet national income rose ~5.9% annually which fell to a low of 2.1% in 1981; gross national product fell from 6% in the 1950’s to 2% following 1979; and investment capital growth fell from 7.6% in 1966 to .6% in 1979 (Freeze, 440). The USSR faced economic issues across almost all aspects of measure. Agricultural output growth shrank from 21% increase in 1966 to 6% in 1981; specifically, crop yields were 180mil tons in 1975, 40mil tons being imported, but this was 76mil tons short of the annual goal (Freeze, 441).
Socially, citizens across the Union rioted over food because of the economic strain. These riots included Sverdlovsk in 1969, Dnepropetrovsk in 1972, and Gorky in 1980 as over ¾ of citizens fell below the established poverty line (Freeze, 443-444). Workers also went on strikes across the Soviet Union. These economic and social factors created a toxic environment of political corruption and capitalist black market. Throughout the 1980’s, some 21million people worked within the black market to supply up to 83% of the population (Freeze, 443).
The Soviet Union saw Afghanistan as a new rallypoint to regroup
Soviet interests. Afghanistan held strategic value for trade, harvestable land,
and resources to offset the issues the USSR was facing. The initiating event
was a USSR Politburo meeting after hearing rumors the Marxist Afghanis were considering
to ally with the USA (Freeze, 446). Unfortunately, the Soviet Union found
itself in its own Vietnam War. Despite the idealism and rationalism behind the
invasion it was ultimately unsuccessful and after a decade the Soviets finally left
the country alone, but not before losing tens-of-thousands of soldiers, spend social-program
funding to offset economic issues, and ruining relations with NATO and Third World
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.
Geldern, James Von. “Invasion of Afghanistan.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. June 30, 2015. http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1980-2/invasion-of-afghanistan/.
Petrov, A. “On Events in Afghanistan.” Pravda, December 31, 1979. https://dlib-eastview-com.ezproxy.lib.vt.edu/browse/doc/13629304?searchLink=%2Fsearch%2Fsimple.