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Zinky Boys: The Record of a Lost Soviet Generation 
by Svetlana Alexievich, translated by Julia Whitby and Robin Whitby.
Chatto, 192 pp., £9.99, January 1992, 0 7011 3838 6
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... Among the many thoughts which this sad, sometimes unreadably sad book suggests is this: did the Afghan war mark the beginning of the most dramatic military event of our time, the dissolution of the Soviet Armed Forces? Did the crumbling of belief and will which Zinky Boys documents erode the imperial reflexes of a militarised state to the extent that no strategy – whether sticking to the forms of orthodoxy or Communist reformism – could pull it out of the crisis? In form, Zinky Boys – the name given to those shipped home dead from the war in Afghanistan because they were always shipped in zinc coffins – is familiar enough in the West, but less so in the former Soviet Union ...

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