The Russian bibliography has been very lucky with publications devoted to Afghanistan. Few countries in the world have been written about as much as this country. Orientalists, conflict scientists, economists, diplomats, military personnel, art historians, intelligence officers, writers, and journalists devoted their works to Afghanistan.
It would seem that our southern neighbor, which has long been considered the" soft underbelly " of Russia, is described and studied comprehensively and thoroughly. But the appearance of M. A. Konarovsky "The Road in seven thousand Days" (Moscow region, Korolev, Publishing House "Arctic 4D", 2015, 460 p.) is a significant phenomenon in our Oriental literature.
The book about Afghanistan, its history and modernity, people and traditions, relations with our country and the rest of the world sheds light on little-known details of events in different years, helps to delve deeper into the motives of historical figures who played a significant role in the formation and development of Soviet-Afghan and Russian-Afghan relations.
Mikhail Konarovsky, the author of the book, is a prominent Soviet and Russian diplomat, an Oriental historian, and a member of the Writers ' Union.He has lived and worked in this country for almost 20 years. He was and continues to be engaged in the Afghan problem.
While still studying at the Institute of Oriental Languages at Moscow State University, M. A. Konarovsky went as a translator to the construction of a gas pipeline in the Afghan North, worked in Shibirgan and Mazar-I-Sharif. Then he headed Russian language courses in Kabul from the Union of Soviet Societies for Friendship and Cultural Relations with Foreign Countries (SSOD). Then - the diplomatic service: he passed all its stages-from the translator of the diplomatic mission to the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Russia to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. He also led our diplomatic missions in Sri Lanka and Croatia. For several years, he served as Deputy Secretary General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Currently, he is a leading researcher at the MGIMO Center for International Studies (U) of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.
According to the author, when preparing the book, he did not set himself "any ambitious tasks - neither in terms of claims to a comprehensive and thorough analysis of the events in and around Afghanistan in retrospect and in recent decades, nor in terms of the involvement of the USSR in them, and then Russia in the new geopolitical conditions." The book does not address the issue of the People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan being in power in the country and the presence of a limited contingent of Soviet troops in the country. This is not provided for by either the genre or the theme of the work, which is primarily memoir, everyday life and ethnographic in nature and only partially reveals some historical aspects through a series of political sketches of the past years, as well as author's comments on them.
The book turned out to be very capacious and rich in facts, events and personal observations, surnames and characteristics of historical figures that the author met during his work in Afghanistan and other countries.
The advantage of the monograph was the illustrations included in it. Most of them are taken from the author's personal photo album and taken during various periods of his life in Afghanistan. There are also archival photographs, materials from art albums published in Kabul, photographs provided to M. A. Konarovsky by his interlocutors, stills from art and documentary films, reproductions of paintings and miniatures. Many of these illustrations are very successful additions to the author's memories. As a result, the reader has the opportunity to take a fascinating and instructive journey through the turbulent waves of Afghan history, get to know more about the many twists and turns of development and little-studied details of our bilateral relations, and learn more about the people who were at their origins.
The retrospective chapters devoted to the development of diplomatic relations between our countries are of considerable interest. The author thoroughly and practically for the first time introduces readers to the conditions in which the members of the first Soviet missions who arrived in Kabul shortly after the recognition of Afghanistan by our country in 1919 had to live and work.
The career and fate of the Soviet plenipotentiaries in Afghanistan were dramatic and sometimes tragic. The first person to arrive in Kabul was N. Z. Bravin, a former tsarist diplomat and orientalist who worked for a long time in Persia, as well as in the Russian consular offices in Simla and Bombay. In March 1920, not agreeing to serve under a new plenipotentiary with broader powers, such as Ya. Z. Surits, Bravin asked to be transferred to Persia. He was refused, and in December 1919 was recalled to Moscow. However, he went to India without permission (allegedly taking some documents with him). On the way, in a hotel in the city of Ghazni, as reported by the local press, he was shot dead by an Afghan accompanying him. However, there are other versions of what happened...
Ya. Z. Surits also worked in Kabul for a short time, but made a brilliant professional career. In 1921, after signing the first Soviet-Afghan friendly treaty, he was appointed commissioner of the NKID of the RSFSR for Turkestan and Central Asia. Later he became the Soviet representative successively in Norway, Turkey, Germany, and France (where he was declared persona non grata), and in the second half of the forties he was appointed Ambassador to Brazil.
F. F. Raskolnikov, the Soviet ambassador to Afghanistan in 1921-1923, who succeeded Suritz in Kabul, commanded the Volga - Caspian Flotilla and then the Baltic Fleet during the Civil War. No less colorful figure was his wife-LN Reisner. Having fought alongside her husband as his adjutant, she became the prototype of the commissar in Vsevolod Vishnevsky's popular play Optimistic Tragedy.
F. F. Raskolnikov, who was recalled to Moscow after his urgent requests, was replaced in mid-1924 by L. N. Stark, who was friends with Lunacharsky and Gorky. He served as the Soviet ambassador in Kabul for 12 years (1924-1936) - significantly longer than any other Soviet and later Russian diplomatic representative in this country. Later, he was an authorized representative of the NKID in the Georgian SSR, and during the purges of the late 1930s, he was arrested and shot. Posthumously rehabilitated.
The advantage of M. A. Konarovsky's essays is also in showing the political and psychological atmosphere in which our bilateral relations were formed and developed. The information collected by the author about Russian emigration in Kabul in the first post-revolutionary years is of great interest. This topic in our journalism (with the exception of the problems of Basmian emigration) has never been studied before.
Those who visited Kabul in different years could visit the Soviet cemetery in the Dar-ul-Aman area. There, by the mid - seventies, only 11 burials were preserved, 6 of which were unnamed. Among them was a nearly two-meter-high stele with a five-pointed star and the inscription: "Anna Ivanovna Malkova. May 9, 1900-August 26, 1933". In Kabul, it was rumored that a Soviet intelligence officer, who became the prototype of the heroine of the Soviet-Afghan film "Mission in Kabul", was buried here.
Due to the evacuation of our embassy in 1992, the cemetery remained "unattended"for almost a decade. Only in the spring of 2002, after the resumption of the Russian diplomatic mission in Kabul, thanks to the initiative of the author of the book-then the Russian Ambassador in Kabul-the tombstones were restored and the cemetery was given decent care.
The pages about contemporary literature, painting and cinema in Afghanistan are of great interest. To a large extent, they are based on the author's personal impressions, his numerous meetings with leading figures of culture and art in this country.
Summarizing his experience and impressions, M. A. Konarovsky comes to the conclusion that the second millennium of our era ended for Afghanistan with "a utopian socio-economic experiment of the People's Democratic Party, which led to the collapse and national tragedy." The beginning of the third millennium (after a decade of the same tragic period of Mujahideen and fanatical Taliban rule) was marked in the country's political history by an "equally utopian experiment in "Westernization"and forced construction of democracy in the Western manner."
There are many other insightful observations in the memoirs. For example, about how tragically almost all the Afghan rulers of the XX century ended their lives. Sad, according to M. A. Konarovsky, was the end of all the parties of the" Big Game "in Afghanistan, as the confrontation and rivalry of the great powers for the right to seize the"heart of Asia" was figuratively called back in the XIX century. None of its historical participants, in the end, won anything. Not then, not now. And the unconquered country, which is often called the "gravedigger of empires", despite everything or against everything, continues to protect its fatal past and magical predestination.
Obviously, this is why the author of "The Seven Thousand Year Road" refrained from making unambiguous political predictions for the foreseeable future and did not end the story on an optimistic note. Well, every researcher, especially a diplomat with almost 45 years of experience, has the right to draw such conclusions as they consider logical and reasonable.
Nevertheless, the book ends with a significant and, in its deep essence, not at all pessimistic couplet by the great philosopher and poet Omar Khayyam:
Traps, pitfalls in my path-
God set them up and told me to go.
A. A. SUKHOPAROV, Candidate of Historical Sciences, veteran of military operations in Afghanistan
1 From recent publications, see, for example: Vasiliev A.M. Afgan: nezazhivayushchie rany Rossii [Afghanistan: Non-healing wounds of Russia]. 2014, N 5, 6. (Vasilier A.M. 2014. Afgan: nezazhivayushchie rany Roccii) (in Russian)
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