Reading Gregory Feifer's The Great Gamble: the Soviet War ini Afghanistan, to which I have come somewhat belatedly, after having myself worked through all the key sources. Not at all happy with the book.
Historians depend on solid referencing in order to subject sources to scrutiny and ascertain their reliability. By this standard, the book fails dismally, as it contains multiple unreferenced citations. Just on p. 10, for instance, I found at least four dubious claims.
E.g. "One reason for his [Brezhnev's] longevity in office was that the rest of the Soviet leadership... worried that the West would interpret any changes in its makeup as a sign of the Party's instability." Sources? No. Nonsense? Yes.
Same page. "Brezhnev had come to power in October 1964, promising to do away with Nikita Khrushchev's anti-Stalinist campaigns..." Sources? No. Nonsense? Yes.
Same page. "Brezhnev presided over a system that managed to hobble ahead only because the fruit of corruption spread from the Party elite to the rest of society." Sources? Of course, not. What does this even mean?
Same page. "The economy's raw materials and articles of production were largely - maybe even chiefly - distributed by thievery, bribery, and black marketeering." Sources? No. The level of understanding of the Soviet economy? Zero.
Students will read this and walk away from this with grossly oversimplified views of Soviet history. And with reinforced stereotypes.
We learn that Brezhnev was a "bear of man" (but did he play the balalaika?) It turns out that most Soviet citizens spent two weeks over the New Year in "private or collective drinking," and the Soviet army is consistently referred to as the "Red Army" (not called that since 1946)
Anyway, what an incredible waste of time. If you have to assign a book on the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, don't assign this. Rodric Braithwaite's Afgantsy or my former colleague @ArtemyMK's Long Goodbye are incomparably better. And I mean incomparably.
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