ArtOfWar. Творчество ветеранов последних войн. Сайт имени Владимира Григорьева
Прокудин Николай Николаевич
5th chapter.

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Chapter 5. Send a Fool to the Market and a Fool He will Return Again

   After Jalalabad operation the regiment was more clear structure for me. The company soldiers held by what I said, and I became friends with other officers. I acclimatized to life in that new place. Living conditions were disgusting, but it was not as bad as all that. Most of everything I can't stand lack of water for having a wash.
   Once again we finished combat operations, all soldiers came back black, but anyone could find neither cold nor hot water to take a shower. Bath points started functioning just in the morning. Soldiers and officers had a quick wash. In half an hour, as I had gone about work, which had been processing of commendation lists for soldiers, we heard a warning call.
   The regiment got a move on.
   We had to start going to Charikar zelenka in two hours. So BMPs were hardly unloaded, but new ammunition, food, individual equipment had to be taken again.
   A fresh disaster came! Four soldiers were stolen at the post of the battalion Two. It was extremely necessary to give back their bodies, even dead ones.
   All infantrymen ran around like scalded cats. Fighting equipment left the park breaking into column. While moving slowly, soldiers put different things into. More or less arrangements came to finish in two hours. The regiment column passed through Kabul.
   Armor and minimum wheeled combat vehicles went along the streets. We shot Kabul very quickly, because traffic guides from the road headquarters and Afghan soldiers provided us clear aspect run. We rode Bagram at full speed. Dense foliage, we passed by, had no firing sounds. We could see a lot of Afghan soldiers along the route. They had rifles, some of them dressed like military men, others had non-military wear. Nobody could tell who they were in reality. Their firing could cause answer, but the Afghans did nothing. They took place here, so be it.
   I asked the company commander about them. He gave me a short answer,
   "Who said?"
   "Sure. They keep peace. Now they are helping us, but nobody knows whether it will be so in future."
   The column approached Charikar skirts, then movement was frozen. I went close to the post. I wanted to have a chat with Vitka, the company commander, which was situated in Charikar. Soldiers told me how I could find him. He positioned in leninskaya komnata of field-type. I didn't expect the major Zolotarev to see there. He was viewing posters on the walls. Some officers from the battalion Two sat at the table.
   "Take your seat, comrade lieutenant," zampolit gave a nod of the head to show me a vacant place.
   I was upset. Tough luck! I met his eye, so I was stuck with him.
   Deputy battalion commander in political affairs, Sidorenko, didn't take part in raid, because he suffered from high blood pressure. I replaced him, so I tried to avoid notice. But I asked for it! Fighting is not for Sidorenko, he always had some weak health. Why should I hold the baby? I've been serving for two months, but met him six times, no more.
   In some minutes Mikola and Melenty, zampolits of different companies and regiment battalions entered the room.
   They were going to have a meeting, which I was being declared about at the very moment. My approach took place some minutes earlier.
   "Officers!" Zolotarev frowned. "Leninskaya komnata is out of order! Where do you put dope sheets? Why don't you make records? Why are soldiers untidy? Shit! Posts and anarchy are bosom friends. If to speak about zampolits of battalions and companies, they do the damnedest things. Some of them get ready to steal a cow by themselves."
   Three cheerless officers stood up. They had red faces.
   "Now I put you on the way of things," Zolotarev continued saying with boring voice. "Four soldiers, moreover together with advance detachment commander (praporschik in rank) stole some cow and wanted to kill her. Natives heard this lowing, so the Soviet soldiers were taken in the mainour. All of them behaved like "the participants" of the Saur Revolution. Praporschik ran from the natives. He could come back, although he had caught a packet. Then doctors in hospital took off his leg.
   There was deadly silence. We had quite a turn, when we heard the news.
   "Comrade major! Beg to take issue!" some captain asked.
   "Don't say a word. I know what you want to say, that is you can't control everything, which happens in your army troops. But these thieves do to it a second time. The day before yesterday they tried to steal the cow, you know. The Afghans caught, beat and let them go. The natives just came to fisticuff, because soldiers didn't go armed. This time our "bravehearts" had rifles, but actually no ammo. I believe, one magazine for each person, that's why fighting was impossible for them. Praporschik had a breastbag full of magazine, so he could struggle, shooting back. Mother fucker! He left all guys in the lurch.
   Now the regiment is getting combat mission, which is to comb zelenka along the Charikar road. The regiment Eighty One and reconnaissance battalion left Bagram to join us. Raiders of the regiment Forty Five will get from the mountains. First of all we'll arrange artillery preparation till that moment, while the Afghans give bodies of the killed soldiers. Take post! Your commanders are being guided at the moment."
   All together we left the room in deathlike silence.
   "What's up? What happened as it was?" Melenty asked the company Five commander.
   "Bullshit! Fuck if I know! Praporschik was in chief of the post. Soldiers don't say something clearly. Secret agents are trying now to receive evidence. I think, on the one hand, Zolotarev told the actual situation, on the other hand, it may be different. Praporschik said that he had ran after them."
   "What's the matter with soldiers?" I asked.
   "They are dead. They were killed in vineyard. While crawling away, Frolov heard the soldiers finishing. Bastards!"
   Artillery, tanks, mortar launchers started firing by order. The artillery regiment, situated behind the road, sprayed the target. Blasting threw up in the vineyards. They looked like huge fountains. Firing from large-calibre guns made some house destroy. Zelenka was full of dust and smoke. "Uragans" and "Grads" drew salvo fire, kishlak was shot by killing load.
   We were approaching the place to meet all companies, while "bobik" was full of Afghans, sitting in the car on every side. They detrucked three killed bodies. I came to see properly as many other officers did.
   These bodies had no organic poses, being without pants, covered by blood and mud. Their heads were scalped, as well as pricks were emasculated, bodies having a great number of explosive-type wounds.
   "They have been burnt alive. By this, the Afghans pierced them as if wanted to skewer. Fuck them all!"
   The interpreter (lieutenant in rank) started talking to militia men,
   "They couldn't find the forth Soviet soldier. Dookhs won't give back rifles. Rebels left the kishlak. These soldiers were great thieves and cheaters. They used to rob natives, that is hen and sheep stealing were common things. Now they have stolen a cow, but later been caught by mischance. The soldiers forced the cowboy to strip his watch. He came back home and told this all adults in kishlak. Some gang of dookhs positioned in kishlak. The fighters were out of luck. The best name for them was so-and-so. They couldn't stand against dookhs, because they were down in arms."
   The regiment commander puffed like a grampus. His jowls and lips quaked with anger. Pain infuriated him, that's why like stuck beast got ready to tread mujahideens to pieces. He was bloodthirsty.
   "Gunner!" the battalion commander cried. "Commence firing! Do it till you've got projectiles! Pull down, level to the ground this kishlak. Fuck our soldiers, but dookhs must die. Fire! Fire!"
   Command initiated an order to attack the Afghans. Fighting had to make them give away all soldiers and ammunition.
   Actually the most courageous soldiers from different subunits, after watching killed men, had quite a turn.
   The platoons had intensive buzzing. Everybody was ablaze with anger. The battalion wished kishlak to be reduced to dust. Every company got new reinforcements like two flamethrower operators and one mortar gunner. The regimental combat team, tailing away the road, oriented weapons. Tanks, assault guns, BMPs, "Vasileks" - all these units targeted entries to the leading edge of kishlak.
   Subunits were grouped into some columns. Soldiers passed by ruins. Kishlak made no sign. We inspected houses and farms. No people presented any place. We bombed barns and left smoke boxes in the underground floors. Acrid smoke laid around. It wreathed, covering vineyards and houses.
   So nobody could use wells, which crossed each other, anymore. We got no idea, if there were any natives or hit men. Who can tell? These wells were very deep, but we didn't hear any crying. In all circumstances people couldn't have got out of there, if they really intended. Soldiers pushed forward, watching around carefully. Combat engineers led us, disposing trip wire. A minute later firing sound carried on the right side of the road. The company Three ran up against the Afghans, so they started battling. We went faster, and shortly saw mujahideens, which tried to move away. The Soviet soldiers and dookhs exchanged fire, thereafter the latter took a powder. They hurried away with some casualty, if to bear in mind some blood on the path. The company commander for signal communications conveyed an order,
   "Stop here! It's getting dark. Organize defense for night. The company Three takes post right-hand, the reconnaissance platoon takes left-hand."
   All platoons took up defensive dispositions into abandoned buildings to settle.
   Sergey Ostrogin, the mortar gunner, and me approached the flamethrower operator.
   "Why don't you make firing, sergeant?" Sergey asked.
   "No officer commanded. If you do, we'll fight."
   "Guys! Show us! We'll get them ourselves," I supposed.
   Soldiers demonstrated how flame gun functioned. Every officer got one. This guntype was a tube with a single rocket (first a man takes sight, squeezes the trigger, then shot; if he hits a target, someone is killed).
   I took the flame gun in hand, leveled at the front high building closely. Half an hour later I observed something there. I lost off fire the window, which collapsed like a house of cards.
   "Heigh-ho!" everybody with one voice said, grouping on the roof.
   "Hoorah!" soldiers admired.
   "Now I want!" the mortar gunner said.
   "Hold fast!" Sergey took up shortly. "Go mortar firing. We want to play!"
   Sergey took sight of another house. Well done!
   Soldiers watched bursting effect. The unusual thing fixed their attention. They didn't act their ages! Officers did the same.
   "Keep head down! Take cover!" Kavun commanded. "What act do you put on here?"
   "We master "shmel"," I gave an answer.
   "Let me, guys."
   The company commander was instructed, so he could shoot within our healthy yells.
   Then the battalion commander Podorozhnik contacted us.
   "Why are you firing?"
   "We have blasted enemy guns into silence by means of "shmel".
   "What? Anybody made firing from that place?"
   "Didn't we just!"
   "Stop enjoying yourself! No housebreaking!"
   Podorozhnik was confirmed in office as a fresh battalion commander, but he got nervous.
   "I believe, all houses have been broken," the company commander said. He addressed soldiers, "While leaving, I'll shoot last. Okay?"
   "No problem, comrade captain. Do it, if you want. We'll be gunfree."
   The company commander, smiling, tapped on the shoulder of the platoon commander,
   "Sergey, how about dinner?"
   "Waite a minute, please! The Uzbeks are cooking pilaf, I guess."
   All officers and soldiers went down, but one gunspotter had to stay on the roof. We had fresh tea. After that we had positioned together near a box, which worked as a table for us. I was over the moon! I was happy! My ache all over left me. I couldn't resist sleeping.
   The commander groaned,
   "Yeah, guys, we're lucky today. The company Two asked for troubles. They ran into ambush. Two soldiers are injured. The company Three met trip wires in vineyard. They have seven people of the same type. One sniper specialist killed a mortar gunner at the battalion command post."
   "Get out of here!" the mortar gunner of our company (lieutenant in rank) asked with interest.
   "Subbotin. Temporal kill."
   "You don't say! He was an experienced soldier. Fuck!"
   "Valera, while leaving, give all mines to the dense foliage. They may kill someone. It's no sense to carry them. Got you?"
   "Okay, comrade captain," Radionov (lieutenant in rank) answered.
   "Valera, are you a relative of the commander?"
   "No, his name is not the same as mine. We've got different first vowels in last names."
   "If you got another vowel in your last name," Ostrogin pronounced thoughtfully, "you would be not here, in dense foliage, but in some comfortable room of the headquarters building. This last name might have helped you to outprocess commentation lists for yourself."
   We laughed all together. Valery joined us, but he was unhappy.
   Night fell. It was terribly dark. Artillery continued infrequent firing, light warming, illuminating, ground flare shot up one after another.
   Sometimes tracer streaks unzipped the say. Neither of soldiers knew why these firing took place. Probably for no reason in particular, but for putting in anxiety.
   By little and little the cool of the evening came, which brought an army of mosquitoes. They really gave a bad time for dead-beat soldiers. Mosquitoes got throughout. I hid into the sleeping bag, then covered my face by the camouflage hood. These creatures chirruped near my ear, so charged and bit me underwear.
   My nerves were shot. I got up to join three Uzbeks near the fireplace talking something in their native language. Two of them had the homonymous last names, sounded like Yakubov, and the third guy by the name of Isakov. All of them chatted. Gurbon Yakubov, one of three, was in great contrast to others. He was a tall, massive curly headed fellow with full lips. His kind heart and good temper engaged all care in battalion. He often made some notes in Uzbek.
   I was not only in my tough luck, the company commander followed me. He couldn't resist mosquito raid.
   "Yakubov, have you got tea?"
   "Sure. I've got very good tea!" Gurbon pronounced.
   "Where are you from, my boy? You speak Russian well."
   "I'm from Fergana. I was employed as the chief cook of the restaurant in "Intourist". I'm an expert, but in the army I'm an ordinary automatic rifleman. That's too bad. I'm not a chef now."
   "Well, we'll think of you as the chief-cook of the platoon Three, company One, battalion One."
   Soldiers laughed all together. Yakubov made a louder voice than others. He shook his sides with doing this.
   "Which notes do you often make in your copy-book? I believe, it's not a letter, is it? Do you inform Ahmad Shah Massoud or Gulbuddin Hekmatyar?" the company commander asked.
   "Whom are you talking about? I don't know them," soldier took interest.
   "They are local gang leaders. You may write, how much ammunition we've got, the company commander's name, and how many dope-sheets zampolit keeps in leninskaya komnata," Kavun pronounced with smile.
   "No, no, comrade captain!" soldier was scared by my words and said quickly, "I'm writing everything I see around me, mostly nature and my feelings."
   "Aha! You report our marchplan?" I spoke with derision. I wanted to show artificial suspicion.
   "No, no, comrade lieutenant! I say places we've taken, also which things we have got a day."
   "I had a happy guess (ha-ha-ha!): you're a spy. The company has got a lot of supporters for dookhs," the company commander was sad in face. "You watch, control everything, then report. We'll shoot you for a spy tomorrow."
   Yakubov dropped on knees,
   "Officers! I say about Afghanistan and war here. This is interesting!"
   Everybody awoke laughing.
   "So, Yakubov is allowed to write memoirs not for secret agents. All things, you do, are for the zampolit's censor. If you become a great Uzbek author, give me your autograph in book," Vanya laughed.
   "Very good!" Gurbon answered seriously.
   "Do you say so?" the company commander managed to get out. "In the old days we had battle writers, but today we've got a view of battle cooks. Where's tea, Yakubov? You're an akyn among mujahideens!

* * *

   The soldier hurried passing me some sugar, hardtacks, also mugs and tea-kettle. He suggested us eating pilaf. We ate with pleasure!
   "Gurbon! I don't know anything whether you'll be a good author, but you're a terrific cook!" I exclaimed out.
   All Uzbeks were laughing at Yakubov, because they guessed our hoax. He realized and did together. Leaving the soldiers, Ivan said,
   "The Uzbeks are real experts in cooking delicious pilaf, tea, or soup. But fighting is not for them. Unfortunately, the Uzbeks comprise a third of the company. All of a sudden this fucking cook was dumped on us. Let's go dreaming, zampolit. Tomorrow we may have getting up early in the morning to comb zelenka. I believe so..."

* * *

   While down was rising, the company courier called me,
   "Comrade lieutenant! Go to the commander, please!"
   I kept tight my training shoes, took the rifle, and went to Kavun. My neck, as well as hands, were bitten by mosquitoes, so I scratched them.
   "Follow me! Let's wake the soldiers up to leave this place. Combat assault and kishlak search were really good to cancel, because we might have killed men. While leaving, sow mines and set fire to everything!"
   The company started getting a move on. Soldiers were seen to be excited at this order, because no one wanted to meet dookhs. Haysheds got some fire. Combat engineers laid bombs for mujahideens, then all platoons started leaving dug works.
   I opened the door. I put one pin in the glass. I posed this in the corner of the room. That looked like a greeting for any person to enter. Good bye, guys! There was the shuravi's present.
   Suddenly we could hear some fire shot from the kishlak's back. A great number of bullets poured the duvals. Something fell to the ground, which made a bang. A few mortar bombs fragmented near us. Pooh! We were well out of the place.
   "Mortar gunner! Pay back! Fire all bombs!" the company commander ordered Radionov to do.
   Mortar gunners set the device to fire ammunition they had. These sounds fed the company, which tried to leave dug works and go to the road. One after another commanders and soldiers moved on. We had to do it as soon as possible. Zelenka was really damned and dangerous place.
   A short time later we saw the road. Armor! Friendly forces! I wasn't killed!
   Projectiles took place over my head, bursting in the kishlak's back. Fire-fight was violent.
   The battalion commander called all officers to have a meeting.
   "We've carried out a mission, so let's continue moving on. Each commander must control his soldiers as well as ammo. Then you will report me. We all have to go to zelenka again if there are some battalion losses."
   "Why should we leave?" Zhenka Zhilin, the commander of the Company Three asked. "Is here nothing to do?"
   "Damned commander! Fuck you! Your company did well in vineyards - we've got seven injured men. Why were they so careless?"
   "No, we were just unlucky!"
   "Mouth off!"
   "I'm not trying..."
   "Shut up! A lot of people are lost despite we've had an easy fight. Shame on all officers of the Company Three. Why did your soldiers have no control in the ditches and vineyards?"
   "You've got nothing to say. I'm glad you realize everything. Go! Dookhs slipped one more body at night. They didn't bring the ammo and won't do, I know. The regiment must make arrangements for the new combat operation. We'll start in a week. Now let's have to be in a hurry, but I'm sure to have more than one battle here.
   "Aboard!" Longinov, deputy battalion commander, ordered. Everybody was quick.
   "We'll be here not once," Ostrogin had sad face. "Blast it! Zelenka is a damned place."

* * *

   Sergey Vetishin went to our company by chance. Kornilov had a temporary duty leave (to transfer fighting equipment), Grymov was sick, Groshikov accompanied "gruz-200" to the Soviet Union - there was no officer to have new combat operations.
   Kavun asked some headquarters commanders to appoint a young lieutenant in our company, because we couldn't have a raid with lack of one officer.
   He came from TurkVO to replace someone in the Battalion Two. Papanov, its commander (major in rank), didn't have any idea about it otherwise he might never allow us to get a new officer.
   "Sergey, if you comfort us, we'll help you to stay here," Ostrogin promised.
   "I wouldn't like to..." Vetishin rebelled. "What's up? I'm not going to stay here."
   "You don't want to do this now, but, I believe, you will... We're good guys for friendship! A-number-one company, excellent garrison, permanent travelling to "oasis", walking to "Alpine meadows", climbing to snowy tops, air-trips by helicopters, regular fire! Isn't it the real pleasure? It looks like we are enjoying and keeping fit all the time.
   "Really?" the lieutenant Vetishin wrylied. "I can't see a great number of officers knocking at the door. Are there any volunteers to replace?"
   "I'll tell you straight - no variants!" I said. "We'll hardly ever have any volunteers."
   "Lieutenant! Nobody says, you must join us. Our honored company is hard to work," Kavun exclaimed and continued, "We have to size your possibilities in fighting. Soon we'll go to Bamyan province, where you can find statues of Buddha into the sides of cliffs. They were probably erected in the 4th or 5th century CE. I hope, we'll see them. Have you ever dreamt of such pleasure?"
   "Never. I wanted to serve in Hungary or Czechoslovakia."
   "But you're in Central Asia!" the company commander continued talking. "I'm an experienced guy, you know. I saw service either in the post or raid team, so I'll give you the result! We've got harder work and life is more dangerous here, but all in all you serve with other soldiers rather than you could be in zelenka. Every officer and soldier must think of staying there for a long time. There are some ways to change your situation, you may leave or may stay in a hospital. Any post is out of the question, because you can see just an earth house, twenty soldiers helping you, and three BMPs can fight. That's a pity! All around you there are kishlaks, vineyards, dookhs, some of which consist of rebels or volunteers to fight against mujahideens. The last could be friends today but foremen tomorrow."
   "You will howl with pack in some days," Veronyan smiled. "You'll fight with own shadow. Roaring voice, curses are common in use here, but you'll be able to change nothing. No work is like a prison!"
   Starshina husked with a strong Armenian accent, which helped to exaggerate gloomy feel I had.
   These words made Vetishin squirm. He cried,
   "Guys! I want to serve in your company! All right!"
   "Ho! Ho! Ho!" all together laughed.
   "Lieutenant, enter the platoon! You'll run a good show," Fedarovitch (the company mechanic) smiled. "Never mind difficult things - we'll teach you."
   "Aha! I guess what Golubev and you can teach him! You have seen a lot in life, but Vetishin is a young boy to accept your ideas."
   "I'm not an old man. I'm just thirty-six years," he grew hot over.
   "No matter! You'd better refer to the mirror. Your face is ploughed with wrinkles, so I can say you're sixty. Not so much drinking will be useful."
   "Zampolit and you tell me to give up drinking every day, but it's necessary for me, because I have a cloistered life here. I've got neither vodka nor girls."
   "Timofei, how much vodka do you want?" I was in surprise.
   "I want as much again. Vodka in Afghanistan is very expensive. The best prices are in the Soviet Union."
   "Expensive?" Ivan smiled. "To buy or not to buy is your choice. Don't expend money on party girls. If you do so, you may not bring home either a tape-recorder or a sheepskin coat. If you're skint, you won't buy jeans, but condoms.
   "Kiss my ass! Main thing for me is to survive, because I don't want my body to be dead. I'm scared, so I try to ease the nerves. By the way, I have three kids at home, but I have to bury myself alive living in such conditions."
   "We help you not to pass on to the Great Beyond." Kavun barked. "Soon you will live here as in the LTP. Zampolit will keep all your money and return it just before you leave Afghanistan. Otherwise your liver will stop working. You must appreciate our care."
   "I'll be damned if it is true! Beg to leave, comrade captain!"
   Mechanic left the orderly room. He was red as a lobster.
   "He is hurt. This is true, you know. Such comments are useful sometimes. He should be angry at himself". The company commander continued, "Golubev, stop drinking vodka at nights!"
   "When can I drink vodka? I mustn't do it in the day-time. I've got no days off. I must distress after raids, you see? Don't you think so? The Politburo resolutions make people suffer."
   "You're a real drunkard. Dismissed! Go to the platoon. Stop drinking vodka."
   "Lieutenant, how old are you? You're so young. Are you a fresher?" Ostrogin asked. He sat on the arbor bench.
   Sergey looked like an eighteenth-year old boy. His fine skin, blue eyes, curly blond hair inspired to think of him as a rosy cherub.
   "Oh, no, guys! Some of these days I will keep my birthday. I will be twenty one-year old. I'm a full-aged person."
   "Girls carry a torch for you, right?" Golubev asked. His voice was three-pack-a-day. Oh, my God, if I were so young... ."
   "Hey, man, you're thirty-nine-years old, but you play the greybeard man," I grinned.
   "Where have you come from, Sergey?" Ostrogin asked.
   "I've come from the TurkVO reserve force. I spent three months in the drill centre. The Soviet Army has got 300 lieutenants there. All of them expect some unforeseen circumstances to replace. I'm here, because some guy is killed in the Batallion Two."
   "That guy wasn't lucky," Ostrogin sighed. "So, let's go to the utility room. You may drop your bag there and occupy Kornilov's bed because he stays in the hospital now. Platoon commanders and one mechanic keep the utility room, but the company commander, zampolit, deputy technical commander, deputy company commander, because of having higher ranks, live in the hostel. We'll have the raid in two days, so you haven't got so much time to settle in."

* * *

   "Comrades officers, beg to come in! I want to clean the room," some soldier asked with wonder.
   "What are you, Kolesnikov? What's up?" Ostrogin was surprised at him.
   "This room needs cleaning, I mean dusting and polishing the floor by hand."
   "Are you on duty today? I believe, somebody else," I put in doubt. "Who's on duty today? Isakov, Alimov, and Tashmetov? I want to talk with Isakov. Move! Set him here!"
   In some minutes Isakov stole in the utility room,
   "Report as ordered."
   "Why have Kolesnikov started to clean the room instead of you?"
   "I don't have to do this."
   "I haven't got the joke," Sergey raised the eyebrows. "Say it again!"
   "I'm not going to polish the floor. Women use buckets and wipers."
   Ostrogin took the wiper in hand, saturated it with water, twisted, and gave to Isakov,
   "It's your make!"
   "I'm not a woman."
   Ostrogin gave the wiper to him,
   "Soldier, you must do it now. This is my command."
   "Russians must clean the room, but not me."
   "Fat! You have only yourself to thank for it," Ostrogin exclaimed. "You'll get thinner! I'll shoot you down!"
   Sergey kicked and floored the Uzbek.
   He put the wiper in the soldier's hands and made them start scrubing away the floor. The soldier struggled in arms screaming. His bucket overturned, so some water spilled round the room.
   "Clean here, Isakov," I said. "You'd better do it now! Nevertheless we make you execute an order."
   "I'll show you what is what!" Golubev barked. He collared the soldier and pulled him along the wet floor.
   Isakov shifted to kick praporschik. The blow curled him up completely. Isakov tried to stop breath of Golubev. Some officers grasped arms and legs to make Isakov polish the floor. Different voices merged into one torrent of vile epithets.
   After real mess had set in round the utility room, somebody trussed Isakov's arms to take him to the guard-house chamber. All his brothers entered the hall discussing this event.
   The guard commander (lieutenant in rank) Migunko asked with caution,
   "What's up, guys?"
   "Some soldier is trying to kick against the pricks. Let him in. He must think of his words," Ostrogin grinned.
   "I'll kill you! Fuck you, lieutenant!" Isakov cried, mopping his tears. His face was covered with scratches and nose was hurt.
   Vetishin had a graze wound above one of the eyebrows, Ostrogin in common with him got some blood on knuckles. Golubev and me gave hands and chins a scrape.
   "You're a bastard, I'll drop you down if we take the helicopter together," the automatic grenade launcher commander roared. "What a one you are! You can just cook and steal chickens in kishlaks. Fuckwit!"
   "I'm a sniper, you see? I've killed two dookhs," Isakov cried. "You're real masters! I'll kill all of you!"
   "Well, you'll be free in a week," I said, so leaving the chamber.
   "Guys!" the guard commander cared. "It won't do! You'll have combat operations tomorrow, but what should I do with this bastard? Can you make a decision to arrest him for seven days?"
   "Everything will be okay. Don't worry. I'll write an arrest report and have a talk with Longinov. Isakov will spend some days in the chamber be. Then his duty will last all the time till he leaves Afghanistan. No raids for him or else he can kill Ostrogin."
   "Nick, I know Isakov to be my command subordinate. I've already hold a conversation with him. My platoon consists of fifteen soldiers, just two of which are Slaves."
   "If we don't prevent this mafia, non-russians will arrange Khanate of Bukhara. Young soldiers feel aggressive attitude towards them. Svekolnikov, Kolesnikov, Tsaregorodtsev have had black and blue skin more than once. Bad things go to all of us," I said between teeth.
   "Alimov! Tashmetov! Taktagurov! Front and center!" Ostrogin exclaimed after he had entered the barrack. "Take wipers, brooms, and buckets to clean the barrack. My personal control is a guarantee for you. Do I hear any objections?"
   "No. It's no so hard to do," Alimov started babbling.
   He took the bucket, a wiper, then cleaned the utility room. The other soldiers did the orderly room and wash-stand.
   "Okay, guys! Isn't it all right?" Ostrogin asked, turning round to Vetishin. "Nobody wants to be kicked. What would you like to say, Alimov?"
   The soldier with a sucking smile nodded in approval.
   "Put off your belts! I want to straighten them out. Take off clothes! I'm going to undo the seams of all soldiers' blouses as well as break the heels. Discipline is the best policy for other soldiers."
   In an hour or so, Alimov stood in the center of the room. He evidently had a cap of great size and full soldier's blouse. He looked a perfect fright. The belt didn't have any straightened plate, so Alimov had to keep it in hand. He also had a knife-bayonet. Alimov was not tall, besides no heels made him look much shorter.
   Suddenly the battalion commander entered the room.
   "What's up? Why are you fighting? I'll put you on trial! Motherfuckers! Don't touch this soldier!"
   "What should I have done if he had given over hitting other soldiers? He sows the seeds of enmity saying the words of hatred toward Russians."
   "Stop! Get a hold of yourself! Don't say a word about politics. If you have some troubles with law, it won't be funny. I won't give you any punishment for the present. Tomorrow Alimov must return from the guard-house. This place is for dookhs, but not for the Soviet soldiers. Everybody here is to make a letter of explanation and give back to me. I'll pass a resolution after we have a raid laying ahead.
   The battalion commander tossed out the room in anger.
   "It's certainly worth investigating and punishing all of you," Ostrogin gave an imitation of the battalion commnader's words. "He always says we should have a responsibility for everything which is going around here. He hates me."
   All Uzbeks from the Company One and some other soldiers went to the leninskaya komnata. They started actively discussing something.
   "Hop off. You boys!" I commanded.
   "Brothers can stay here, can't they? We're having a talk," Khaitbaev said in a nasty voice.
   "Yes, sure you can, but not today. If you have discharge, you'll come back to Tashkent and talk quite enough. Now! Hoosh!"
   Five soldiers stood up and left the room. Others watched out for me.
   "What have you got thinking of? Anything to say? Khaitbaev is trying to rebel or Alimov is doing this?"
   "No," the soldier muttered. "Everything is okay."
   "Khaitbaev is a mafia tycoon, that's why he will receive a non-effective character reference. No university will enroll him. What a one you are! Nobody allowed you to beat Russian soldiers and make them work instead of you."
   When the company commander had entered the room, he dotted one in the eyes of Taktagurov, Alimov, and Khaitbaev. Other soldiers had a hump.
   "Fuck you! "I'll do dolce vita! After the company has combat operations, the Uzbeks will have extra fatigue for a month. All Uzbeks! This addresses all of you! Two Yakubovs' brothers, Khafizov, Rakhmanov and other "gangsters" should bear in mind my words. Isakov won't have any raids when he comes back from the guard-house. He will be on duty every other day. Any fuckwit must fatigue, but not fight. The Uzbeks will do it as a substitute for Isakov. Dismiss!"
   Vanya was gloomy. He looked at the officers around the table.
   "Guys! What have you done? As for me, I've always had a conflict with Podorozhnik and you added fuel to the flame. This scandal won't let me leave Afghanistan at the exact time I expected. You shouldn't have made Isakov mop up the floor. This thing is the worst you could have ever done before starting the raid. You silly thing! Get your heads together! I'm sick and tired of neverending trouble relevant to the Slave officers and Oriental soldiers. We have to force them working and serving in the army. Nationalism is first of all manifested here. What's the matter? Why have you hung down your heads? Life goes on! Zampolit, don't put on a charge. It's certainly worth investigating." The battalion commander addressed the lieutenant Vetishin. "Lieutenant! You're following just one combat operation with us. Nobody knows what we will do next. Be careful! The Muslims in all companies hate you. You seem young for your age, this doesn't help to think you as a leader. If you have any insubordinate conduct, you must nip in the bud. So, God speed! Enrank platoons for ceremonial review!"


   The Saur Revolution - the name given to the Communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan takeover of political power in Afghanistan on April 27, 1979. It is said that this movement led indirectly to the Soviet military intervention in Afghanistan.
   "Bobik" - slang for GAZ-69, a four wheel drive light truck, produced by GAZ (Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod) between 1953 and 1955.
   pilaf - a dish in which a grain, such as rice or cracked wheat, is browned in oil, and then cooked in a seasoned broth. Depending on the local cuisine, it may also contain a variety of meat and vegetables.
   Fergana - a city, the capital of Fergana Province in eastern Uzbekistan, at the southern edge of the Fergana Valley in southern Central Asia, cutting across the borders of Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
   "Intourist" - a very popular travel agency in the Soviet Union.
   Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - a Mujahideen leader and former prime minister. He was the founder and leader of the Hezbe Islami political party and paramilitary group.
   akyn - Kazakh or Kirghiz folk poet or singer.
   "gruz-200" - the eternity box which contains a dead body. This code name was given to the died Soviet soldiers in Afghanistan while sending by plane to the USSR.
   Bamyan province - one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the centre of the country. It's capital is also called Bamyan. Many statues of Buddah are carved into the sides of cliffs facing Bamyan city.
   LTP (Russian abbreviation) - Medical-Labour Centre is a centre for alcoholics and drug addicts in the USSR. People came there under the court decision. Hard work was the best way to recover.
   The Politburo - (full: Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, abbreviated Politbyuro TsK KPSS), known as the Presidium from 1952 to 1966, functioned as the central policymaking and governing body of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.
   The Politburo resolutions make people suffer. - Anti-alcohol campaign started in 1985 after the Communist Party prohibition, colloquially known as the "dry law".
   If you do so, you may not bring home either a tape-recorder or a sheepskin coat. If you're skint, you won't buy jeans, but condoms. - There was a shortage of goods in the USSR. The Soviet officers could buy any good they wanted in Afghanistan, because this problem stayed away. All goods were of high quality. Three mentioned things ranged as back-valued: a tape-recorder (the highest price) - a sheepskin coat - jeans (the lowest price).
   Khanate of Bukhara - a significant feudal state in Central Asia from the early-16th century to the late-18th century. It arose following the conquest of Samarkand (1500, 1505) and Bukhara (1506) by Muhammed Shaybani, when Bukhara became the capital of the short-lived Shaybanid empire. The khanate reached its greatest extent and influence under its penultimate Shaybanid ruler, Abdullah Khan II (1577-1598).
   I want to straighten them out... break the heels - the Soviet soldiers used to straighten belts and sharpen the heels, because many of them wanted to look smart. The young soldiers thought they would be honored by new-comers, if they had such decorations.

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