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A Long Goodbye: The Soviet Withdrawal from Afghanistan

Dr Artemy Kalinovsky, Dr Arne Hofmann (chair)
19 May 2011, 6.30pm, COL.B212

event110519The conflict in Afghanistan looms large in the collective consciousness of Americans. What has the United States achieved, and how will it withdraw without sacrificing those gains? The Soviet Union confronted these same questions in the 1980s, and Artemy Kalinovsky's history of the USSR's nine-year struggle to extricate itself from Afghanistan and bring its troops home provides a sobering perspective on exit options in the region.

A Long Goodbye (Harvard University Press, 2011) is the first comprehensive account of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. Based on newly available archival material and supplemented by interviews with major actors, Kalinovsky reconstructs the fierce debates among Soviet diplomats, KGB officials, the Red Army, and top Politburo figures. The fear that withdrawal would diminish the USSR's status as leader of the Third World is palpable in these disagreements, as are the competing interests of Afghan factions and the Soviet Union's superpower rival in the West. This book challenges many widely held views about the actual costs of the conflict to the Soviet leadership, and its findings illuminate the Cold War context of a military engagement that went very wrong, for much too long.


 "Kalinovsky's study of the Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan is impressively researched and wholly convincing. It should make grim but essential reading for U.S. soldiers and statesmen today, who face many of the same dilemmas as their Soviet predecessors."
—Anatol Lieven, author of Pakistan: A Hard Country

"A well-written, nuanced account of the withdrawal of Soviet military forces from Afghanistan. Kalinovsky is particularly skilful in analyzing Soviet policymakers' calculations and in capturing the complexity of the Soviet-Afghan war. His attention to the post-withdrawal period brings in a crucial element of the story that has been omitted from almost all previous accounts."
—Mark Kramer, Director, Cold War Studies Program, Harvard University


  • New America Media: "How the Afghanistan War Dealt its Blow to the Soviet Empire". Listen to the podcast



Artemy Kalinovsky is Assistant Professor in Eastern European History at the University of Amsterdam and Associate of the Cold War Studies Programme at LSE IDEAS. He was Pinto Post-Doctoral Fellow at LSE IDEAS in 2009-10.


Arne Hofmann is Head of the Cold War Studies programme at LSE IDEAS.



B212, 2nd Floor Columbia House, London School of Economics.