I WAS DRAFTED in October 1982 and served in the Soviet Army exactly one year. I was in Afghanistan for 6 months.

I would say that the lack of morale is the biggest problem in the Soviet Army -- the intense psychological nervousness and nostalgia for the motherland that the soldiers in Afghanistan suffer. And this leads to the drug abuse. The soldiers start taking them in order not to feel any pain, not to feel nostalgia for the homeland or nervousness. Quite often they have to kill not only Afghan soldiers, but also the civilian population: women, children, and old people.

I know of many who had to be tied down to prevent them from committing suicide. When you take away their drugs these people don't want to live and they jump out of buildings or slit their wrists or go insane. Who is to blame for this? People in the Soviet Union never decide who is to blame. When soldiers return to the Soviet Union dependent on these drugs, the worst happens. Drug addiction is spreading throughout the entire Soviet Union because of Afghanistan. And now anyone coming back from Afghanistan is accused of being a drug addict and not worthy of anything.

Anyone who had lived through what I have lived through could become a drug addict.

Once, we were sent on an operation near the city of Jelalabad. After the Soviet Army finished bombing the forest, we rounded up all the inhabitants of that village into one area. After that, the soldiers came in and started fixing their weapons. They began to terrorize the peaceful people, they would force the people into homes and then throw grenades into their homes.

One of the officers ordered a soldier to execute an Afghan. The soldier could not bring himself to commit such a senseless, brutal act so he threw down his weapon and said: "I can't shoot him and I won't."

The officer screamed at him to do it, tried to convince him by saying, "You need to do it. Kill him. He's the enemy -- a Dushman."

The soldier answered: "No, go to hell!"

The officer drew his pistol and shot the soldier to death. He told the other soldiers who witnessed this that the soldier was executed because he did not follow orders. That is to say that any soldier who refused to kill, attack, terrorize, cut, annihilate, had a chance of being executed for his refusal to obey those orders. This was official policy. The Soviet Army has a rule that if you do not follow orders you will be executed.

In battle the old timers were afraid to go ahead of the new recruits because they were afraid of getting stabbed or shot in the back. The hatred is that strong.

There were different types of officers. Some were loved, others were hated. There were some we adored. One captain who was in our battalion never got out of the tank and kept yelling: "Forward." He would never get out and fight himself. The soldiers ended up killing him and did it so that no one knew about it. When the soldiers were asked, they just said he fell down a cliff when actually they pushed him down. Not one out of the 35 soldiers said a word about him being killed, everyone hated him so much.

The officers at the head of the battalion, the political officers, were usually hated and the soldiers did not want to listen to them. They never answered us truthfully. We asked them, "Why are we here when we are hated so much?" They always said we were part of international forces that were there to help ideologically, educationally to start a communist society. Such lies. For us it was difficult to understand. When we were fired upon we defended ourselves, not communism. When our officers told us these lies about Marxism and Leninism we began to hate them.

Usually the officers who train the soldiers also teach them not to write home about the military operations, the number of dead, etc. They tell them: "Write letters so that you don't worry your mothers so that they won't suffer." They usually listen to their officers. The letters going out of Afghanistan and into the Soviet Union are checked, but not all. I think out of every 50, they check about every two or three. In this way they establish the percentage of information that is being leaked into the Soviet Union. The Soviet command spends a lot of time analyzing this information and applies a lot of pressure on soldiers who write about the real situation in Afghanistan.

Even though the soldiers sign a document promising to be silent, they still tell their close friends and family. Many people in the Soviet Union really do know what is going on in Afghanistan.

When the war with Afghanistan just started, the people in charge of sending the bodies home not only hid drugs in the coffins, but all sorts of other things, like American jeans and Japanese watches. By now the Soviet authorities are aware of this and watch for it.

I saw some {Mujahedeen prisoners}. The treatment of those POW's was worse, I think, than the way the Afghans treat Soviet POW's. The result was that these POW's were handed over to the Soviet advisers and the advisers handed them over to the Afghan government, i.e. the Communist government. These people are put in prison. They torture them, they beat them up, they give them electric shocks. I have met people who have survived the hell of these prisons. It is much worse for the Afghan prisoners than for the Soviet prisoners of the Mujahadeen.

The Afghan army has more officers than it needs, therefore, the Afghan officers are kind of apathetic. The Afghan officers and Soviet officers treat each other cooly. The Afghan soldiers on the other hand, who were drafted just like we were, hate being there and hate us for coming into Afghanistan. The Soviet soldiers hate the Afghans because they feel, "Why are we here, fighting a war for these people that we don't even know, whom we have nothing in common with, not in life, not in history, not culturally."

Vladislav Naumov, 25, was a sharpshooter and tank mechanic in the Soviet Army. One of five Soviet soldiers to desert his unit after becoming disillusioned with atrocities they saw committed in Afghanistan, Naumov fought for several years with Afghan resistance groups and then won sanctuary in Canada. This article is culled from an interview conducted by Russian scholar Ludmila Foster and translated by Eugenia Ordynsky.