The Afghani Government plays Russian Roulette

The beginning of the Soviet Russian occupation of Afghanistan took place when Russian paratroopers were deployed in the capital of Afghanistan. The date was December 27, 1979 and the beginning of a very long and costly occupation, that would be described in the future as the Russian Vietnam. There were a few specific events which occurred over the few years previous to the Soviet invasion that are directly related to it. These events were the Afghani government’s coup roulette.

Mujahideen fighters relaxing in the mountains of Afghanistan

There were two coups which occurred before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and one that directly coincided with the invasion. The first occurred in 1973, the second in 1978, and the third occurred in 1979. While researching these coups I discovered a few discrepancies between the sources I was using. One of the discrepancies occurred between a Russian source, which was published on May 24, 1978 and the Wikipedia source I used. In the 1978 coup, the current leader, Mohammad Daud, was ousted by Nur Muhammad Taraki, a military leader. The differences in the reports on the events which ended up with Daud being killed are the discrepancies I found between the Russian source and Wikipedia source. The Russian source claimed that Daud was killed in a firefight between him and Taraki’s troops because he “[…] refused to surrender to the troops…”(Current Digest). The other source claims that Daud and most of his family were executed by Taraki over the days that followed the coup. I find it very interesting that the Russian source seems to twist the story a little bit in order to make it sound a little less brutal, and make it look like Daud’s death could have been avoided.

Another interesting Russian source I found discussed the accusations of U.S. news sources about the possibility of their being Soviet troops in Afghanistan on and was published on December 23, 1979. As you may have noticed, this is just four days before Russian troops invaded Afghanistan, and overthrew and killed the Afghani president. These articles make me wonder how much of the news that was published about the events that were taking place in Afghanistan at the time were actually truthful accounts.


“Russian Invasion of Afghanistan.” Russian Invasion of Afghanistan. N.p., n.d. Web. 16 Nov. 2014. <>.

“Situation in Afghanistan.” The Currect Digest of the Russian Press 30.17 (1978): 17. East View Information Services. Web. 16 Nov. 2014. <>.”
Soviet Troops in Afghanistan? Pure Fabrication.” Editorial. Pravda 23 Dec. 1979: n. pag. Print.

5 thoughts on “The Afghani Government plays Russian Roulette”

  1. I think we both came across similar discrepancies/oddities this week. What went on in Afghanistan in December of 1979 seems to very convoluted. I expect the America’s were right about Soviet forces being in Afghanistan prior to the actual invasion, since I doubt the Soviet’s invaded the country without some sort of intelligence being gathered on the ground. I would be interested to find a first hand account of a credible source from perhaps Afghanistan who could answer both of our questions.

  2. I also found it interesting how the different sources recall the “same event.” Victory is always told by the victor and it would make sense to make the event seem less brutal and keep up a good public opinion instead of them seeming bloodthirsty murderers.

  3. Nice detective work here. I noticed that Wikipedia uses the a Federal country story from 2001 as its source ( Interestingly, Steve Coll’s account in Ghost Wars (2004) suggests that both of your sources are partly right: “In April 1978, Daoud fell off his beam. He arrested communist leaders in Kabul after they staged a noisy protest. Soviet-backed conspirators seeded within the Afghan army shot him dead days later in a reception room of his tattered palace.” (p. 39)

  4. Great post. The revelation about the Russian invasion taking place so soon after that article by state press is particularly interesting. Afghanistan was right across the border from them, and I’m sure they had to have gotten their hands on intelligence which would alert them to a coup at the very least. The more likely situation would be that the rebels of 1978 were working directly with the Soviets to overthrow the government.

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