Follow TBR on TwitterFollow TBR on Facebook

TBR Featured Review

Sex, drugs and rock and roll. What more does a novel need?

Be prepared to take a trip when reading When Life Was Like a Cucumber by Greg Wyss. This trip will be unlike any one you have ever taken before. That is unless you were in your 20s, living in the late 1960s and early 1970s on the East coast, more 

Book By Author:  Oleg Knowingkov

 Afghan Boomerang


I am a resident of the United States of America. I am a Russian. I am a physician. I am a survivor of war. A war I am reliving today, so eerily familiar – the hardships and brutality, only this time, the uniforms bear the American flag.

During the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s, I was an Air Force flight surgeon entrenched in combat zones. I experienced firsthand the brutal effects of war, seeing daily the blood-stained toll amassed on both sides. But I always felt far removed from the political reasons to be there.

The memories – the sights, the smells, the sounds – from my years in Afghanistan, I will, not for lack of trying, never forget. When I moved to the United States, my understanding of that war – the reasons to be there, the impact on people, and the role the U.S. played – came full circle. And in mid-2010, I was able to return to Afghanistan. While traveling there, I have collected many additional observations that I will share in Chapter 12.

I have now lived here in the U.S. for fifteen years. I am immersed in the news and I have discussed the issues of our times with my friends and neighbors often. How do our politicians‘ decisions affect us? In the USSR, we also discussed politics, evaluating particularly our lives and jobs as they related to war. In the 1980 Afghan war, it was fight, die, or have your life‘s meaning fade to nothing. Am I for or against the duty of my country? Every citizen faced this question. As we see today, patriotism can clash with your feelings toward government policy.

My perspective of the Soviet-Afghan War continually developed with my time here. September 11th ushered in even more and heated discussion of politics, war, and an ever-shrinking world. However, insightful, my views were unpopular among friends and media. I stood fast, remembering the human toll, and reached out to news anchors, such as Dan Rather, and public figures, like Tom Hanks, to stress the disastrous nature of this course of action. To no avail.

But now, as the United States engages in similar military activities – especially the complex religious, social, political, and environmental cogs of Afghanistan – and the public acclaim over Charlie Wilson’s War, people are listening to more and varying opinions.

viiIt was Charlie Wilson‘s story that so inspired me to open up my Afghan memory locker, and use my experience to reveal the esoteric issues glazed over by the media and henceforth lost on the American public.

The cold fact is that Afghan people do not tolerate foreign invaders. A fact the United States welcomed during the Soviet-Afghan War, galvanizing tribal forces with armaments and training them to withstand and eventually exorcise the Soviets contagion.

This brings me to my reason for writing this book. I don‘t think of myself as a writer and never intended to share my experiences in Afghanistan. I do not think of myself as a political mind. During that war, I was a physician, a husband, a friend. I see so many parallels with the trials the Soviet Union endured in Afghanistan and the difficulties America faces today. I cannot ignore the Soviet history. Once again, my life is enveloped with stories, media, and public scrutiny as my home nation‘s resources and people are engaged in the tumultuous Afghan lands.

The USSR witnessed the homecoming of their troops from Afghanistan. The soldiers returned with our tanks, our bloodshed, and our political ideology – the boomerang, an already popular political metaphor, exemplified.

It was not, however, a new lesson to many other nations of the world.

As world events unfold, the United States is neglecting the history of the British and Soviets in Afghanistan. Those world powers had their political agendas come back to hurt them. Examples of this boomerang litter history. Most importantly for the United States, their actions in Afghanistan are new; however, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are not and they have already survived many, mighty, military boomerangs.

As there were Soviet troops with their technological and vast military fare, now there are Americans.

One small example of the many recurring Afghan occupation themes is the level of commitment, as covered by the media.

The current media coverage and political debate of the U.S. commitment surprise me. After nine years of military presence, the Taliban now control roughly 80% of Afghan territory. How can we expect to ―win this war?

When they extol this populist slogan, I wonder whether the top politicians and military officials are cognizant of the historical plateau to which they march. Moreover, it worries me. In this round of the Afghan war, the U.S. cannot dismiss the grievance and lessons of past occupation forces.


War is fought with lives and weapons in someone‘s home, not in the media or above the crooning pulpit of the electorate. This dissonance belies the critical decisions leaders and citizens must face.

The U.S. sipped tea with these warring factions in the 1980s and now finds itself fighting the people they empowered. If the United States leaves Afghanistan less than secure, will these old evils return to power? Will the boomerang come full circle again?

If so, the United States could very well be heading toward the kind of historical cataclysmic change that befell the Soviet Union.

I am not promoting any political ideology. I just wish that we could learn from history and spare our neighbors the human suffering that a boomerang imports home. Remember, the boomerang is designed to return. What will it bring the U.S.?


This book has been reviewed and updated from the original version, which was published in Russian in February 2010 by Dialog Publishing House in Moscow, Russia.

Date Reviewed:   



A sharp attack on the recurrence of war in our time.


Well there is one thing for sure, Afghan Boomerang by Oleg Novinkov, will get you talking. Novinkov, a former Soviet officer and Air Force flight surgeon who fought in the 80's Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, comes out swinging with his perspective of the current situation in Afghanistan and the US's war on terror. Using his personal experiences and insights, along with an exhaustive amount of research, Novinkov delves deep into why Afghanistan continues to be the hot bed that defied being conquered by the British in the 1800's, the Soviets in the 80s and still resists the US and NATO today. It is interesting to note that this book is not all about Afghanistan. It is about the geopolitical players surrounding that country and those that want to gain power from it. The author, Novinkov, explains: “This book is not about Afghanistan and it is not about a war over there, it is not about my Soviet nostalgia, and it is not about Russia. This book is about the United States of America and its future existence”.

The book opens with Novinkov's review of a book called Charlie Wilson's War. Let's just say that he is very passionate about his opinions of this book and it sets the tone for the remainder. The next couple of chapters are a history lesson about: "occupations" of Afghanistan; the detailed reasons why the Soviets were drawn into it in the 80s; and the comparisons of the involvement of the U.S. The next sections were what I found most fascinating.  They were his personal story of becoming an Air Force officer and flight surgeon, being placed into Afghanistan and his experiences. He reflects back to these times and draws parallels to the current Afghan conflict. It was only 30 years ago, and reading his accounts, it seems that we have not learned much since then or maybe the boomerang is coming back. The rest of the book delves into the politics, war machines and news propaganda that was being used when the Soviets invaded and is also still used today. Since he was a Russian officer then and now a resident of the U.S. working with NASA, we get a unique perspective in hindsight.  Novinkov is not anti-US or anti-Russia.  He goes after both with equal vigor to try and ascertain why we as a world have been drawn into these conflicts. His views and comments are not mainstream, but then again, with all the turmoil happening with protests etc. around the globe, he asks some hard questions that all of us should be asking the powers that be wherever we live. Afghan Boomerang might not be the most popular book on Capitol Hill, but you have to give to Novinkov for letting it all hang out there for the rest of us to form our own opinions.

Author Details

Back to author listing and Review search

Author:  Oleg Knowingkov