Saturday, October 10, 2015

The truth is sometimes stranger than a teenage boy's sarcasm

As I have mentioned before, our geography teacher (in the USSR) once gave us the following speech:

"Many people complain that we don't have enough trousers. Trousers, however, are not important. They, like all the other textiles, are light industry. What's really important is the heavy industry, like iron and coal, so that we can produce enough tanks and win in Afghanistan."

"I think trousers are a lot more useful than Afghanistan," said one kid who didn't have much sense of self-preservation. "Why did we invade Afghanistan anyway? Do they," he added hopefully, "maybe have trousers?"

Anyway, today I started reading Svetlana Alexievich's Zinc Boys - a collection of interviews with soldiers and civilian employees who were sent to Afghanistan in the eighties, and the family members of the ones who didn't make it back. And yes, it turns out that they did in fact have trousers, in a much greater variety than Russians at the time, and that people who were returning to the USSR were bringing with them lots of clothes and electronics (such as tape recorders and VCRs) that they couldn't get in the USSR. A couple of interviewees specifically mentioned the shortage of swimming trunks in the USSR at the time, and how they just had to bring them from Afghanistan.

I still suspect that it would have been more efficient to produce trousers instead of tanks under the circumstances.