Soviet Soldier Missing For 33 Years Found In Afghanistan

A Soviet soldier who went missing mere months after the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1979 has been found:

A Soviet soldier who went missing in Afghanistan nearly 33 years ago has been found living with Afghans in the western province of Herat.

The soldier is semi-nomadic, has the adopted Afghan name Sheikh Abdullah and practises herbal medicine, Russia’s RIA news agency reports.

An ethnic Uzbek, he was found by ex-Soviet veterans of the war.

He was wounded in battle in 1980, only months after the Soviet invasion, and was rescued by local Afghans.

The head of the official veterans’ committee, Ruslan Aushev, said Sheikh Abdullah – real name Bakhretdin Khakimov – was tracked down in Shindand district after a year-long search. He had served with a motorised rifle unit.

The committee lists 264 Soviet soldiers as still missing in Afghanistan, half of them Russians. In the first decade after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989 the committee found 29 missing soldiers – and 22 of them decided to return home, while seven opted to stay in Afghanistan, RIA reports

This isn’t the first time we’ve heard a story about a soldier having “gone native.” Indeed, there were similar reports about American soldiers during the Korean and Vietnam Wars. However, it’s not often you hear about one of these people being discovered after so long a period of time.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Barry says:

    It is surprising, but given hundreds of thousands of soldier, it was bound to happen.

  2. J-Dub says:

    It’s not like the guy was from the Moscow suburbs, Uzbekistan borders Afghanistan. He probably never wanted to be in the Russian army in the first place.