Twenty years ago, more than 500 human lives were saved.
The civil war in Tajikistan in the autumn of 1992 entered the bloodiest phase. Tens of thousands of dead and wounded, hundreds of thousands of refugees, mostly Russian. We still know very little about the dramatic events of that time to this day.
Tajikistan was the first republic in the USSR, where parties whose leaders were outspoken Wahhabis completely legally came to power. Islamic extremism has received the most important bridgehead for its further spread in Central Asia. The consequences were not long in coming. Blood poured over the river. In the most cruel manner, they killed those who adhered to the teachings of traditional Islam, who were an atheist in general, especially foreigners: Armenians, Greeks, Germans, Jews, but first and foremost Slavs.
The unpredictability of the development of the situation was seriously disturbed by the so-called Western democracies. But they did not have any leverage over Tajikistan. Only Moscow could help. But 1992 is the year of the complete collapse of the Union, the period of formation of sovereign states on its territory. And who in the then power of the Russian Federation was concerned with distant Tajiks and even “dear Russians”, who by the will of fate turned out to be on the verge of a great empire yesterday?
The civil war in Tajikistan and the rampant genocide of all those who didn’t like extremist Islamists could only be stopped thanks to the efforts of the GRU and the position of Uzbek President Islam Karimov, who saw Wahhabism as an almost personal threat. It is worth recalling that officers of the 15-th brigade of the special forces of the GRU, led by Colonel Vladimir Kvachkov, became one of the main participants of the armed resistance to the Islamists.
Everybody fought with each other: army and police units, armed gangsters and militia. It was very difficult to escape from the wall of mutual extermination, and everyone who had the slightest opportunity tried to escape from the embraced civil war of the republic.
HOSTAGES AT DUSHANBE-2 STATION
At the end of November, a railway train was formed from 11 passenger cars in Dushanbe, which housed more than 500 Russian refugees. He could drive only a couple of kilometers. The train was stopped near the station Dushanbe-2, the diesel locomotive was disconnected and began to use a chain of passenger cars with all the people in them as a shield. The fact is that the train was located between the highway going to the city and an array of private houses in which the Wahhabis settled. Any attempt to break through the highway into the capital to the forces fighting the Islamists was blocked by the threat of shooting a train with refugees. Five hundred people, most of whom were women, children and old people, found themselves in a hopeless situation. The militants, who held the train under the gun, did not allow them to leave the cars.
Meanwhile, the fighting on the outskirts of Dushanbe became more intense. At some point, a detachment of the Popular Front militias — those Tajiks who fought against the Wahhabis — fell into a difficult situation.
The combined detachment of the same militiamen from 41 man, in which there were only two personnel officers, went to the rescue. One of them was Major Alexander Matrosov, an officer-adviser, and the other was an officer of the GRU special forces from the very 15 brigade. The detachment itself consisted mainly of civilians - former Afghan soldiers who lived in Tajikistan. He was armed with a T-62, BMP-2 and BTR-80 tank. The technique was old and broken. The detachment was commanded by a civilian Afghan Alexander Letikov.
Caught in the environment helped. The battle went all night, and only in the morning the detachment began to return to the place of deployment. During the nomination, the detachment of Letikov was not far from the blockaded by the Wahhabi echelon. A man jumped out to meet the column and literally lay down under the tracks. With tears, he said that at the sight of the gangsters, 10 had a train for a day, in which there were about a hundred Russian families. It is impossible to leave the cars, but it is physically impossible to continue in them anymore.
Alexander Matrosov contacted the leadership of the Popular Front, reported on the situation and asked for permission to help the refugees at least safely leave the wagons that had become deadly traps. And if possible, adjust the diesel locomotive and drag the train off the line of fire. Permission given.
FIGHT WITH WAHHABITS
The soldiers of the consolidated detachment passed along a train along the wagon and took up positions between the train and the Dushanbe-2 sorting station. And here the real hell began. Wahhabis from well-defended positions opened heavy fire from small weapons and grenade launchers with the support of two BMP-2 and one BTR-70.
By fire, the fighters caught in the trap could only support the tank, and then only the old DShK machine gun, as the gun jammed, and the BMP-2 with a limited amount of ammunition. BTR-80 rolled over, trying to call on the railway embankment. At the critical moment, the reserve group of the detachment on one armored personnel carrier came to the rescue, which was able to suppress part of the enemy’s firing points with a blow from the flank and prevent the Wahhabis from surrounding the detachment.
The fight, which began at 10 in the morning, did not stop for a minute until midnight. That is, the soldiers of Letikov did not sleep for two nights in a row, but continued to fight. The Wahhabi militants were so carried away by the war that they forgot about the train. It can be argued that the militia of the Popular Front not only showed personal courage, but also showed real military mastery, although for the most part they were civilians. They managed to divert almost all the fire forces and all the attention of the militants.
Meanwhile, the leadership of the Popular Front was able to contact the Uzbek railway workers and convince them to send a diesel locomotive in order to get the doomed train out of the fire. When it was finally dark, a locomotive with a group of traveling workers approached from the territory of the neighboring republic. And while the Wahhabis tried with all their might to destroy the militia unit, the railway workers from Uzbekistan checked the ways, quietly drove the diesel locomotive, hooked up a train to it and late at night literally hijacked the wagons with hostages from under the nose of the Wahhabis. Taking advantage of the darkness, the militia of the consolidated detachment retreated to a safe place.
AWARD WILL BE MEMORY
В stories There were no instances of the twentieth century when it would have been possible to save a whole train of hostages without loss — more than 500 people, having conducted a spontaneous, but as it turned out, very effective special operation. And it developed very dynamically and was multi-level. While the Tajik militia, after engaging in battle, diverted the forces of the Wahhabis, other people, using their Afghan ties and focusing on the still preserved feelings of internationalism, were able to mobilize Uzbek railway workers, who ensured the ultimate success of the rescue operation. People of different nationalities participated in it: Russians, Belorussians, Ukrainians, Uzbeks, Tajiks.
Logically, the leadership of the new Russia was to award the highest state awards to those who saved hundreds of compatriots from inevitable death. But what state logic was in 1992 year?
I wonder how the fate of the refugees who were in that echelon, and whether they know all the circumstances of their salvation? Alas, we cannot name those who diverted the Russian echelon from the Dushanbe-2 station first to Uzbekistan and then sent to Russia. Twenty years ago, the situation in belligerent Tajikistan was developing so quickly that, as it happened, the military units of the Popular Front completely changed personnel in a few days, no one dealt with headquarters documents.
It is only known that after the end of the war in Tajikistan, the detachment commander Alexander Letikov served in the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan, then quit, now lives in Russia, in Stary Oskol. Alexander Matrosov also retired from the Armed Forces of Uzbekistan, but remained to live there. In 2005, the retired hero officer went missing. Nobody who knew him had any doubts - Matrosov was killed. A special forces officer, whose name for obvious reasons I don’t name, after the civil war in Tajikistan, participated in the first Chechen campaign, currently serving in the ranks of the Russian Armed Forces.
A part of the Russian militia from the Letikov detachment continued their service in the Russian power structures - the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the FSB. Someone remained in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. To bring them together is hardly possible now. But the fact that 20 years ago they accomplished the feat is beyond doubt. This will be remembered by the people they saved and will tell their children and grandchildren about the feat.
- Sergey Ptichkin