Kalashnikov schoolbook gives chilling insight into Afghan conflict at National Army Museum

By Jessica Keating | 04 May 2012
A textbook page with drawings of a kalashnikov automatic rifle, daggers, pistols and umbrellas to aid counting between 1 to 4.
A detail from the textbook which dates to the Soviet-Afghan War of the 1980s© Courtesy National Army Museum
When first learning to count, children are often introduced to colourful and memorable images to help teach numbers and improve numeracy. 

Guns and grenades would not usually be considered appropriate, but an Afghan schoolbook using such pictures is now on display at the National Army Museum.

Dating back to 1986, during the Soviet War in Afghanistan, the book casually refers to apples and pencils alongside Kalashnikov rifles and Jihad (holy war), highlighting how weapons and war were regarded as everyday matters.

Inside the child’s book, adult-like sentences such as, “I am the enemy of Russia” are juxtaposed with the more childish “In winter weather is cold”.

Housed inside the Afghanistan section of the Conflicts of Interest gallery, which explores more than 40 years of conflicts from Northern Ireland and the Falklands to Iraq and Afghanistan, the textbook is described by Curator Sophie Stathi as reflecting “how the conflict touched the everyday lives of citizens in Afghanistan”.

The book is among several new items on display from the British Army’s period in Afghanistan including Operation Service Medals and charm wristbands.

Conflicts of Interest examines the role of the British Army worldwide and is designed as a forum for debate, encouraging visitors to think and share opinions on both military intervention and inaction.

More pictures:

a page from a counting textbook that uses pistols, rifles, pens, knives, umbrellas, shells and cups as counting symbols
© Courtesy National Army Museum
a page from an Afghanistani textbook that uses grenades, rifles and shells as symbols
© Courtesy National Army Museum
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