Afghanistan – a hub of cultures
Afghanistan, which now appears as a barren mountainous country with scarce resources and a long series of violent conflicts actually has to offer a very lively and varied history. In the different historical accounts, it is often called the “cradle of many ancient empires”, “crossroads of cultures” and the “hub of nations”. Afghanistan’s unique culture is a melting pot created by various nations and religions between the Hindu Kush, Silk Road and desert regions. Within thousands of years of history influences of Zaratustrian, Buddist, Greek and finally Islamic populations shaped the culture of the country.
Afghanistan – the transit country
Afghanistan is often described as a “transit country”. In ancient times, repeatedly, other nations from Central Asia invaded the region of the present-day Afghanistan. Empires which lasted rarely more than a few generations emerged and were often destroyed by the arrival of a new nomadic people again and again. Amazing is the expansion that many of these empires achieved and they often ranged from the steppes of Central Asia to the Gangetic plains.
The Durrani Empire
In 1747 Pashtun Ahmad Shah Durrani founded an independent empire, known as the Durrani Empire. It is considered as the precursor of modern Afghanistan. Both Ahmad Shah and the rulers after him could never really keep the kingdom entirely under their control and were faced with internal troubles.
Between the Great Powers
In the 19th century the term Afghanistan was used by the Great Powers to describe the country serving them as a buffer zone between Persia and the colonial powers Russia and British India.
In a total of three so-called Anglo-Afghan wars, the British tried to enforce their colonial interests. Finally, in 1919, the third war resulted in the proclamation of independence of Afghanistan. Only now the name “Afghanistan” was established as a state name.
Emir Amanullah Khan, who was later called the Reform King, subsequently tried to modernize the country. He based his decisions on the model of the Turkish president Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He revaluated the role of women, introduced compulsory education for boys and girls and separated state and religion.
The golden years
Amanullah’s successor largely suspended the reforms again. In 1946 Afghanistan enters the United Nations. As a neutral state, it benefited from the grants of both sides of the East-West conflict. With generous financial support from both power blocs Afghanistan experienced the time of the “Golden Years”. The economy was taking off resulting in a general stabilization.
In 1964 King Mohammed Zahir Shah took measures to liberalise the country. He adopted a constitution, which ensured all male Afghans a vote and stand for election. Afghanistan also elected its first civil prime minister.
The country on the former Silk Road was a popular destination for young travelers, dropouts and hippies from all over the world. It was not only the landscape and culture, of course, that attracted 70,000 tourists to Kabul, but rather the readily available drugs such as hashish, opium and heroin.
The Golden Years did not last long. By the end of the 1970s, the Communists gained power with a bloody coup, that ushered decades of dark times for Afghanistan.
Afterwards, decades of occupation, civil war, death, disease, misery and displacement followed.
More on this in our next post!