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    Book Description:

    The ancient land and the modern nation of Afghanistan are the subject of Louis Dupree's book. Both in the text and in over a hundred illustrations, he identifies the major patterns of Afghan history, society, and culture as they have developed from the Stone Age to the present.

    Originally published in 1980.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5891-0
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Lists of Illustrations, Maps, Charts, and Diagrams
    (pp. vii-xv)
  2. INTRODUCTION Afghanistan Defined
    (pp. xvii-xx)

    Yaghistan, as the Amir Abdur Rahman Khan (1900, II, 157) referred to his country (particularly the tribal belt between British India and Afghanistan), has been variously translated: “Land of the Unruly,” “Land of the Free,” “Land of Rebels,” and “Land of Insolence” (Coon, 1951b, 295–323).

    The insolence of the Afghan, however, is not the frustrated insolence of urbanized, dehumanized man in western society, but insolence without arrogance, the insolence of harsh freedoms set against a backdrop of rough mountains and deserts, the insolence of equality felt and practiced (with an occasional touch of superiority), the insolence of bravery past...

    (pp. xxi-xxiv)
    Louis Dupree
  4. Part I. The Land

    • [PART I. Introduction]
      (pp. 1-2)

      Half way around the world from the United States sits landlocked Afghanistan, a harsh, brutal, beautiful land, dominated by the disembodied mountainous¹ core of the Hindu Kush, the westernmost extension of the Karakorum Mountains, and the Himalayas, which push from the Pamir Knot into central Afghanistan in a general northeast-southwesterly trend to within one hundred miles of the Iranian border. The ranges stretch about 600 miles, or 966 kilometers, laterally, with the average north–south measurement being 150 miles, or 240 kilometers. The Pamir Knot contains more than 100 peaks which rise between 20,000 and 25,000 feet, or 6,100 and...

    • CHAPTER 1 Geographic Zones
      (pp. 3-31)

      The diverse geographic zones of Afghanistan are discussed from the point of view of total ecology, emphasizing lines of human contact and communication in reference to zones of accessibility and relative inaccessibility. Therefore, Map 2-A should be examined in conjunction with Maps 3, 4, 6, and 9, to understand better the criteria used to delimit the zones.

      The Danish geographer Humlum (1959) divided Afghanistan into ten natural provinces: East, South, Central, West, Northwest, North, Nuristan, Badakhshan, Wakhan, Monsoonal Afghanistan (Map 2-B). Those who wish to savor Humlum’s fine work and detailed descriptions of the geographic areas are invited to consult...

    • CHAPTER 2 Water
      (pp. 32-42)

      Water is the key to the distribution, proliferation, and perpetuation of animal and plant life, and its absence limits agricultural and pasture land (see Map 4). Its source in Afghanistan lies in the high watershed of the Central Mountains. Afghanistan's problem is not insufficient water, for enough exists to increase productivity of current acreage and to add many thousands of marginal acres to production. Control, not amount, is the difficulty. Most of the millions of acre-feet of water which seasonally pour down from the mountains disappears into the deserts, or is pirated away by the many uncoordinated irrigation intakes lining...

    • CHAPTER 3 Areas Drastically Affected by Man
      (pp. 43-46)

      Statistics on Afghanistan abound, but most consist of “intelligent estimates,” i.e., wild guesses based on inadequate data, and practically all figures given in this book must be considered to be such intelligent estimates. With this caution in mind we can say that the total area (see Map 5) of Afghanistan is about 63 million hectares (245,000 square miles). Of the total area about 12 percent is cultivated annually because of water shortages.¹ The irrigated land is calledabi,while dry farmed land islalmi.Thelalmiarea consists of about 1.3 million hectares and supports wheat and barley primarily. (One hectare...

    • CHAPTER 4 Domesticated Animals
      (pp. 47-50)

      Domesticated animals also play a major role in modification to natural vegetation and the geographical scene in general (see Chart 5 for the numbers of livestock in the country today).

      Horses(asp,Dari;as,Pashto, male;aspa, Pashto, female)¹ : Prestige animals, horses exist all over Afghanistan. The largest, about 14 hands, are found in the Herat region. Horses in Turkestan, Qataghan, and Badakhshan are little more than overgrown ponies, but are as surefooted as mountain goats on precipitous trails. Hazarajat horses and some in the Turkestan plains may have an Arab strain. Highly prized Waziri horses (with diagnostic inward, crooked...

    • CHAPTER 5 Fauna
      (pp. 51-54)

      Afghanistan has few endemics (animals found there and nowhere else), but contains elements of the major surrounding faunal zones, according to Kullmann (Science,1965), who states that the following assemblages are represented in Afghanistan: Palaearctic, Southwestern Asia, India, Turkestan, Himalayan. (Dr. Kullmann established a new zoo in Kabul, officially opened in August, 1967, which contains, among others, the following Afghan specimens: snow leopard and macaques from Nuristan, gazelle, ibex, markhor, wolf, fox, wildcat, hyena.) See Appendix B.

      Most Afghans pride themselves on being outdoorsmen and hunting is a great pastime. Only among the Sayyad, the hunter-fishermen of the Hilmand, do such...

  5. Part II. The People

    • [PART II. Introduction]
      (pp. 55-56)

      Afghanistan’s people¹ rival the topography in ethnic, linguistic, and physical variety. Basically, the country is a zone of predominately Muslim, Indo-European speakers of the Mediterranean sub-stock of the great Caucasoid race² , which extends from Gibraltar and Tangier on both sides of the Mediterranean, and moves through Anatolia, Iran, and southern Afghanistan into northwest Pakistan. A Spaniard, Sicilian, Greek, Turk, Arab, or Sephardic Jew would be physically at home in most of Afghanistan. Only distinctive tribal and ethnic clothing, language, religion, and other cultural impediments make the difference.

      But, like the United States, and for a much longer period, Afghanistan...

    • CHAPTER 6 Ethnic Groups
      (pp. 57-65)

      Afghanistan is not a self-contained ethnic unit, and its national culture is not uniform (see Map 6 and Chart 6). Few of its ethnic groups are indigenous. All Pushtun, for example, are not Afghan citizens. Almost an equal number live in the Tribal Agencies and the North-West Frontier Province of Pakistan. Tajik, Uzbak, Turkoman, and Kirghiz have their own Soviet Socialist Republics in the Soviet Union. Most inhabitants of the extreme western part of Afghanistan, geographically and culturally an extension of the Iranian Plateau, are simply Persian-speaking Farsiwan (also called Parsiwan or Parsiban) farmers. Baluch (or Baluchi, which usually refers...

    • CHAPTER 7 Language
      (pp. 66-94)

      Three, and possibly four, major language families (Indo-European, Uralic-Altaic, Dravidian, and possibly Semitic) are spoken in Afghanistan. The literature, however, uses a modified Arabic script (Chart 7), and most of the 30,000 Hindus and Sikhs, mainly merchants in the cities and towns, write in the Arabic script of the Lahnda (Western Punjabi) dialects. Only a few Afghan Jews know how to write Hebrew; most of the people calling themselves “Arab” speak little Arabic and the majority are non-literate.¹ Some Arabic-speaking groups have, however, been reported near Maimana (Schurmann, 1962, 102), Kunduz, Aq Chah, and Balkh (Ferdinand, 1964, 194; Jarring, 1939,...

    • CHAPTER 8 Religious Non-Literacy in a Literate Culture
      (pp. 95-111)

      In no institution does the disparate attitudinal dichotomy of literate vs. non-literate have as much cogency or meaning as it does in religion. Islam is not a simple “conversion or the sword” doctrine. The roots of Islam were watered in the same philosophical and geographical garden as Judaism and Christianity. Muslims consider Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians (Gaudefroy-Demombynes, 1968, 123)ahl-i-kitab(“people of the Book,” i.e., those with divinely inspired written scriptures).

      The same wall dividing Judaism from Christianity also splits Christianity from Islam: the role and nature of Christ. The Jews still wait for the Messiah; the Christians have Christ as...

    • CHAPTER 9 Folklore and Folk Music
      (pp. 112-131)

      Afghan folklore and legend often intimately relate to Islam, although much of the corpus definitely preceded Islam. Of course, all religions, however sophisticated, build on neighboring earlier faiths and adapt existing legends to fit new needs. Folktales and folk songs in Afghanistan, as in other non-literate and pre-literate societies, are group reinforcing, and psychologically satisfying to the individual.

      Folk poets constantly rise from the Afghan milieu and are honored. Malang Jan Besudi, a modern example, lived hard and died young in a motor accident in 1957, but his poems have been printed, sung, and remembered. Literate Afghans always find a...

    • CHAPTER 10 Settlement Patterns
      (pp. 132-180)

      Several factors, among them ecology, technology, and historical accident, influence settlement patterns and crystallize Afghan ethnic groups into two general categories, sedentary and non-sedentary. The interactional complex includes sedentary villages, towns, and cities, and their relationships to nomads, semi-nomads, and semi-sedentary groups.

      The termsqaryah(Dari) andkeley(Pashto) are usually used to mean village.Dehalso means village, but today it is particularly used to compound names to refer to specific villages, e.g., Deh Morasi, Qadzi Deh.

      Two types of completely sedentary village settlement-patterns exist: linear and nuclear. The linear type, common in Southeast Asia (Ahmad, 1956), occurs along the major rivers,...

    • CHAPTER 11 Life Cycle
      (pp. 181-247)

      The groups described in the preceding pages consist of individuals, and they, as do we all, pass through life as single units, no matter how irrevocably they or we remain bound to the groups and institutions which represent society. Naturally, the individual life cycle in Afghanistan varies from group to group, and often within each group, but the patterns are similar enough to permit generalization. In rural areas, large families (especially the numbers of males) are desirable for economic (more hands to work in the fields or tend the flocks) and political (the more warriors, the more power) reasons.


    • CHAPTER 12 The Inward-Looking Society
      (pp. 248-252)

      All the foregoing Discussions about the people of Afghanistan lead us to some generalizations concerning the nature of the peasanttribal societies which dominate the world scene today. One primary attribute isnon-literacy(Chart 18). Therefore the bulk of the population in most developing societies has no direct access to the rich literatures of their cultures, and must depend on interpretations, usually by vestedinterest religious and secular leaders.

      Another key factor is economic: in peasant-tribal societies, most of the people spend most of their timeengaged in basic-food production.In Afghanistan, for example, over 90% of the population are farmers, herdsmen, or...

  6. Part III. The Past

    • [PART III. Introduction]
      (pp. 253-254)

      “For me, archaeology is not a source of illustration for written sources, but an independent source of historical confirmation, no less valuable and important, sometimes more important than the written sources,” (Rostovtzeff, 1922, viii)

      Few places epitomize the truth of Rostovtzeff’s statement like Afghanistan, We must combine archaeology and history¹ to establish a reasonably valid outline of prehistoric and historic patterns, especially since the literate sources usually glorify any dynasty in power at any given moment, thereby distorting the historic and cultural whole. In addition, over ninety percent of the Afghans remain non-literate,

      ¹ For a survey of Persian, Pashto,...

    • CHAPTER 13 The Prehistoric Sequence CA. 50,000 B.C.–SEVENTH CENTURY B.C.
      (pp. 255-271)

      Until the post-World War II period, archaeologists largely neglected the prehistory of Afghanistan, partly because of the richness of historic finds, partly because of the relative lack of interest of European and American scholars in Central Asia. Some work, however, was done. Dr. Roman Ghirshman, now Chef du Mission, Délégation Archéologique en Iran, sunk test pits at Nad-i-Ali in Sistan (southwest Afghanistan) just before World War II and excavated materials probably dating from the first millennium B.C. Aside from Ghirshman’s work (1939), however, the prehistoric periods of Afghanistan remained unplumbed, and few could have predicted the rich finds to come...

    • CHAPTER 14 East and West Meet and Mingle SEVENTH CENTURY B.C. TO SECOND CENTURY A.D.
      (pp. 272-295)

      Some Historians have attempted to identify references to the Afghan landscape in theRig Veda(Mohd. Ali, 1957; A. Kohzad, 1946, 1953a, 1954; Najib Ullah, 1961). Others (e.g., Frazer–Tytler, 1967, 17) believe the first identifiable mention of the area now called Afghanistan can be found in theAvesta(E. Wilson, 1945, 55–65), the canonical scriptures of the Zoroastrians plus the teachings (Gatha) of Zarathustra (Iranian name for Zoroaster, which is Greek), its founder. Later accretionary commentaries on theAvestaare calledZand and Pa-Zand.

      Mystery clouds Zarathustra’s life (Duchesne-Guillemin, 1966; Henning, 1961; Zaehner, 1961), and proposed dates for his...

      (pp. 296-311)

      After Ashoka, militant Brahmanism ended the political force of Buddhism in India, but the Mahayana Buddhism (the Greater Vehicle) which gestated in Gandhara spread along the commercial Silk Route to Turkestan, Mongolia, China, Korea, and ultimately Japan. Various Mahayana sects dominate the Buddhist world today, and of the earlier Hinayana sects (Lesser Vehicle), only the Theravada (Doctrine of the Elders) survives in Ceylon, Burma, Thailand, and Cambodia (Humphreys, 1962).

      Great art and great ideas mingled in Gandhara, feasted on one another, and spread in all directions. The mystical humanitarianism of Hellenism (foreshadowed by some of Ashoka’s Pillars of Morality) the...

      (pp. 312-341)

      The Muslim Arabs broke Sasanian power at Qadisiya in A.H. 16/A.D. 637¹, and delivered the coup de grâce at Nihawand (near Hamadan) in 22/642. Subsequently all eastern Iran fell into Arab hands. The first big Arab raid through Qandahar and central Afghanistan took place in 80–81/699–700, when the Arab governor of Sistan was sent to chastize the Hindu-Shahi king of Kabul, who had refused to pay tribute. Even though defeated, the Hindu–Shahi (possibly former Kushans) continued to rule Kabul as vassals of the Umayyid Caliphs (41–132/661–750).

      At this time T’ang dynasty China, which had defeated...

    • CHAPTER 17 The Age of European Imperialism NINETEENTH CENTURY A.D.
      (pp. 342-414)

      FROM the death of Timur Shah to the rise of the Abdur Rahman Khan (1880-1901), two themes dominated the Afghan scene: internal disorder and external invasions and pressures. The final dismemberment of the Durrani Empire occurred. Punjab, Sind, Kashmir, and most of Baluchistan were irrevocably lost, as the Mohammadzai (Barakzai) and Saddozai princes (both Durrani Pushtun) fought for regional control. Within each region, father fought son, brother fought brother, half brother fought half brother, uncle fought nephew in a never-ending round-robin of blood-letting and blindings. They contested for four major areas, Kabul, Qandahar, Herat, and the northern Uzbak Khanates, usually...

  7. Part IV. The Present

    • [PART IV. Introduction]
      (pp. 415-416)

      “How can a small Power like Afghanistan, which is like a goat between these lions [Britain and Tsarist Russia], or a grain of wheat between two strong millstones of the grinding mill, stand in the midway of the stones without being ground to dust?” (Abdur Rahman Khan, 1900, II, 280).

      The recent history of Afghanistan reveals the story of a piece of real estate trying to become a nation-state, its external patterns uncontrollably linked with those of the two great imperialist powers in the region. More important than the drawing of boundaries was Afghanistan’s internal integration, hampered by a plethora...

      (pp. 417-429)

      Initlally, Abdur Rahman controlled only Kabul and surrounding territories, but, before his death in 1901, he had spread his influence—if not actual control—throughout most of what we recognize as modern Afghanistan. I call this process “internal imperialism.” If, however, Abdur Rahman had been born a hundred years earlier, this charismatic leader would probably have followed the patterns of previous Central Asian emperors, and expanded as far as force and intrigue could carry his empire. But the Russians blocked him to the north and northeast, the British to the south and southeast, and the British and the Russians guaranteed...

    • CHAPTER 19 Habibullah: MARKING TIME, 1901–19
      (pp. 430-440)

      Palace, rather than tribal, intrigue beset Habibullah. Although he was the oldest son of Abdur Rahman Khan, Habibullah (born 1872) was the child of a Wakhi slave girl, Guriz, also the mother of Nasrullah (born 1874). The most royal wife, however, strong-willed Bibi Halima, paternal granddaughter of Dost Mohammad Khan, intrigued to have her son, Mohammad Omar Jan (born 1889), placed on the throne. The activities of Bibi Halima forced Habibullah to place her son under constant surveillance. Habibullah himself had four wives, about thirty-five concubines, and approximately fifty offspring. Nasrullah Khan failed to obtain the support of many tribal...

      (pp. 441-457)

      When Mahmud Beg Tarzi first met Amanullah after the assassination of Habibullah, the two men embraced and Tarzi said, “Do not cry, now is the time for action” (L. Dupree,AUFS Reports,LD-64-8). During his father’s absence on hunting trips, Amanullah often served as Regent, as well as being Commander-in-Chief of the army. He seized theArg(a combination royal residence, fort, and treasury), traditional seat of power, and enlisted the army’s support with promises of improved pay and conditions.

      Meanwhile, Nasrullah, brother of Habibullah and his companion on the fateful hunting-trip, proclaimed himself Amir in Jalalabad, winning the support...

      (pp. 458-476)

      Although ill, General Mohammad Nadir Khan returned from self-imposed exile to overthrow Habibullah (Bacha Saqqao, who called himselfKhadim-i-din-i-rasululah,“Servant of the Prophet’s Religion”), whose reign lasted only nine months, from January to October 1929. Nadir Khan, former commander of Amanullah’s army, had fought the military cutbacks of the young king. He was sent to Paris as ambassador in April 1924, and later retired to the Riviera ostensibly for his health, but also to protest Amanullah’s rapid modernization programs.

      Three of the Musahiban (lineage name) brothers (Nadir Khan, Hashim Khan, Shah Wali Khan) returned through British India, and the British established...

    • CHAPTER 22 The Avuncular Period: 1933–1953
      (pp. 477-498)

      King Mohammad Zahir Shah reigned but did not rule for twenty years. His uncles, as befitted Islamic cultural patterns, ruled. When a young man’s father dies (or is killed), his paternal uncle or uncles replace his father in the culturally defined father-son rights and obligations. So rule by the uncles was most logical, and gave the King time to study his nation, his role, and his responsibilities, and to assess his political future.

      Nadir Shah early began to groom Mohammad Zahir for the monarchy. When the eighteen-year-old Crown Prince completed his course at the Military College in Kabul, his father...

    • CHAPTER 23 The Decade of Daoud: 1953–1963
      (pp. 499-558)

      Several factors encouraged the forty-three-year-old Daoud Khan to become prime minister. A simple desire for power cannot be minimized as possibly one of his motives, but power within the precedents established by his uncles in 1933: with a general consensus of the royal family and without bloodshed. Many literate Afghans hoped for the release of the remaining political prisoners and a vigorous implementation of social reforms. They were disappointed, for the Prime Minister preferred to move ahead with slow, but steady progress. Although he did release some political prisoners who promised not to participate in active oposition against the regime,...

    • CHAPTER 24 The Constitutional Period Begins: 1963–?
      (pp. 559-658)

      March 10, 1963, came in sunny, bright, and clear. An unseasonable snow had fallen a few days before and the mountains shone like reflecting glass. All day people roamed the streets of Kabul and families walked about in a festive mood. Government offices remained open, but many civil servants left their desks to join the crowds briefly and then returned to their drudgery. Friends visited friends and discussion on the implications of Sardar Daoud’s resignation raged far into the night. Some Afghans ostentatiously visited the homes of American and West German friends. Convinced that the West (i.e., C.I.A.) had somehow...

    • CHAPTER 25 Problems and Prospects
      (pp. 659-666)

      In essence, Afghanistan, like the rest of the Afro–Asian world (and parts of Latin America), is attempting to create a nation-state out of a hodgepodge of ethnic and linguistic groups. A nation-state, in the Western sense, is not simply a piece of real estate enclosed by boundaries, but more a pattern of attitudes, a reciprocal, functioning set of rights and obligations between the government and the governed—with emphasis on the individual rather than the group. In non-literate societies, however, kinship replaces government and guarantees men and women born into a specific unit or functioning set of social, economic,...

  8. Appendices

    (pp. 699-720)
  10. Epilogue (1973)
    (pp. 753-760)

    ON 17 JULY 1973, just as this book was going to press, Afghanistan came face to face with its “crisis in political and economic direction” (see p. 666). King Mohammad Zahir’s experiment to create a constitutional monarchy, with a theoretical ultimate emphasis on constitutional power, had failed. Sardar Mohammad Daoud Khan, first cousin and brother-in-law of the king and prime minister from 1953 to 1963 (Chapter 23), declared Afghanistan a republic and on 18 July his Central Committee named him founder, president, and prime minister of the Republic of Afghanistan.

    Many accumulative factors led to the coup. They have been...

  11. Epilogue to the Second Printing (1978)
    (pp. 761-768)

    When the first printing was published in 1973 , the Afghan monarchy had just been overthrown and a Republic established.¹ Slowly, but continuously, Afghanistan moved toward a system of representative government consistent with its cultural and historical patterns. Whether the successive steps were planned or, like Topsy, “just grew,” remains a question. Several patterns will be briefly examined.

    The coup had been textbook perfect—almost too perfect—and encouraged others to plot against the new regime. One group, led by military officers disaffected with the monarchy, had been preparing a coup at the time Daoud successfully struck. The 45 ringleaders,...

  12. Epilogue (1980)
    (pp. 769-778)

    Why did the Russians choose to invade Afghanistan and establish a puppet regime? We are still too close to the question to have an answer, but it is interesting to consider what Russia stands to lose or gain by its naked act of aggression. One fact is clear: the Russians have established an important and potentially dangerous precedent. In addition, the growing rapprochement with the Third World (particularly Muslim countries) has been damaged, possibly irreparably. Also, the Central Asian Muslim Soviet Socialist Republics do not appreciate being the springboard for the invasion and occupation of a brother Muslim state. The...