Afghanistan Children’s Encyclopedia (2005)

By | December 16, 2021


The gateway to Central Asia

Crossroads between East and West, Afghanistan is one of the poorest countries in the world, where it is very difficult to find the means to survive. This is partly due to the adverse environmental, social and economic conditions, but above all to the many wars that have involved the Afghan people.

A land of crossroads

Afghanistan is a predominantly mountainous country, characterized by a continental climate with very hot and dry summers and severe winters. Nevertheless, almost 70% of its residents are dedicated to agriculture, which however is not enough to guarantee a good quality of life for the population. The flat regions to the south have an almost desert climate: some large rivers, such as the Helmand, which flow from the mountains to the north to the south, dry up as they go. For Afghanistan 2004, please check

The country is not rich in natural resources, but given its geographical position – a passage between China, India, Iran and the steppes of the North – it has been repeatedly the object of conquest attempts by various peoples. Precisely because it is a kind of ‘crossroads’, Afghanistan is inhabited by different populations, also present in other countries and often nomadic or semi-nomadic – Hazari and Uzbek in the north, Pashtuns and Tajiks in the west, Baluchis in the south, still Pashtun, called Pathani, to the east -, each with its own language and social organization.

Mountains and climate make it difficult to move and even to settle concentrated in places that are practically oases. The capital is Kabul, while other important cities are Kandahar and Herat, heavily damaged by the most recent wars. In ancient times Afghanistan was crossed by the silk road, a very important caravan route that connected the Mediterranean with the East; Marco Polo also followed her on his journey to the Far East, which he recounted in the book Il Milione, which also talks about Afghanistan.

A troubled story

Founded as an independent kingdom in 1747, Afghanistan has always had a tormented life, both for its strategic position – which aroused the interest of Russians and English in the nineteenth century – and for the contrasts between the various populations that made it part. In the twenties of the twentieth century, Afghanistan freed itself from British protection, which lasted throughout the nineteenth century, and started a policy of equidistance between the USSR, China and the United States. But in 1973 a coup d’état overthrew the monarchy and in 1978 a further coup brought the communist party to power, to support which the USSR invaded the country in 1979. The Soviets remained in Afghanistan for a decade, facing a bloody conflict with Islamic guerrillas (mugiahidin).

In 1992 Afghanistan became an Islamic republic, but continued to be torn apart by the war between the various groups of mugiahidin, until, in 1996, the Taliban (“students” of the Koranic schools) prevailed. They established a fundamentalist regime: women could neither study nor work, men were forced to attend mosques and public stoning was often used for punishments. The Taliban they also hosted the al Qaeda terrorist organization and its leader, Osama Bin Laden. The repeated refusal to hand over the latter to the international authorities led, in 1999, to sanctions by the UN and, after the attack on the Twin towers (“Twin Towers”) in New York in 2001, the military intervention of the States United, which overthrew the Taliban regime. In 2004, after three years of provisional government, the first democratic elections in Afghan history took place, which saw the election of Hamid Karzai as president of the Republic.

Afghanistan Children's Encyclopedia (2005)