Afghanistan in the 1950s and 60s

Fractured by internal conflict and foreign intervention for centuries, Afghanistan made several tentative steps toward modernization in the mid-20th century. In the 1950s and 1960s, some of the biggest strides were made toward a more liberal and westernized lifestyle, while trying to maintain a respect for more conservative factions. Though officially a neutral nation, Afghanistan was courted and influenced by the U.S. and Soviet Union during the Cold War, accepting Soviet machinery and weapons, and U.S. financial aid. This time was a brief, relatively peaceful era, when modern buildings were constructed in Kabul alongside older traditional mud structures, when burqas became optional for a time, and the country appeared to be on a path toward a more open, prosperous society. Progress was halted in the 1970s, as a series of bloody coups, invasions, and civil wars began, continuing to this day, reversing almost all of the steps toward modernization taken in the 50s and 60s. Keep in mind, when looking at these images, that the average life expectancy for Afghans born in 1960 was 31, so the vast majority of those pictured have likely passed on since.

Read more
Hints: View this page full screen. Skip to the next and previous photo by typing j/k or ←/→.

Most Recent

  • Ueslei Marcelino / Reuters

    Scenes From Underground

    Caves and tunnels have always been part of human life.

  • Ramiro Gomez / Reuters

    Deadly Storms Hammer Mexico and Texas

    Devastating storms that brought tornadoes and 11 inches of rainfall to the Great Plains, Midwest, and northern Mexico, continue to cause serious flooding in Texas and parts of Oklahoma.

  • Carl de Souza / AFP / Getty Images

    The Masks We Wear

    We wear masks for many reasons: for fun, for protection, or to make a statement.

  • Stephanie Keith / Reuters

    Photos of the Week: 5/16-5/22

    This week we have photos of an 80-foot-high tire in Michigan, dozens of Siberian students smashed into a car, two volcanic eruptions, yet another nail house in China, synchronized swimmers in a pond at the Chelsea Flower Show, a view from the top of the 104-story One World Trade Center, cows on the beach along the Mediterranean, a solar halo above Mexico, and much more.

Join the Discussion