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

  • Christophe Simon / AFP / Getty

    Iraqi Christians Slowly Return to War-Damaged Qaraqosh

    In August of 2014, ISIS militants swept through towns near Mosul, Iraq, taking control and forcing thousands to flee. The Christian city of Qaraqosh was retaken by Iraqi forces in October of 2016, but the it remains almost completely deserted.

  • Tauseef Mustafa / AFP / Getty

    Unrest in Kashmir Surges Once More

    Anti-government protests have escalated again in Indian-administered Kashmir, following violent clashes earlier this month.

  • Carlos Garcia Rawlins / Reuters

    The Masks We Wear

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

  • NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

    Portraits of the Earth-Moon System

    Images of the Earth and Moon together, some from as far away as 100 million miles

Join the Discussion