The INSIDER Summary:
• A collection of photos taken by Dr. William Podlich in the 1960s in Afghanistan has been discovered and restored.
• These photos show Afghanistan as a very different country than it is today, and they shed light on what life was like in the area nearly 80 years ago.
The modern West is familiar with Afghanistan as a country that is ravaged by war. But before the US invasion, before the Russian war, and before the country’s Marxist experiment, Afghanistan used to be a far different place.
In the 1960s, Afghanistan was actively undergoing a process of modernisation and Westernization. People began dressing in western attire, men and women alike attended western-style universities, and cars crowded newly-paved roads. At the same time, Afghanistanis preserved much of traditional Afghanistani culture.
In the ’60s, amateur photographer and college professor Dr. William Podlich took a leave of absence from his job at Arizona State University to work with UNESCO in the Afghan capital of Kabul, bringing his wife and daughters with him. His son-in-law Clayton Esterson found the late doctor’s photos in 2013 and put them on the web. The response was amazing.
Esterson told the Denver Post: “Many Afghans have written comments [on our website] showing their appreciation for the photographs that show what their country was like before 33 years of war. This makes the effort to digitize and restore these photographs worthwhile.”
An earlier version of this story appeared on Business Insider.
Girls and boys in western-style universities and schools were encouraged to talk to each other freely.
... but much of Afghan culture retained its traditional dress and style. Even in Kabul, the bazaars remained the same as they had in earlier decades.
Following World War II -- which Afghanistan managed to stay out of -- the Soviets and Americans competed for rights to build Afghan roadways.
Kabul's classic architecture was maintained, giving the city a firm aesthetic and sense of identity.
Women weren't required to wear burqas -- Afghanistan wasn't quite as conservative back then. But some would still cover up by choice.
There were movie theatres, libraries, chemistry labs, and on the outskirts of Kabul, large factories churning out a variety products.
But while urban Afghanistan became modern, rural Afghanistan was still much as it had been decades before.
Afghanistan had a national identity, and a distinct national style, despite all the newfangled 'western' influence.
The wars were in the future -- but they weren't very far off. When the Soviets invaded less than two decades later, it would hasten Afghanistan's path towards becoming a very different country.
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