After a coup d'etat led by ultra-nationalist Afghan Communists in April 1978, Afghanistan - a formerly obscure Central Asian monarchy-turned-republic - became one of the most violent places in the world and the most visible refugee crisis in the world. During the course of 1979-1989, close to one third of the country's 1979 population (12 million) was either killed or driven into exile in Pakistan or Iran. Today, roughly one in four refugees in the world is an Afghan. 

This project, an addendum of sorts to Dr Timothy Nunan's dissertation and forthcoming book manuscript, Developing Powers: Modernization, Development, and Governance in Cold War Afghanistan, explores these problems of mass murder and state destruction in late Cold War Afghanistan through new digital history methodologies. Making use of novel sources of data and GIS software, this exhibit seeks to make visible some of the spatial aspects of murder, depopulation and state destruction in Communist-era Afghanistan, helping users understand the crisis of Afghanistan - and the collapse of the idea of 'Pashtunistan' - in more vivid fashion than conventional narrative techniques might allow.

At the same time, this exhibit remains a work in progress, one that - hopefully - remains to be built out and developed in cooperation with other historians of Central Asia and, ideally, Afghans themselves, whose story is only beginning to be told. Indeed, because data on killing and terror in Afghanistan during the 1980s is only now being published, this exhibit constitutes only a modest attempt to document - and perhaps play a small role in helping to overcome - the trauma and tears of thirty-plus years of killing and forced migration.

Recently Added Items

Project Bibliography


List of sources used to generate the data in this project

Map of "Pashtunistan"

HA Dinner Handout.jpg

Hand-drawn map of "Pashtunistan" and selected foreign-built developmental infrastructure in Afghanistan

Digital History Data


The data (Death Lists included) used to construct "Shattering Afghanistan."