Nuristân: Hidden Land of the Hindu-Kush [map]

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Author's Preface

This site contains previously unpublished material on the linguistics and ethnography of Nuristân and neighboring regions, collected and analyzed by Richard F. Strand since 1967. Funding for the author's field research in Nuristân, Afghânistân, and Pâkistân was provided in part by the following institutions: the Fulbright Foundation (1991-92), the Smithsonian Institution (1980, 1984-85), The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (1972), Brown University (1971), Cornell University (1966-69, 1970), and Teachers College, Columbia University (1967-69 ).

All contents of this site are Copyright © 1997-2021 by Richard F. Strand. No part of these contents may be reproduced or redistributed by any means without written consent of the author.

Peoples of Nuristân

Vâsi Western Kâta Âṣkuňu Saňu Gřâmsaňâ Eastern Kâta Momo Kom Kṣto Kalaṣa Tregâmî
Peoples of Nuristân Map

Where is Nuristân, and Who Cares?

The region called Nuristân is one in a chain of ethnic refuge areas that line the mountains of the Indian Plate collision zone from Afghânistân to Southeast Asia. Nuristân lies in the Hindu Kush mountains of northeastern Afghânistân, spanning the basins of the Alingâr, Pech, Landai Sin, and Kunar rivers. It is the homeland of a unique group of Indo-European-speaking tribal peoples, now called Nuristânis, who fled and resisted Islâm as it spread eastward. In 1895-96 the Nuristânis were finally conquered by the Afghân armies of Âmir Abdur Rahmân Khân, and the people were obliged to abandon their ancient religious beliefs in favor of Islâm.

Nuristânis are today such devout Muslims that they were the first citizens of Afghânistân to successfully revolt against the communist overthrow of their government in 1978. Their success inspired others throughout the country to rise up and bleed the Soviet Union to death through thirteen years of war. The straw that broke the Soviet Union's back sprouted in Nuristân, and we must acknowledge the pivotal historical role that the Nuristânis played in nurturing the seed.