ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 2006 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

Volume 52, No 3 - Fall 2006
Editor of this issue: Mykolas Drunga

Afghanistan 1985 - 2005

Jonas Dovydenas

Lithuania and Afghanistan are two very different countries, but they share one of the great misfortunes of the twentieth century: both were victims of Soviet ambition; both were massively invaded; and both mounted a fierce guerilla resistance. One difference was that Soviet Communism was at the height of its power after World War Two. The Western Allies were well aware of that power, but Lithuanians were encouraged to resist anyway. Nothing else, however, was offered. The miracle was that the freedom fighters in Lithuania held out for almost seven years.

By 1979, when the Red Army invaded Afghanistan, Communism had corroded the Soviet Union to the core, but it lingered on as a dead man walking for another twelve years. America's help to the seven resistance groups who fought the Red Army never wavered until it withdrew in defeat. The magnitude of the victory was apparent only when it became clear that it was one of the primary causes of the collapse of the USSR. In a way, then, the mujahideen and their American enablers also liberated Lithuania.

In the lurch of history, America's attention was distracted from events in the region, and what should have been a time of reconstruction became a time of devastating conflict. The Taliban represented an aberrant form of Islam to most Afghans, although at first the extremists did seem to offer a hope for stability in the wake of Soviet chaos. In 2001, after 9/1 t the excesses of the Taliban brought the Americans back to Afghanistan, this time directly as liberators and then peacekeepers - a burden the Americans continue to bear to this day.

These photographs were taken during three trips I made to Afghanistan in 1985 and 1989 and five more over the last two years. My purpose was to show what is positive and good in Afghan society. The love of freedom, the devotion to a pastoral way of life, the positive aspects of peaceful village life, the familiar human expressions in my portraits of the Afghan people-these are my subject. I am not oblivious to the problems of Afghan society, but I leave them for someone else to portray fairly, if that is at all possible.


JONAS DOVYDENAS, freelance photographer was born in Kaunas, Lithuania in 1939.

His photos have appeared in American Photographer, Time, National Geographic Adventure, Playboy, Chicago, Aviation Week, Smithsonian Air and Space and many other magazines. Books featuring his illustrations are: Faces; Chicago Houses; Nevada: A Journey and The Cruise of the Vanadis by Edith Wharton (2004).

Major collections of his photographs are held by the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art/Chicago, the Library of Congress, the International Center of Photography in New York and a number of other art institutions. Solo exhibitions of his work were featured at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago, the Library of Congress, Vilnius, Lithuania; Bratislava, Slovenia; and Poznan, Poland.

Alan Artner in The Chicago Tribune states: "The strength [of Dovydenas's work] is its humane tone. Everything is viewed with enormous understanding and the quality of life we thought we knew turns out to be different ... As a contemporary man, he stands back a little, coolly surveying the scene."

The author in the White Mountains between Afghanistan and Pakistan, 1985



Election Posters, Kabul, 2000.


Afghan Special Forces patrol, Asadabad, 2004.


Young Freedom Fighter, 1985.


Mujahideen group, Kunar province. 1985.


Mujahideen, Kunar province. 1985.


Haji Qadir's camp, Tora Bora, 1985.


Camp Phoenix, Kabul, 2004.


Marine, US Embassy, Kabul, 2004.


Marines near Jalalabad, 2005.


Marine, near Jalalabad, 2005.


Helicopter pilot, Kandahar, 2004.


American soldier, Kandahar, 2004.


A girl in an outdoor classroom, Narang village, 2004.


Schoolgirl, Chagadcharan, 2005.


Tirinkot, 2004.

Village children, 2005.