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These tribes later migrated further into South Asia, Western Asia, and toward Europe via the area north of the Caspian Sea. The religion Zoroastrianism is believed by some to have originated in what is now Afghanistan between 1800 and 800 BCE, as its founder Zoroaster is thought to have lived and died in Balkh.Ancient Eastern Iranian languages may have been spoken in the region around the time of the rise of Zoroastrianism.By 1996 most of Afghanistan was captured by the fundamentalist Islamic group the Taliban, who ruled most of the country as a totalitarian regime for almost five years.
Afghanistan is a unitary presidential Islamic republic with a population of 35 million, mostly composed of ethnic Pashtuns, Tajiks, Hazaras and Uzbeks.
It is a member of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the Group of 77, the Economic Cooperation Organization, and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Therefore, Afghanistan translates to land of the Afghans or, more specifically in a historical sense, to land of the Pashtuns.
However, the modern Constitution of Afghanistan states that "[t]he word Afghan shall apply to every citizen of Afghanistan." Excavations of prehistoric sites by Louis Dupree and others suggest that humans were living in what is now Afghanistan at least 50,000 years ago, and that farming communities in the area were among the earliest in the world.
An important site of early historical activities, many believe that Afghanistan compares to Egypt in terms of the historical value of its archaeological sites.
The country sits at a unique nexus point where numerous civilizations have interacted and often fought.
By the middle of the 6th century BCE, the Achaemenids overthrew the Medes and incorporated Arachosia, Aria, and Bactria within its eastern boundaries.
An inscription on the tombstone of Darius I of Persia mentions the Kabul Valley in a list of the 29 countries that he had conquered.
In the late 1970s, Afghanistan in a series of coups first became a socialist state and then a Soviet Union protectorate.
This evoked the Soviet-Afghan War in the 1980s against rebels.
Many empires and kingdoms have also risen to power in Afghanistan, such as the Greco-Bactrians, Kushans, Hephthalites, Kabul Shahis, Saffarids, Samanids, Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khaljis, Kartids, Timurids, Mughals, and finally the Hotak and Durrani dynasties that marked the political origins of the modern state.