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(both: kăn'dəhär`), city (1989 est. pop. 203,000), capital of Kandahar prov., S Afghanistan. The country's second largest city and chief trade center, Kandahar is a market for sheep, wool, cotton, food grains, fresh and dried fruit, and tobacco. It has an international airport and is linked by road with Kabul, Herat, Quetta, and the nations of Central Asia. Woolen cloth, felt, and silk are manufactured. The surrounding irrigated region produces fine fruits, especially grapes, and the city has plants for canning, drying, and packing fruit.

The old city was laid out by Ahmad ShahAhmad Shah
, c.1723–1773, Afghan ruler (1747–73), founder of the Durani dynasty. His success in commanding Afghan forces in India for Nadir Shah of Iran won him the rule of Afghanistan on Nadir's death (1747).
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 during the 18th cent. and is dominated by his octangular, domed mausoleum. There are also numerous mosques (one said to contain the Prophet Muhammad's cloak) and bazaars. Modern Kandahar adjoins the old city. It has a technical college. Together with Peshawar, Pakistan, Kandahar is the principal city of the PashtoPashto
, Pushtu
, or Afghan,
language belonging to the Iranian group of the Indo-Iranian subfamily of the Indo-European family of languages. See Indo-Iranian languages.
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 people, and it was the religious headquarters of the Taliban, the austere Islamic fundamentalist movement.

Kandahar was founded by Alexander the GreatAlexander the Great
or Alexander III,
356–323 B.C., king of Macedon, conqueror of much of Asia. Youth and Kingship

The son of Philip II of Macedon and Olympias, he had Aristotle as his tutor and was given a classical education.
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 (4th cent. B.C.). India and Persia long fought over the city, which was strategically located on the trade routes of central Asia. It was conquered by Arabs in the 7th cent. and by the Turkic Ghaznavids in the 10th cent. Jenghiz KhanJenghiz Khan
or Genghis Khan
, Mongolian Chinggis Khaan, 1167?–1227, Mongol conqueror, originally named Temujin. He succeeded his father, Yekusai, as chieftain of a Mongol tribe and then fought to become ruler of a Mongol confederacy.
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 sacked it in the 12th cent., after which it became a major city of the Karts (Mongol clients) until their defeat by TimurTimur
or Tamerlane
, c.1336–1405, Mongol conqueror, b. Kesh, near Samarkand. He is also called Timur Leng [Timur the lame]. He was the son of a tribal leader, and he claimed (apparently for the first time in 1370) to be a descendant of Jenghiz Khan.
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 in 1383. BaburBabur
[Turk.,=lion], 1483–1530, founder of the Mughal empire of India. His full name was Zahir ud-Din Muhammad. A descendant of Timur (Tamerlane) and of Jenghiz Khan, he succeeded (1494) to the principality of Fergana in central Asia.
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, founder of the Mughal empire of India, took Kandahar in the 16th cent. It was later contested by the Persians and by the rulers of emerging Afghanistan, who made it the capital (1748–73) of their newly independent kingdom. British forces occupied Kandahar during the First Afghan War (1839–42) and from 1879 to 1881. During the Soviet military occupation of 1979–89, Kandahar was the site of a Soviet command. A major prize, it changed hands several times until the fall of the Najibullah government in 1992. The Kandahar area has been the scene of significant fighting between Taliban and its allies and U.S. forces and their allies since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



a city in southern Afghanistan, in the foothills of the spurs of the Western Hindu Kush, on the important Kabul-Kandahar-Herat transportation route. Administrative center of Kandahar Province. Population, 130, 200 (1970). The city is the center of one of the main fruit-growing oases of the country, producing pomegranates, apricots, almonds, and grapes. Kandahar is a commercial center of extensive livestock-raising regions in the south and west of the country; there is trading in carpets, astrakhan, hides, and leather. The city has a wool-weaving factory and a fruit cannery, as well as a historical and ethnographic museum.

The founding of Kandahar is attributed to Alexander the Great. It became an important city in the 12th and 13th centuries. In the 13th century it was controlled successively by Genghis Khan and the rulers of the Kurt dynasty. At the end of the 14th century, the city was subjugated by Timur and then by his successors. In the 16th and 17th centuries, as an important commercial and strategic point, Kandahar was the object of a struggle between the Safavids and the Great Moguls. The city came under the authority of the Safavids in the mid-17th century. The populace of Kandahar and its region rose up against the Safavids in 1709, leading to the formation of the Ghilzai principality, with its administrative center in Kandahar. The city was attacked and destroyed by Nadir Shah Afshar in 1738, and a city named Nadirabad was built nearby. The city was built up anew by Ahmad Shah Durrani, named Ahmad Shah (present-day Kandahar), and made the capital of the Durrani State until 1773–74, when the capital was moved to Kabul. Ahmad Shah’s mausoleum, which dates from the 18th century, remains intact. The city was the administrative center of the Kandahar principality from 1818 to 1855. Dost Muhammad seized Kandahar in 1855 and made it part of the Afghan state.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a city in S Afghanistan: an important trading centre, built by Ahmad Shah Durrani (1724--73) as his capital on the site of several former cities. Pop.: 436 000 (2005 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005