Jihad Museum – Herat, Afghanistan - Atlas Obscura

Jihad Museum

Museum dedicated to overthrowing the Soviets, complete with diorama of Soviets being beaten to death with shovels. 


Ismail Khan, a politician and former Mujahideen fighter spent vast amounts of his own fortune to create the Jihad Museum. Khan, along with many others in Herat, the city where the Soviets were defeated in the 1980s, believed the museum was necessary to educate a generation without a frame of reference about the uprising against the Soviet Union.

Ostensibly, education is the goal of the museum. However, shock value seems to better sum up the collections and displays in the museum. Constructed in 2010, the museum is filled with paraphernalia from the insurrection and more notably, shocking dioramas depicting the violence. One model even shows and glorifies Soviets being executed in the dirt from point blank range. Another paint and model display shows Soviet soldiers splayed across tanks while being beaten to death with shovels.

Along with the grisly dioramas, the museum also hosts a collection of weapons from the era. Russian uniforms are scattered about along with old AK-47s and allegedly, active land mines. Outside of the museum, the collection also has Russian helicopters and fighter jets, surrounded by a well kept garden on the grounds.

Although a great deal of the museum seems intended to shock with gratuitous violence, there are some less graphic depictions of the Afghans’ struggle. The museum contains some old photographs of young Mujahideen fighters, some of whom still work at the museum today and have personal beliefs and reservations about their time fighting the Soviets.

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