Balkh Province

Balkh Province

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Balkh is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan
Provinces of Afghanistan
The provinces of Afghanistan are the primary administrative divisions of Afghanistan. As of 2004, there are thirty-four provinces in the country. Each province is further divided into smaller districts....

. It is in the north of the country and its name derives from the ancient city of Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

, near the modern town. Its capital is Mazar-e Sharif
Mazar-e Sharif
Mazār-i-Sharīf or Mazār-e Sharīf is the fourth largest city of Afghanistan, with a population of about 375,000 as of 2006. It is the capital of Balkh province and is linked by roads to Kunduz in the east, Kabul in the south-east, Herat to the west and Uzbekistan to the north...

.

Geography



Balkh Province is situated in the northern part of Afghanistan, bordering Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

 in the North, Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

 in the North-East, Kunduz Province in the East, Samangan Province
Samangan Province
Samangan is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. The province covers and has a population of approximately 313,211, as of 2006.Its capital, Samangan, is known for its ancient ruins including, notably, the Takht e Rostam...

 in the South-East, Sar-e Pol Province
Sar-e Pol Province
Sar-e Pol, also spelled Sari Pul , is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the north of the country. Sar-e-Pul Province is situated between the central highlands and the northern Turkmen plains. Sar-e-Pul borders Ghor and Baniyan provinces to the south, Faryab, Jawzjan and...

 in the South-West and Jowzjan Province
Jowzjan Province
Jowzjān or Jōzjān or Jawzjan is one of the thirty-four provinces of Afghanistan. It is in the north of the country. Its capital is Sheberghan.- Demographics :...

 in the West. The province covers an area of 16,840 km2. Nearly half of the province is mountainous or semi mountainous terrain (48.7%) while half of the area (50.2%) is made up of flat land.

History



Balkh has an incredibly long and rich history, its name is derived from "Bakht" meaning "fortunate" in Persian. After the invasion of Alexander the Great's Greek Army, the city was made the capitol of the Bactrian Empire. The invading Arab armies called the city "Uhm al-Balad" or "mother of all cities."

Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC)



The Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex
Bactria-Margiana Archaeological Complex
The Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age culture of Central Asia, dated to ca. 2300–1700 BC, located in present day Turkmenistan, northern Afghanistan and northeastern Iran, southern Uzbekistan and western Tajikistan, centered on...

 (BMAC, also known as the "Oxus civilization") is the modern archaeological designation for a Bronze Age
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is a period characterized by the use of copper and its alloy bronze as the chief hard materials in the manufacture of some implements and weapons. Chronologically, it stands between the Stone Age and Iron Age...

 culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 of Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

, dated to ca. 2200–1700 BCE, located in present day Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan
Turkmenistan , formerly also known as Turkmenia is one of the Turkic states in Central Asia. Until 1991, it was a constituent republic of the Soviet Union, the Turkmen Soviet Socialist Republic . Turkmenistan is one of the six independent Turkic states...

, northern Afghanistan, southern Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan , officially the Republic of Uzbekistan is a doubly landlocked country in Central Asia and one of the six independent Turkic states. It shares borders with Kazakhstan to the west and to the north, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to the east, and Afghanistan and Turkmenistan to the south....

 and western Tajikistan
Tajikistan
Tajikistan , officially the Republic of Tajikistan , is a mountainous landlocked country in Central Asia. Afghanistan borders it to the south, Uzbekistan to the west, Kyrgyzstan to the north, and China to the east....

, centered on the upper Amou Darya (Oxus), in area covering ancient Bactria. Its sites were discovered and named by the Soviet archaeologist Viktor Sarianidi
Viktor Sarianidi
Viktor Ivanovich Sarianidi or Victor Sarigiannides is a well-known Soviet archaeologist of Pontic Greek descent. He discovered the remains of a Bronze Age culture in the Karakum Desert in 1976...

 (1976). Bactria was the Greek name for the area of Bactra (modern Balkh
Balkh
Balkh , was an ancient city and centre of Zoroastrianism in what is now northern Afghanistan. Today it is a small town in the province of Balkh, about 20 kilometers northwest of the provincial capital, Mazar-e Sharif, and some south of the Amu Darya. It was one of the major cities of Khorasan...

), in what is now northern Afghanistan, and Margiana was the Greek name for the Persian satrapy of Margu
Margu
Margu was a satrapy of the Achaemenid Empire. The ruler who lost a Bactrian revolt is mentioned as a Margian in the Behistun inscriptions of ca. 515 BCE by Darius Hystaspis. It is not mentioned as a satrapy in the inscription, because it was included in a larger satrapy of the empire...

, the capital of which was Merv
Merv
Merv , formerly Achaemenid Satrapy of Margiana, and later Alexandria and Antiochia in Margiana , was a major oasis-city in Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, located near today's Mary in Turkmenistan. Several cities have existed on this site, which is significant for the interchange of...

, in today's Turkmenistan.

The early Greek historian Ctesias
Ctesias
Ctesias of Cnidus was a Greek physician and historian from Cnidus in Caria. Ctesias, who lived in the 5th century BC, was physician to Artaxerxes Mnemon, whom he accompanied in 401 BC on his expedition against his brother Cyrus the Younger....

 c. 400 BCE (followed by Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus
Diodorus Siculus was a Greek historian who flourished between 60 and 30 BC. According to Diodorus' own work, he was born at Agyrium in Sicily . With one exception, antiquity affords no further information about Diodorus' life and doings beyond what is to be found in his own work, Bibliotheca...

) alleged that the legendary Assyrian king Ninus
Ninus
Ninus , according to Greek historians writing in the Hellenistic period and later, was accepted as the eponymous founder of Nineveh , Ancient capital of Assyria, although he does not seem to represent any one personage known to modern history, and is more likely a conflation of several real and/or...

 had defeated a Bactrian king named Oxyartes in ca. 2140 BC, or some 1000 years before the Trojan War
Trojan War
In Greek mythology, the Trojan War was waged against the city of Troy by the Achaeans after Paris of Troy took Helen from her husband Menelaus, the king of Sparta. The war is among the most important events in Greek mythology and was narrated in many works of Greek literature, including the Iliad...

. Ever since the discovery of cuneiform
Cuneiform
Cuneiform can refer to:*Cuneiform script, an ancient writing system originating in Mesopotamia in the 4th millennium BC*Cuneiform , three bones in the human foot*Cuneiform Records, a music record label...

 enabled actual Assyrian records to be deciphered in the 19th century, however, historians have ascribed little value to the Greek account.

According to some writers, Bactria was the homeland of Indo-European
Indo-European
Indo-European may refer to:* Indo-European languages** Aryan race, a 19th century and early 20th century term for those peoples who are the native speakers of Indo-European languages...

 tribes who moved south-west into Iran and into North-Western India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 around 2500–2000 BCE. Later, it became the north province of the Persian Empire in Central Asia
Central Asia
Central Asia is a core region of the Asian continent from the Caspian Sea in the west, China in the east, Afghanistan in the south, and Russia in the north...

. It was in these regions, where the fertile soil of the mountainous country is surrounded by the Turan
Turan
Tūrān is the Persian name for Central Asia, literally meaning "the land of the Tur". As described below, the original Turanians are an Iranian tribe of the Avestan age. As a people the "Turanian" are one of the two Iranian peoples both descending from the Persian Fereydun but with different...

ian desert, that the prophet Zoroaster
Zoroaster
Zoroaster , also known as Zarathustra , was a prophet and the founder of Zoroastrianism who was either born in North Western or Eastern Iran. He is credited with the authorship of the Yasna Haptanghaiti as well as the Gathas, hymns which are at the liturgical core of Zoroastrianism...

 (Zarathushtra) was said to have been born and gained his first adherents. Avestan, the language of the oldest portions of the Zoroastrian
Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism is a religion and philosophy based on the teachings of prophet Zoroaster and was formerly among the world's largest religions. It was probably founded some time before the 6th century BCE in Greater Iran.In Zoroastrianism, the Creator Ahura Mazda is all good, and no evil...

 Avesta
Avesta
The Avesta is the primary collection of sacred texts of Zoroastrianism, composed in the Avestan language.-Early transmission:The texts of the Avesta — which are all in the Avestan language — were composed over the course of several hundred years. The most important portion, the Gathas,...

, was one of the old Iranian languages, and is the oldest attested member of the Eastern Iranian branch of the Iranian language family. Pashtuns and Tajiks are the modern-day descendants of the ancient Bactrians, evidence of this has been illustrated through DNA testing. Linguistically speaking, the Pashto Language
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

 itself contains many ancient Greek words now virtually extinct from modern day Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

.

Achaemenid Empire



Bactria has belonged to Iranian empires since a very early stage, in fact it is suggested by E. Herzfeld
Ernst Herzfeld
Ernst Emil Herzfeld was a German archaeologist and Iranologist.-Life:Herzfeld was born in Celle, Province of Hanover...

 that Bactria belonged to the Median empire. And it was annexed to the Persian Empire
Achaemenid Empire
The Achaemenid Empire , sometimes known as First Persian Empire and/or Persian Empire, was founded in the 6th century BCE by Cyrus the Great who overthrew the Median confederation...

 by Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 in 6th century BCE and together with Margiana it formed the twelfth satrapy of Persians. After Darius III of Persia
Darius III of Persia
Darius III , also known by his given name of Codomannus, was the last king of the Achaemenid Empire of Persia from 336 BC to 330 BC....

 had been defeated by Alexander the Great and killed in the ensuing chaos, his murderer Bessus
Bessus
Artaxerxes V, also known as Bessus was a prominent Persian nobleman and satrap of Bactria, and later self-proclaimed king of Persia...

, the satrap of Bactria, tried to organize a national resistance based on his satrapie but was captured by other warlords and delivered to Alexander. He was then tortured and killed.

Alexander the Great and the Seleucid Empire


Alexander conquered Sogdiana
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

 and Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. However, in the south, beyond the Oxus, he met strong resistance. After two years of war Bactria became a province
Province
A province is a territorial unit, almost always an administrative division, within a country or state.-Etymology:The English word "province" is attested since about 1330 and derives from the 13th-century Old French "province," which itself comes from the Latin word "provincia," which referred to...

 of the Macedonian empire, but Alexander never successfully subdued the people. After Alexander's death, the Macedonian empire was eventually divided up between generals in Alexander's army. Bactria became a part of the Seleucid Empire
Seleucid Empire
The Seleucid Empire was a Greek-Macedonian state that was created out of the eastern conquests of Alexander the Great. At the height of its power, it included central Anatolia, the Levant, Mesopotamia, Persia, today's Turkmenistan, Pamir and parts of Pakistan.The Seleucid Empire was a major centre...

, named after its founder, Seleucus I
Seleucus I Nicator
Seleucus I was a Macedonian officer of Alexander the Great and one of the Diadochi. In the Wars of the Diadochi that took place after Alexander's death, Seleucus established the Seleucid dynasty and the Seleucid Empire...

.

The Macedon
Macedon
Macedonia or Macedon was an ancient kingdom, centered in the northeastern part of the Greek peninsula, bordered by Epirus to the west, Paeonia to the north, the region of Thrace to the east and Thessaly to the south....

ians (and especially Seleucus I, and his son Antiochus I
Antiochus I Soter
Antiochus I Soter , was a king of the Hellenistic Seleucid Empire. He reigned from 281 BC - 261 BC....

), established the Seleucid Empire, and founded a great many Greek town
Town
A town is a human settlement larger than a village but smaller than a city. The size a settlement must be in order to be called a "town" varies considerably in different parts of the world, so that, for example, many American "small towns" seem to British people to be no more than villages, while...

s in eastern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

, and the Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 became dominant for some time there.

The paradox that Greek presence was more prominent in Bactria than in areas far closer to Greece can possibly be explained by the supposed policy of Persian kings to deport unreliable Greeks to this the most remote province of their huge empire.

Greco-Bactrian Kingdom



"The famed Bactrian Empire of a thousand cities, wallowing in wealth (opulentissimum illud mille urbium Bactrianum imperium)"



The many difficulties against which the Seleucid kings had to fight and the attacks of Ptolemy II of Egypt gave Diodotus, satrap of Bactria, the opportunity to declare independence (about 255 BCE) and conquer Sogdiana
Sogdiana
Sogdiana or Sogdia was the ancient civilization of an Iranian people and a province of the Achaemenid Empire, eighteenth in the list on the Behistun Inscription of Darius the Great . Sogdiana is "listed" as the second of the "good lands and countries" that Ahura Mazda created...

. He was the founder of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
The Greco-Bactrian Kingdom was the easternmost part of the Hellenistic world, covering Bactria and Sogdiana in Central Asia from 250 to 125 BC...

. Diodotus and his successors were able to maintain themselves against the attacks of the Seleucids—particularly from Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great
Antiochus III the Great Seleucid Greek king who became the 6th ruler of the Seleucid Empire as a youth of about eighteen in 223 BC. Antiochus was an ambitious ruler who ruled over Greater Syria and western Asia towards the end of the 3rd century BC...

, who was ultimately defeated by the Romans
Roman Republic
The Roman Republic was the period of the ancient Roman civilization where the government operated as a republic. It began with the overthrow of the Roman monarchy, traditionally dated around 508 BC, and its replacement by a government headed by two consuls, elected annually by the citizens and...

 (190 BCE).

The Greco-Bactrians were so powerful that they were able to expand their territory as far as India:
"As for Bactria, a part of it lies alongside Aria towards the north, though most of it lies above Aria and to the east of it. And much of it produces everything except oil. The Greeks who caused Bactria to revolt grew so powerful on account of the fertility of the country that they became masters, not only of Bactria and beyond, but also of India, as Apollodorus of Artemita
Apollodorus of Artemita
Apollodorus of Artemita was a Greek writer of the 1st century BCE.Apollodorus wrote a history of the Parthian Empire, the Parthika , in at least four books. He is quoted by Strabo and Athenaeus. Strabo stated that he was very reliable. Apollodorus seems to have used the archives of Artemita and...

 says: and more tribes were subdued by them than by Alexander...."


The Greco-Bactrians used Greek language
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 for administrative purposes, and the local Bactrian language
Bactrian language
The Bactrian language is an extinct Eastern Iranian language which was spoken in the Central Asian region of Bactria. Linguistically, it is classified as belonging to the middle period of the East Iranian branch...

 was also Hellenized, as suggested by its adoption of the Greek alphabet and Greek loanwords. In turn, some of these words were also borrowed by modern Pashto
Pashto language
Pashto , known as Afghani in Persian and Pathani in Punjabi , is the native language of the indigenous Pashtun people or Afghan people who are found primarily between an area south of the Amu Darya in Afghanistan and...

, the language of Afghanistan.

Indo-Greek Kingdom


Main article: Indo-Greek Kingdom
Indo-Greek Kingdom
The Indo-Greek Kingdom or Graeco-Indian Kingdom covered various parts of the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent during the last two centuries BC, and was ruled by more than 30 Hellenistic kings, often in conflict with each other...



The Bactrian king Euthydemus
Euthydemus
-People:*Euthydemus , a fleet commander for Athens during the Sicilian Expedition, 415 to 413 BC*Euthydemus, son of Cephalus, mentioned in Plato's Republic...

 and his son Demetrius
Demetrius I of Bactria
Demetrius I was a Buddhist Greco-Bactrian king . He was the son of Euthydemus and succeeded him around 200 BC, after which he conquered extensive areas in what now is eastern Iran, Afghanistan and Pakistan thus creating an Indo-Greek kingdom far from Hellenistic Greece...

 crossed the Hindu Kush and began the conquest of Northern Afghanistan and the Indus valley. For a short time, they wielded great power: a great Greek empire seemed to have arisen far in the East. But this empire was torn by internal dissensions and continual usurpations. When Demetrius advanced far into India one of his generals, Eucratides, made himself king of Bactria, and soon in every province there arose new usurpers, who proclaimed themselves kings and fought against each other.

Most of them we know only by their coins, a great many of which are found in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India. By these wars, the dominant position of the Greeks was undermined even more quickly than would otherwise have been the case. After Demetrius
Demetrius
Demetrius, also spelled as Demetrios, Dimitrios, Demitri, and Dimitri , is a male given name.Demetrius and its variations may refer to the following:...

 and Eucratides, the kings abandoned the Attic standard of coinage and introduced a native standard, no doubt to gain support from outside the Greek minority.

In India, this went even further. The Indo-Greek king Menander I
Menander I
Menander I Soter "The Saviour" was one of the rulers of the Indo-Greek Kingdom from either 165 or 155 BC to 130 BC ....

 (known as Milinda in India), recognized as a great conqueror, converted to Buddhism. His successors managed to cling to power until the last known Indo-Greek ruler, a king named Strato II, who ruled in the Punjab region
Punjab region
The Punjab , also spelled Panjab |water]]s"), is a geographical region straddling the border between Pakistan and India which includes Punjab province in Pakistan and the states of the Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Chandigarh and some northern parts of the National Capital Territory of Delhi...

 until around 55 BCE. Other sources, however, place the end of Strato II's reign as late as 10 CE.

Sakas, Yuezhis and Sassanids



The weakness of the Greco-Bactrian empire was shown by its sudden and complete overthrow, first by the Sakas, and then by the Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

 (who later became known as Kushans), who had conquered Bactria by the time of the visit of the Chinese envoy Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty...

 (circa 127 BCE), who had been sent by the Han
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

 emperor to investigate lands to the west of China.

Kujula Kadphises, the Guishuang xihou (or prince) of the Da Yuezhi, united the region in the early 1st century and laid the foundations for the powerful, but short-lived, Kushan Empire
Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire originally formed in the early 1st century AD under Kujula Kadphises in the territories of ancient Bactria on either side of the middle course of the Oxus in what is now northern Afghanistan, Pakistan, and southern Tajikistan and Uzbekistan.During the 1st and early 2nd centuries...

 (1st to 3rd century CE), which was then overcome by the Sassanians from Persia.

Contacts with China



The name Daxia appears in Chinese from the 3rd century BCE to designate a mythical kingdom to the West, possibly a consequence of the first contacts with the expansion of the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom, and then is used by the explorer Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian
Zhang Qian was an imperial envoy to the world outside of China in the 2nd century BCE, during the time of the Han Dynasty...

 in 126 BCE to designate Bactria.

The reports of Zhang Qian were put in writing in the Shiji ("Records of the Grand Historian") by Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 in the 1st century BCE. They describe an important urban civilization of about one million people, living in walled cities under small city kings or magistrates. Daxia was an affluent country with rich markets, trading in an incredible variety of objects, coming as far as Southern China. By the time Zhang Qian visited Daxia, there was no longer a major king, and the Bactrian were suzerains to the nomadic Yuezhi
Yuezhi
The Yuezhi, or Rouzhi , also known as the Da Yuezhi or Da Rouzhi , were an ancient Central Asian people....

, who were settled to the north of their territory beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Overall Zhang Qian depicted a rather sophisticated but demoralized people who were afraid of war.

Following these reports, the Chinese emperor Wu Di was informed of the level of sophistication of the urban civilizations of Ferghana, Bactria and Parthia
Parthia
Parthia is a region of north-eastern Iran, best known for having been the political and cultural base of the Arsacid dynasty, rulers of the Parthian Empire....

, and became interested in developing commercial relationship with them:
"The Son of Heaven on hearing all this reasoned thus: Ferghana (Dayuan
Dayuan
The Dayuan or Ta-Yuan were a people of Ferghana in Central Asia, described in the Chinese historical works of Records of the Grand Historian and the Book of Han. It is mentioned in the accounts of the famous Chinese explorer Zhang Qian in 130 BCE and the numerous embassies that followed him into...

) and the possessions of Bactria (Daxia) and Parthia (Anxi) are large countries, full of rare things, with a population living in fixed abodes and given to occupations somewhat identical with those of the Chinese people, but with weak armies, and placing great value on the rich produce of China" (Hanshu, Former Han History).


These contacts immediately led to the dispatch of multiple embassies from the Chinese, which helped to develop the Silk Road
Silk Road
The Silk Road or Silk Route refers to a historical network of interlinking trade routes across the Afro-Eurasian landmass that connected East, South, and Western Asia with the Mediterranean and European world, as well as parts of North and East Africa...

.

Governance


The current governor of Balkh is Atta Muhammad Nur.

Administrative divisions


The province is divided into 15 districts.
align=center style="background:#BFD7FF"| Districts of Balkh Province
District Capital Population Area Notes
Balkh  97,055
Chahar Bolak
Chahar Bolak District
Chahar Bolak district is located in the western part of Balkh Province. Its capital is the village of Chahar Bolak 40 km northwest of Mazari Sharif....

 
69,975
Chahar Kint  32,306
Chimtal
Chimtal District
Chimtal District is located in the western part of Balkh province, Afghanistan. The estimated population of Chimtal in 2004 was around 81,311. The capital is Chimtal ....

 
81,311
Dawlatabad
Dawlatabad District
Dawlatabad District is located in the northwestern part of Balkh province, Afghanistan. The population is over 94,000 people. The capital is the city of Dawlatabad at 298 m height above the sea level.-Not to be confused with:...

 
79,638
Dihdadi
Dihdadi District
Dihdadi District is situated in the central part of Balkh province, Afghanistan. It is not far from the capital of the province Mazari Sharif - about 15 km in eastern direction from the district capital Dihdadi ....

 
66,009
Kaldar
Kaldar District
Kaldar is a small district in the northern part of Balkh Province, Afghanistan. The northern and the eastern border of the district is the large Amu Darya river. North of the river is Uzbekistan and east is Tajikistan. The main village, also called Kaldar, is in the northeastern part of the...

 
17,932
Khulmi  49,207
Kishindih
Kishindih District
Kishindih district is the southernmost district in Balkh province. Its capital is Kishindinh Bala, situated in the northern part of the district....

 
49,083 Sub-divided in 2005
Marmul
Marmul District
Marmul is a small district, located in the central part of Balkh province. The capital Marmul is in its southern end on the border with the Chahar Kint district....

 
9,510
Mazar-e Sharif  375,181
Nahri Shahi
Nahri Shahi District
Nahri Shahi is a large district of Balkh Province, Afghanistan around the capital district Mazari Sharif....

 
38,791
Sholgara
Sholgara District
Sholgara is a district in the southern part of Balkh Province, Afghanistan. It is located at a crossroads between several districts, just south of Mazari Sharif...

 
85,269
Shortepa
Shortepa District
Shortepa is a small district in Balkh Province, Afghanistan. It is situated along the Amu Darya river, close to the border with Uzbekistan. The main village is Shor Tappeh at 274 m altitude.-External links:*...

 
30,314
Zari
Zari District
Zari is a district in Balkh Province, Afghanistan. It was created in 2005 from part of Kishindih District....

 
42,367 Created in 2005 within Kishindih District
Kishindih District
Kishindih district is the southernmost district in Balkh province. Its capital is Kishindinh Bala, situated in the northern part of the district....


Demographics



Balkh has a total population of 1,123,948. The major ethnic groups living in Balkh province are
Tajik followed by Pashtun
Pashtun people
Pashtuns or Pathans , also known as ethnic Afghans , are an Eastern Iranic ethnic group with populations primarily between the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan and the Indus River in Pakistan...

, Uzbek
Uzbeks
The Uzbeks are a Turkic ethnic group in Central Asia. They comprise the majority population of Uzbekistan, and large populations can also be found in Afghanistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Pakistan, Mongolia and the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of China...

, Hazara, Turkmen
Turkmen people
The Turkmen are a Turkic people located primarily in the Central Asian states of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and northeastern Iran. They speak the Turkmen language, which is classified as a part of the Western Oghuz branch of the Turkic languages family together with Turkish, Azerbaijani, Qashqai,...

, Arab
History of Arabs in Afghanistan
The history of Arabs in Afghanistan spans over one millennium, from the 7th century Islamic conquest when Arab ghazis arrived with their Islamic mission until recently when others from the Arab world arrived to defend fellow Muslims from the Soviet followed by their liberation by NATO forces...

 and Baloch
Baloch people
The Baloch or Baluch are an ethnic group that belong to the larger Iranian peoples. Baluch people mainly inhabit the Balochistan region and Sistan and Baluchestan Province in the southeast corner of the Iranian plateau in Western Asia....

. The languages spoken are Dari Persian (50%), Pashto (27%), Turkmen
Turkmen language
Turkmen is the national language of Turkmenistan...

 (11.9%) and Uzbek
Uzbek language
Uzbek is a Turkic language and the official language of Uzbekistan. It has about 25.5 million native speakers, and it is spoken by the Uzbeks in Uzbekistan and elsewhere in Central Asia...

 (10.7%).

Sport


Buzkashi
Buzkashi
Buzkashi or Kok-boru or Oglak Tartis or Ulak Tartysh is a traditional Central Asian...

 is a traditional horse riding sport of the region and is very popular in this province. Other sports played is football, while cricket
Cricket
Cricket is a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players on an oval-shaped field, at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. One team bats, trying to score as many runs as possible while the other team bowls and fields, trying to dismiss the batsmen and thus limit the...

 is growing in popularity in recent years. The Province is represented in domestic competitions by the Balkh Province cricket team.