Unease over US exit in Afghan valley where Soviets were routed

Thirty years on, former mujahideen fighters recount the days of battling the Red Army in Afghanistan after the Soviet Union invaded the country in December 1979. The Soviets left the country for good on February 15, 1989 having suffered 15,000 losses — many in the unforgiving mountain passes of Panjshir.

Today in History for August 23rd

(23 Aug 2018) Highlights of this day in history: Nazis and Soviets sign a non-aggression pact on eve of World War II; Sacco and Vanzetti executed; Defrocked priest John Geoghan killed; Movie star Rudolph Valentino and Broadway’s Oscar Hammerstein die. (Aug. 23)

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How Putin Is Using The Orthodox Church To Build His Power (HBO)

Vladimir Putin’s victory in last week’s Russian presidential elections came as no surprise. Putin has spent much of the past two decades building an enduring and loyal following in Russia, and alliances with some of the country’s most powerful institutions — none, perhaps, more important that the Russian Orthodox Church, which has fully embraced his leadership.

It’s all part of a dramatic turnaround for the Church, which just 30 years ago was only a marginal force in Russian society. The Soviets had sought to stamp out organized faith, stripping religion from education, arresting clergymen, and ordering the destruction of many of Russia’s grand cathedrals, including one, Christ the Savior, that was demolished to make room for a public pool.

But under Putin, the Church has been making a comeback. More than 70% of Russians today identify as Russian Orthodox, up from 30% at the end of the Soviet Union. And huge swaths of land have been transferred back to religious ownership, with thousands of new churches being built or restored — at a rate of almost three a day, by church figures. And Putin, by building loyalty among the leaders of a cherished institution, has arguably been the greatest beneficiary of this largesse.

VICE News Tonight went to Moscow to ask Church leaders, and experts on the role of religion in society, how the church’s resurrection has played into Putin’s gambit for everlasting power.

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Once a shrine to Lenin, his birthplace city seeks a new identity

As the birthplace of Lenin, Ulyanovsk was particularly affected by the anti-religious policies of the Soviets. Most of the city’s Orthodox churches were destroyed, but today the landscape looks radically different.