Voices

Vladimir Putin played the role of the good tsar at his annual press conference, fielding questions, repeated declarations of grateful praise and requests to deal with unscrupulous businessmen and lazy bureaucrats. One excited journalist even credited him with an improvement in her love life, noting that she had “finally gotten married” shortly after meeting him in March.

Are you snarky or smarmy? Too much sunny side up will fry the brain

A Gawker essay has ignited a culture war on the value of niceness

To call Labour 'Stalinists' for proposing regulation is beyond absurd

Mind your back garden! The Communists are on the loose!

Russsian President Vladimir Putin speaks to the press after the annual call-in show on Russian television April

Vladimir Putin: Tycoon Boris Berezovsky asked for forgiveness in two handwritten letters

The Russian leader also denied that his new term has seen an increase in ‘Stalinist’ tendencies

Joseph Stalin hated his first son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, who surrendered to the Germans in 1941

Joseph Stalin’s hated son surrendered to the Nazis, archives reveal

Stalin is known to have despised his first son, Yakov Dzhugashvili, who is thought to have committed suicide in 1943

Karel Vas: Notorious communist prosecutor

Karel Vas, who died on 8 December at the age of 96, was a prosecutor who came to symbolise unlawful trials during the post-1948 communist takeover of Czechoslovakia. Vas was one of the state prosecutors who played a key role in show trials that used fabricated evidence to hand out death sentences to opponents of the communist regime in Czechoslovakia.

Born to rule? Scientists uncover gene that may help create natural leaders

A gene has been uncovered that may help to create born leaders.

Iron Curtain: the Crushing of Eastern Europe, 1944-56 By Anne Applebaum

A superb study in the savagery of Soviet invasion and occupation of the Eastern bloc

A museum guide shows a gold bust of the late dictator

Rebranding Stalin from hero to horror

It is an unusual way to begin a trip to a museum. "This museum is a falsification of history," reads a makeshift shiny banner placed at the grand entrance to the Stalin Museum in the Georgian city of Gori. "It is a typical example of Soviet propaganda and it attempts to legitimise the bloodiest regime in history."

Rebecca Tyrrel: Dan Aykroyd believes that aliens visit us because 'they don't dance like Mick Jagger'

Who knew that Dan Aykroyd, writer and star of Ghostbusters, has webbed toes? Who ya gonna call if you're born with two toes fused together by shared tissue? No one, that's who.

Was reaction to leader's death a result of love, fear – or a more sinister thing?

Such devotion appears to be both a survival mechanism and a product of mind control

Brain illness could have affected Stalin's actions, secret diaries reveal

Accounts by his inner circle give new insight into dictator's life

Boyd Tonkin: From murder to the marketplace

The week in books

How, over nearly eight decades of thinking and writing, Eric Hobsbawm tried to change the world

The Marxist historian died today. In this review for the Independent on Sunday, first published last February, the Editor examined Hobsbawm's philosophy

A Day That Shook The World: Big Three meet at Yalta

On 12 February 1945 a communiqué was issued at the Yalta Conference announcing the carve-up of soon-to-be-defeated Germany and parts of Eastern Europe.

Russia blames Polish pilot for Kaczynski air crash

Russian investigators yesterday pinned much of the blame for the plane crash which killed the Polish President last year on the chief of his air force who had been drinking and ordered the crew to land in terrible weather conditions.

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Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...