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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Day In a Page

Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
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Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star