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.

Nikolai Baibakov: Stalin's oil commissar

If ever there was a round peg in a Soviet round hole, it was Nikolai Baibakov, who served as commissar for the oil industry under Joseph Stalin and was later in charge of general economic planning in the Soviet Union. He was born in 1911 in Sabunchi, near the Caspian city of Baku, the original source of the oil that has sustained so much of the Russian economy for a century, the place where Alfred Nobel and the Yusupovs became even richer, and Stalin's own proving ground as an apprentice revolutionary in 1905.

Steve Richards: If you want to understand politics, just examine the explosive education debate

Mr Balls is accused of being a Stalinist for enforcing a law supported by the Conservatives

You write the reviews: Year of the Rat, West Yorkshire Playhouse, Leeds

Written by Roy Smiles and directed by Alan Strachan, Year of the Rat depicts a fictional encounter between George Orwell, Cyril Connolly and Sonia Brownell on the Scottish island of Jura. Close friends, Connolly and Brownell were in London working on Horizon magazine (a literary "shop window") during Orwell's self-imposed exile on Jura. His bad health had forced him to convalesce, and writing Nineteen Eighty-Four required time and solitude.

Scores of civilians and US military staff feared dead as huge Albanian arms dump explodes

Scores of people, including US military staff, are feared to have died after a Soviet-era munitions dump exploded at an Albanian army base yesterday. The blast injured more than 240 people, including many children – and the country's Prime Minister, Sali Berisha, said he believed the death toll could be considerable.

Brazil's leftist president re-elected in landslide

President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was re-elected in a landslide last night as Brazilians rewarded their first working class leader for helping ease grinding poverty and improving the economy of Latin America's largest nation.

If you are dreading a month of football, read on...

There have been lamentably few escape routes over the years for the long-suffering World Cup widow. Separate homes is an option for some, but too expensive for most.

Leading article: A bigger Europe has not made sweeter music

Pity the poor people of Liechstenstein. They, along with the Czech Republic, have never submitted an entry to the Eurovision Song Contest, apparently because of a lack of available musical talent. Those who watched the contest this weekend could be forgiven for wondering how bad this paucity of musicianship must be.

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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
Sicily – seven nights from £939pp
Pompeii, Capri and the Bay of Naples - seven nights from £799pp
Istanbul Ephesus & Troy – six nights from £859pp
Mary Rose – two nights from £319pp
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

Edinburgh Fringe 2014

The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried