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.

Letter: No faith in Stalin

Sir: I wonder why it is that when people like Mark Steel (Comment, 21 December) decide to attack the Christian faith they always illustrate their arguments by describing the least Christ-like people they know. If I were proposing to attack atheism I would not take Joseph Stalin as my model. Perhaps they are implicitly acknowledging that Jesus was right after all.

Arts: Retouched by the hand of God

...or at least by Stalin's ideologues. But is it art? The composer Michael Nyman thinks so and has set it to music.

Letter: Secret Stalinists

Sir: Thanks to Mark Steel ("The Stalinists who sobered up and focused on Mr Blair", 9 November) I now realise that the over 50 per cent of British people who still support the current government are a bunch of raving Stalinist thugs wedded to the oppression of individual freedom, suppression of dissent and the committing of mass murder whenever the chance arises. I can't for the life of me work out how I managed to miss these obvious truths for so long.

The Stalinists who sobered up and focused on Mr Blair

`The only tenable stance was to support those battling against injustice in both East and West'

Last of the Stalins dies at 57

NADEZHDA STALIN, the granddaughter of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin, died of cancer yesterday. She was 57.

This elderly Stalinist is just a relic of a bygone age

`Sometimes it seems to me the entire intelligence business is just one gigantic practical joke'

Books: Revolution in a French accent

Reports from Moscow suggest that Lenin's pickled corpse may be leaving Red Square at last. His ideals, and his apostles, also seem to have gone for good. But were the obituaries premature? By Robin Blackburn (below) and Robert Service (centre) apitalism. By Charles Shaar Murray Fiction's wayward wizard takes on global capitalism. By Charles Shaar MurrayThe Passing of an Illusion: the idea of communism in the twentieth century by Francois Furet University of Chicago Press, pounds 25, 702pp

The critics- cinema: Stalinism the Romany way

Black Cat White Cat

Monday Book: A battle between Marx and Freud


Obituary: Anatoli Rybakov

ONE OF the most compelling aspects of the last years of the Soviet Union was the erosion of authority and credibility of the Communist Party, a process initiated and fostered by the party itself. Some 18 months after Gorbachev's accession to the leadership, his ideological adviser, Alexander Yakovlev, was given the Politburo's assent to switch off the red light in intellectual and cultural life, and to leave it on amber, rather than green. Henceforth, it should be writers and their editors who would, for the most part, decide what to publish.

Is this justice or revenge?

Poland wants to extradite a Holocaust survivor, now living in Oxford, for the alleged murder of a wartime hero.

Georgians honour Stalin's birth


Obituary: Valentin Berezhkov

VALENTIN BEREZHKOV was a Russian diplomat who translated for Joseph Stalin and other Soviet officials during crucial Second World War conferences. Once freed from the constraints of Soviet historiography, he earned a good living recounting his experiences of the man he considered a great leader.

Classical: The sound of fury

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