Voices Pope Francis: 'I ask you to ensure that humanity is served by wealth and not ruled by it'

Is he doomed to play the role of Mikhail Gorbachev to an organisation long as secretive as the Kremlin?

Russians on red alert as rouble is reinvented

Nerves are jangling in Russia over tomorrow's introduction of the new rouble. As Phil Reeves reports from Moscow, it comes at a jittery time.

Reagan Reborn: ... while Gorby gets the blame for everything

History, in all its perversity, could hardly have dealt two more different hands. While a befuddled Ronald Reagan totters towards republican sainthood, the man on the other side of the Cold War parapets, Mikhail Gorbachev, is held in about as much affection by his kith and kin as a door-to-door encyclopaedia salesman at 6am on a Sunday morning.

Celebrity Advertising: There's no escape from the world of the global commercial

It is the year 2012. There is a Teletubbies revival and Baby Spice has just taken over as the new landlady of the Queen Vic Internet Salon in EastEnders. Tony Blair is still everywhere. He may no longer be Prime Minister but he appears regularly on our TV screens advertising a new chain of restaurants, Planet Politics. Having already done rather well out of endorsing private health care plans, he, Bill Clinton and Lionel Jospin have got together a nice little franchise in which you can eat turkey burgers - the last remaining cow was publicly executed several years ago amidst a display of digitally mastered world leaders.

Gorbachev is latest star in Pizza Hut TV ad

Politics is an unforgiving game. One day you are changing history, overseeing the end of the Cold War, bringing down the Berlin Wall and getting to keep the nuclear button by your bed. Next thing you know you're lining up with the likes of Pamela Anderson and Gareth Southgate to appear in a fast-food commercial.

Book: Tsar to commissar

A History of Twentieth-Century Russia by Robert Service Allen Lane, pounds 25; The terror may have vanished into history, but Communism still has a grip on Russian life

Why tomorrow should not be as predictable as Today

Who sets the agenda, the 'Today' programme or the politicians? Robert Hanks believes the Today team need to look beyond Westminster for some refreshment

Games: The Ignobel prizes

Last weekend, in a ceremony at Harvard University, the annual "Ig Nobel" Prizes were awarded. Named after Alfred Nobel's justly little- known brother Ignatius (allegedly the inventor of soda pop) the Ig Nobel prizes are awarded to academics whose works the other Nobel committee have chosen to IgNore. The Medicine prize, for example, went to two Wilkes University researchers for their discovery that listening to music in lifts stimulates the production of immunoglobin in the brain and thus may help prevent the common cold. The Economics prize went to the Japanese inventors of the Tamagotchi "for its contribution to economics by wasting millions of working hours".

Is aid to Russia academic?

As Blair and Yeltsin meet in Moscow, Peter Koenig asks if the pounds 4bn spent on Western consultants has been a good use of taxpayers' money

Eight centuries of the `wet' city

1147 (ish): Small outpost established on the banks of the marshy Moscow River. The name derives from an old Slavic word meaning "wet".

As the British mainland's most westerly arm, Ardnamurchan is off the tourist map. But for those who make the journey, writes Steve Crawshaw, the peninsula's natural beauty is matched only by its tranquillity

It seemed that Scottish holidays and I were not destined to be a happy match. Six years ago, what promised to be a blissful fortnight on the island of Arran was interrupted on the second day by the radio headlines, which woke us with annoyingly dramatic news. "The Soviet leader, Mikhail Gorbachev, has been overthrown in a coup," I heard through my half-sleep. I was responsible for The Independent's coverage of Russia at the time. I told myself for as long as I could that it was probably just a dream. Eventually, however, I was forced to confront reality. By the time I stumbled downstairs, a message was lying on the kitchen table. "Please phone office urgently." Arran, it was nice to know you.

Freddie Starr ate your mortgage

Real celebrities in advertisements don't come cheap, but often they're worth it. So says Ron Mowlam, but he would, wouldn't he? By Serena Mackesy

A LAW UNTO HIMSELF

Adrian Turpin talks back to CLIVE ANDERSON

HIDDEN DEPTHS

Actor RUTGER HAUER talks with James Rampton

Blair bridges the divide

Lady Thatcher's invitation to No 10 reveals one big difference between her and the new occupant, says Donald Macintyre
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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
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Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
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A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all