Travel Passengers dine in the restaurant car of the Red Arrow to St Petersburg

For 150 years the railway line between Moscow and St Petersburg ran as straight as an arrow for 403 miles. Straight, but for one big bend near Novgorod. The story goes that Tsar Nicholas was so fed up of officials dithering over the route that he plonked a ruler on the map and drew a straight line between the two cities, accidentally drawing around his finger in the process. Too terrified to point out his error, the builders constructed the railway with the Tsar's bump in place.

Get me out of here: Madrid, St Petersburg, Reykjavik

Now... Departing on 6 August, there's a three-night city break to Madrid being offered by easyJet Holidays for £149 per person. The price includes flights from Gatwick and B&B at the smart, centrally-located Petit Palace Alcala Torre hotel, close to the lively cafés and upmarket shops of the Gran Vía. The Royal Palace and Almudena cathedral are within reach nearby. Holidays.easyjet.com

Catherine the Great's influence felt at new Edinburgh art show

Empress Catherine the Great demonstrates her powerful and enduring cultural influence over Russia in a new art exhibit at Scotland's National Museum that opened today.

The Queen of Spades, Grange Park, Hampshire
Così fan tutte, Holland Park, London

This impressive staging of Tchaikovsky's opera manages to be both playful, and deadly serious

Ksar Char Bargh, Marrakech: 'It was an oasis of elegance and tranquillity. The hammam was unforgettable'

Marina Salye: Distinguished geologist who became a vociferous opponent of Putin

Marina Salye was a geologist of considerable repute, locating mineral deposits in the furthest and least hospitable reaches of the Soviet Union and producing dozens of academic papers and six monographs. But she came to prominence as a pugnacious and eloquent leader of the perestroika-era democratic movement in Leningrad, and as a sharp critic of Vladimir Putin ever since she uncovered gross financial malpractice in his St Petersburg office in the early 1990s.

Gay rights activists protest in St Petersburg with banners reading 'Homophobia is a shame on the State'

St Petersburg: Gay communities living in fear

As Russia launches a new legal crackdown, homosexuality is becoming a love that dare not speak its name

St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra / Temirkanov, Barbican Hall, London

When you are arguably the greatest violinist in the world a four-year “time out” from the public arena can seem like an eternity.

Madonna at the Super Bowl

Madonna pledges to speak up for gay rights

Madonna faces a showdown with the Russian legal system after she promised yesterday to speak out against a new law prohibiting "homosexual propaganda" in St Petersburg.

Madonna vows to fight anti-gay laws in concert

Madonna faces a showdown with the Russian legal system after she promised today to violate a new law that prohibits "homosexual propaganda" in the city of St Petersburg.

Foreign Secretary, William Hague, has denied that he opposed the health reforms

Russia vote 'needs investigating' says William Hague

Foreign Secretary William Hague called today for allegations of irregularities in Russia's presidential elections to be "thoroughly investigated".

Leading article: Mr Putin must not stifle this chance for change

When a misty-eyed Vladimir Putin celebrated his election victory with supporters in Moscow on Sunday, he said: "We have won in an open and honest battle." That is not what the OSCE observers concluded. In their preliminary report, they said that while the actual voting was well organised and efficient, the campaign was "clearly skewed" in Mr Putin's favour, "and the process deteriorated during the count due to procedural irregularities". Golos, an independent Russian election watchdog, said the polls could not be considered "fair and open".

Thousands contest Vladimir Putin's victory at Moscow rally

Thousands of Russians gathered today for a massive rally to challenge Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's victory in Russia's presidential election, chanting "Shame!" and "Russia without Putin!"

Britain 'keen' to see Russian election reports

Britain is awaiting the reports of independent election observers “with interest” after Vladimir Putin claimed victory at the Russian polls.

Britain 'keen' to see Russian election reports

Britain is awaiting the reports of independent election observers “with interest” after Vladimir Putin claimed victory at the Russian polls.

Army of volunteer monitors is mobilised to help make vote-rigging a thing of the past

The calls came every few seconds yesterday to the headquarters of Citizen Monitor, where dozens of telephone operators sat in booths hired from a call centre for the weekend. The operators were all volunteers, as were the 4,000 or so monitors that the organisation had posted around Moscow to watch over the vote at various polling stations.

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The Doctor and Clara have their first real heart to heart since he regenerated in 'Deep Breath'
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Apple showed no sign of losing its talent for product launches with the new, slightly larger iPhone 6 making headlines
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The official police photograph of Dustin Diamond taken after he was arrested in Wisconsin
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Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
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Ashley Barnes of Burnley scores their second goal
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Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca alongside Harrison Ford's Han Solo in 'Star Wars'
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Man of action: Christian Bale stars in Exodus: Gods and Kings
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Day In a Page

Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
Spain
Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

A timely reminder of the bloody anniversary we all forgot

Who remembers that this week we enter the 150th anniversary year of the end of the American Civil War, asks Robert Fisk
Homeless Veterans appeal: Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served

Homeless Veterans appeal

Former soldiers pay their respects to a friend who also served
Downfall of Dustin 'Screech' Diamond, the 'Saved By The Bell' star charged with bar stabbing

Scarred by the bell

The downfall of the TV star charged with bar stabbing
Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Why 2014 was a year of technological let-downs

Security breaches and overhyped start-ups dominated a year in which very little changed (save the size of your phone)
Cuba's golf revolution: But will the revolutionary nation take 'bourgeois' game to its heart?

Will revolutionary Cuba take 'bourgeois' golf to its heart?

Fidel Castro ridiculed the game – but now investment in leisure resort projects is welcome
The Locked Room Mysteries: As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor Otto Penzler explains the rules of engagement

The Locked Room Mysteries

As a new collection of the genre’s best is published, its editor explains the rules of engagement
Amy Adams on playing painter Margaret Keane in Tim Burton's Big Eyes

How I made myself Keane

Amy Adams hadn’t wanted to take the role of artist Margaret Keane, because she’d had enough of playing victims. But then she had a daughter, and saw the painter in a new light
Ed Richards: Parting view of Ofcom chief. . . we hate jokes on the disabled

Parting view of Ofcom chief... we hate jokes on the disabled

Bad language once got TV viewers irate, inciting calls to broadcasting switchboards. But now there is a worse offender, says retiring head of the media watchdog, Ed Richards
A look back at fashion in 2014: Wear in review

Wear in review

A look back at fashion in 2014
Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015. Might just one of them happen?

Ian Herbert: My 10 hopes for sport in 2015

Might just one of them happen?
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?