The Cultural Revolution began 50 years ago this week. With the stated aim of preserving true communist ideology, the movement would last a decade, lead to the death of millions (estimates vary) and throw China into turmoil. Early goals were laid out in a number of documents, one of which would become known as the May 16 Notification, which warned of class enemies within communist ranks and singled out, among others, Nikita Khrushchev …

The politician came to the fore during the power struggle that followed the death of Joseph Stalin, in 1953, and steered the Soviet Union through some of the tensest years of the cold war. Inevitably, though, his star waned and, in 1964, he was pensioned off with an apartment in Moscow and a dacha in the countryside. Khrushchev died of a heart attack on September 11, 1971, and, having been denied a state funeral and thus interment in the Kremlin, was buried in Moscow's Novodevichy Cemetery, the eventual resting place of Nikolai Gogol …

Both Russia and Ukraine claim the dramatist, novelist and short-story writer as one of their own. He was born, in March 1809, in the Poltava Governorate, in what is now Ukraine but was then the Russian empire, and as a child wrote poetry in both languages. When he died, in 1852, he was buried face-down in Moscow's Danilov Monastery, but his remains were moved on in 1931, with those of several other writers, artists and scientists. Gogol's novel Dead Souls inspired a song of the same name by British band Joy Division and his very being has instilled itself into New York-based gypsy punks Gogol Bordello …

Originally known as Hütz and the Béla Bartóks, the band's name was changed by its Ukrainian-born leader, Eugene Hütz, because "nobody knows who the hell Béla Bartók is in the United States". Having released such memorable records as Multi Kontra Culti vs Irony, East Infection and Super Taranta!, the band have also appeared in films, including Everything is Illuminated (2005), in which Hütz co-stars with Elijah Wood …

You may have missed it, but the American actor's big-screen debut was a bit part in 1989's Back to the Future Part II, although by then he had appeared in a Paula Abdul music video and a television film, when that particular art form was still looked down upon. As a teenager, the lad who would become Frodo Baggins took on the role of Mikey Carver in The Ice Storm (1997), one of a number of films dealing with repressed emotion directed by Ang Lee …

Lee is the first person of Asian descent to have won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and a Bafta for best director, and is the only director to have won the Golden Bear and Golden Lion multiple times. Before all the accolades, however, came Pushing Hands (1992), the Taiwanese-American's first feature film, about an elderly Chinese grandfather in New York who, as a tai chi teacher, had been persecuted in Beijing during the Cultural Revolution.