Some of the men who have made the headlines in 2006, as featured by the BBC News profiles unit. Click here for the women of the year.
By handing over power, albeit temporarily, to his brother Raul, Cuban leader Fidel Castro appeared to be signifying that his long rule was nearing its end. His health has deteriorated significantly, and the man who would regularly make five-hour speeches exhorting the value of the Cuban revolution, looks a shadow of his former self. Though he is respected by his people at home, Cuban exiles in Miami were overjoyed at the dictator's decline.
The murder in London of former Russian spy, Alexander Litvinenko, by way of radioactive polonium-210, has provided one of the great mysteries of 2006. His friends and associates have pointed the finger at the Kremlin, of which Litvinenko had been highly critical. One ex-colleague told the BBC that he believed Litvinenko's death was ordered because of information he held about a senior Kremlin figure. The Russian government has denied the accusations.
He was supposed to go out in a blaze of glory; his last match in football before retirement was the World Cup Final in Germany where France were taking on Italy. But Zinedine Zidane's career ended, instead, in disgrace. After being wound up by Marco Matterazzi, who admitted to insulting members of his family, Zidane lost his cool, headbutted the Italian and was immediately sent off. Italy later won the match 5 -3 on penalties.
The former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was hanged as the year drew to a close, for the killings of 148 Shia men and boys in the northern town of Dujail in 1982. His death has, predictably, proved controversial. Footage of his execution, shot on a mobile phone and posted online, show Shia officials taunting the former president, further stoking fears that his death will fuel sectarian violence.
An academic from Bangladesh, Muhammad Yunus, won the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize. Thirty years ago, Yunus founded the Grameen Bank which offers small loans to its customers. It supports around 80% of poor households in Bangladesh. The system, which has revolutionised lending to the poor, is now being considered for the people of China. The world's fastest growing economy may scrap its co-operatives in favour of a network of private banks offering micro-credit.
North Korea's unpredictable leader, Kim Jong-Il, caused a diplomatic furore in October by carrying out an underground nuclear test in the north of his country, near the Chinese border. Three years ago, North Korea, a totalitarian and financially bankrupt regime, withdrew from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Fears have been raised of a possible de-stabilising effect in the region. Observers suggest that in the long-term, Japan, for example, may reconsider its non-nuclear status.
A presenter on the BBC's Top Gear programme, Richard Hammond, survived a 300mph crash in September when the jet-powered Vampire dragster he was driving flipped over. Though seriously injured, The Hamster - as he is known, being small in statue - should make a full recovery. Hammond was transported from the crash site at a disused air strip in Elvington, to Leeds General Infirmary by air ambulance, a journey which took only 12 minutes.
The millions of fans of the Australian environmentalist, Steve Irwin, famous for his Crocodile Hunter film, were shocked when he was killed in September by a normally docile stingray. Its poisonous barb pierced his heart while he was filming a documentary on dangerous ocean creatures. Irwin's regular features on Discovery's Animal Planet show were shown in 120 countries and drew millions of viewers. His Australia Zoo in Brisbane is one of the country's major tourist attractions.
The Pakistan cricket captain, Inzamam-ul-Haq, caused a diplomatic incident in August when he instructed his fellow team members not to take the field during a match against England at The Oval. It resulted in the first forfeited Test in cricket history. Inzamam had taken umbrage at the umpires' judgement that the Pakistan team had tampered with the ball. At a subsequent tribunal, these charges were dismissed, but Inzamam was banned for four matches for bringing the game into disrepute.
England's Sikh spin bowler Monty Panesar achieved something of an unlikely cult status following his Test debut in 2006. Panesar masks were in abundance in Test crowds around the country, cheers greeted him each time he'd field on the boundary. He developed into a world-class bowler. There was surprise, therefore, when he was not picked for the first two Tests in England's dismal Ashes series. Public frustration appeared justified when, once selected, Panesar took five wickets on his first day.
Burdened with the tag "Northern Totty", Daniel Craig was not everyone's choice to play Ian Fleming's suave secret agent in Casino Royale. However critics and audience raved over his performance, equating it to that of many people's favourite Bond, Sean Connery. Craig's 007 has been described as mysterious, charming, vulnerable and tough as hell, while his six pack, emerging from the water above a skimpy pair of trunks, had numerous fans swooning in their seats.
SAYYED HASSAN NASRALLAH
Hezbollah's leader admitted in August that the capture of two Israeli soldiers would not have taken place had he been aware of the resulting Israeli action. During the conflict he shrugged off criticism from across the Arab world as his disparate group of fighters successfully countered the armour of the Israeli army. His reputation among his followers was enhanced after the ceasefire as Hezbollah distributed Iranian sourced US dollars among those who had lost property during the conflict.
The sight of their MP impersonating a cat on Big Brother turned out to be a step too far for many of Gorgeous George's constituents. Protests poured in as he lay on the floor pretending to lick cream from the hands of actress Rula Lenska. George claimed the show had raised his profile, a statement that cut little ice with people in Bethnal Green, who complained they could never reach their MP to discuss their problems.
The threat of having his alcohol problem aired on television finally led to Kennedy's departure as Lib Dem leader. Grilled about his drinking and losing the support of the majority of his MPs brought what had been a promising political career to an end. The fact that two contenders to replace him, Simon Hughes and Mark Oaten, suffered somewhat more colourful exposes of their own personal preferences was probably of little consolation.
Many in Hollywood were writing off Mel Gibson's career following anti-Semitic remarks to police while being arrested for drink driving in July. The reaction to his latest film, Apocalypto, could determine whether the maverick actor and director has a future in movies. The film, about the Maya civilisation in Mexico, has dialogue in the ancient Maya language and some gory scenes of human sacrifice. Like his earlier Braveheart, Apocalypto has already come under fire for supposed historical inaccuracies.
"The equivalent of Gretna FC beating Real Madrid on penalties," was Tommy Sheridan's reaction to his successful defamation case against the News of the World. The former Scottish Socialist leader starred in a courtroom drama which included allegations of visits to sex clubs and discussions as to the hirsuteness (or otherwise) of his back. Sheridan described the victory as a triumph for the working class against the establishment.