Planetary nebulae are the classic subject of astrophysics. The physical pro cesses occurring in this highly ionized gaseous medium, the formation of emis sion lines in clearly specified conditions, the continuous emission extending from the far ultraviolet up to infrared and radio frequencies, the generation of exotic forms of radiation predicted by atomic physics, along with methods for deciphering the observed spectra and detecting physical and kinematic parameters of the radiating medium, etc. - all these problems form the solid foundations of the physical theory of gaseous nebulae. They are an essential part of the arsenal of powerful tools and concepts without which one cannot imagine understanding and interpreting the enormous diversity of processes taking place in the Universe - in gaseous envelopes surrounding the stars of various classes, from cool dwarfs and flare stars up to hot supergiants, as well as in stellar chromospheres and coronae, in atmospheres of unstable and anomalous stars, in circumstellar clouds and gaseous shells born in nova and supernova explosions, in diffuse nebulae and the interstellar medium, in interacting binary systems, in galaxies with emission lines, in quasars, etc. The last thirty years have seen a turning-point in our knowledge concern ing the very nature of planetary nebulae (PNs). The radio emission of PNs was discovered after it was predicted theoretically. On the other hand, the powerful infrared emission discovered both in the continuum and in emission lines was never expected.