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History and Current Affairs: An Evening with Alexander Podrabinek, Journalist and Rights Activist

This event is IN RUSSIAN. 

Born in Moscow in 1953, journalist and rights activist Alexander Podrabinek began his activities as an active member of the dissident movement, even before starting his working life as a medical auxiliary. In the 1970s he helped to expose the abuse of psychiatry for political purposes, publicising the plight of those in “special” psychiatric hospitals, despite constant surveillance and threats of reprisal. Publication abroad of Podrabinek’s Punitive Medicine in Russian (1977) led to his prosecution and a 5-year term of banishment to North East Siberia; a sentence of 3 ½ years in a corrective labour camp followed the appearance of the English edition in 1980.


Under Gorbachev’s perestroika Podrabinek immediately pushed beyond the limits of “glasnost”. In 1987 he started publishing Express Chronicle, an independent uncensored weekly of reports from former dissidents all over the Soviet Union. Alexander Podrabinek was the lynchpin of the enterprise: generating articles from old acquaintances and new; writing trenchant editorials himself; seeking the funds to hire “office” space (a series of basements in central Moscow) and pay his staff; while trying to find somewhere in the USSR that would print his newspaper.


Over the next decade the media landscape of Russia and its political system underwent considerable change. Many rights activists became involved in a variety of semi-official bodies - the network of Ombudsmen and women in all parts of the country, the Presidential Council for Civil Society and Human Rights – but not Podrabinek. To preserve his freedom to criticise and question particular policies or individuals, he distanced himself from such commitments.


With disconcerting signs of a return to the past since 2000, his uncompromising stance has gained Alexander a wider audience and greater authority. Over the past decade Podrabinek has been invited to write for a variety of news outlets (Novaya gazeta, the and Yezhednevny journal ( websites) and to present a regular programme on Radio France International.


In 2014 Dissidents (Moscow, ACT publishers), a book of his memoirs was published, and a short novel Kletochnikov (No 2, Zvezda magazine, 2014), about the legendary KGB insider who helped the dissidents.