September 27, 2009 - Updated on January 20, 2016

Journalist in hiding after getting death threats for criticising defence of Soviet Union

Reporters Without Borders is very worried for the safety of freelance journalist and human rights activist Alexandr Podrabinek, who has gone into hiding after getting death threats over a controversial article about the current government’s defence of the Soviet Union despite its crimes against the Russian people. The Moscow correspondent of the French public radio station Radio France Internationale, Podrabinek also writes for Novaya Gazeta (the newspaper that journalist Ana Politkovskaya worked for at the time of her murder) and edits the human rights news agency Prima ( “This hate campaign against Podrabinek, which has even included calls for his death, must stop at once,” Reporters Without Borders said. “The authorities must appeal for calm and curb this outburst of fury. A man’s life and respect for free expression in Russia are both at stake. This episode highlights how difficult it is in Russia today to challenge the official version of what happened during the Soviet era.” A former political prisoner, Podrabinek wrote his controversial article for the news website on 21 September. It referred to the Soviet regime’s crimes against the Russian people and criticised the way apparatchiks in the present-day government are defending the Soviet Union’s image in the people’s collective memory. The article has triggered an angry reaction from Russian “patriotic” movements, and a campaign against Podrabinek has been orchestrated in newspapers and online. The websites of youth movements that support Prime Minister Vladimir Putin such as Nashi (Ours!) and United Russia Young Guard (which is linked to Putin’s party) have been pumping out hate slogans against the article and Podrabinek, some of them of a racist and anti-semitic nature. They have also posted his phone number and urged people to call him. People have gone to Novaya Gazeta headquarters in Moscow asking after him, and some individuals have tried to get into his home posing as postmen or couriers. In an interview for Radio Svoboda on 25 September, his wife, Alla Podrabinek, said the entire family was the target of a “campaign of intimidation” that had been organised “either on the direct orders of the Russian authorities or with at least their tacit accord.” Podrabinek is currently holed up in a secret location.