Russian journalist fears high-level death threat
Alexander Podrabinek has been driven into hiding after he wrote an article critical of defenders of the Soviet legacy. Maria Eismont reports
29 Sep 09

Alexandr Podrabinek has been driven into hiding after he wrote an article critical of defenders of the Soviet legacy. Maria Eismont reports

Russian journalist Alexandr Podrabinek said he has trustworthy information that his life is in danger after he wrote an article critical of Russia’s Soviet past. He has gone into hiding after receiving numerous threats from pro-Kremlin youth organisation Nashi.

“I got the information from reliable sources that a decision was taken on high enough level to get rid of me by any means,” wrote Podrabinek on his Livejournal blog. “Currently for security reasons I have limited my contacts. I ask all nice people who would like to but can’t communicate to excuse me.”

The intimidation campaign against Podrabinek started on 21 September after he wrote a controversial article in the Internet magazine Yezhednevnyy Zhurnal about the “Anti-Soviet” Grill House in Moscow. In the article he criticised Soviet veterans who had taken offence over the restaurant’s name, calling them “butchers” and “jailers”.

Although Podrabinek’s colleagues explained that those words were addressed to particular group of veterans who were behind the controversy over the name “Anti-Soviet”, many readers saw it as an assault on all those who have protected Soviet Union from the Germans.

The pro-Kremlin youth group Nashi have said they are going to picket Podrabinek’s Moscow’s home indefinitely to force him to apologise to Soviet veterans. They have accused him of “defiling the honour of veterans of the Great Patriotic War”. Podrabinek’s wife told Radio Svoboda her house is under siege by the Nashi and asked for help to stop this campaign of intimidation.

“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.”

Podrabinek said on his blog that while it is unlikely that Nashi are behind the death threat, it may be convenient for the real authors of the threat to blame it on the youth group.

“The authorities need Nashi and other such movements in order to say out loud what they can’t say from the stage of the state,” said Echo Moskvy radio journalist Anton Orekh.

Podrabinek’s article said Soviet history was “bloody, false and shameful”, at a time when Russia’s leadership has been trying gloss over Soviet-era abuses.