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Published in Stream:
Russia Update: January 13, 2016
Press by
The Interpreter
Russian-to-English translation journal, with original analysis and commentary on Russia's foreign & domestic policy.
Prominent Putin Critic Vladimimr Pribylovsky, Co-Author of The Corporation, Found Dead in Moscow
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Vladimir Pribylovsky, a political commentator and co-author with Yuri Felshtinsky of The Corporation: Russia and the KGB in the Age of President Putin, was found dead in his apartment today by his son, Mikhail Pribylovsky, reported, citing Business FM

His son had not heard from him in three days and went to check on him and found his body. He had no details on the cause of death, which he said would be reported after an autopsy is completed.

The state-owned TASS news agency reported that there were no signs of violence, citing a source in law-enforcement (translation by The Interpreter):

The body of Pribylovsky was discovered today without outward signs of a violent death at 01:15 am Moscow time in the apartment at no. 40, Dubinskaya Street. The cause of death is being determined.

Pribylovsky was said to be working on another major critical work about Putin for a Western publisher at the time of his death.

A long-time respected independent historian of Russia's extremist movements, political elites, and intelligence services, Pribylovsky was president of the Panorama Information Research Center, founded in the perestroika era of the 1980s. He was also founder of the Internet portal, which contained unofficial dossiers on officials and was closed by the government in 2009.  Pribylovsky was the author, co-author or editor of more than 40 books

He was often consulted for his insights on power struggles within the Kremlin and wrote frequently on changes in the top leadership of Russia.

The suddenness of his death and the subject matter of his research has prompted speculation that he may have been murdered. Blogger Andrei Malgin who was forced to leave Russia, said in a post on LiveJournal today:

"I don't know the circumstances, but I am certain he was murdered. He would have turned 60 on March 6."
But Pribylovsky might well have died of natural causes as he was known to have suffered from diabetes, and an old friend said he was not looking well when he just saw him. He noted that recently Pribylovsky had trouble making ends meet after his dismissal from Kommersant, and requested friends help his son with the funeral costs.

Pribylovsky was fired from Kommersant Vlast last year, where he had a daily column called "Resignations and Appointments," supposedly due to a "reorganization" and "low ratings" of his column, but colleagues believed it was due to censorship. Pribylovsky responded sardonically on his Facebook page.

2016-01-13 10:42:10

Translation by The Interpreter:

"Of course the rating of the column was low since my efforts to reduce its (the rubric's) super-seriousness with an ironical tone, and to dilute it with curiosities or episodes 'containing signs of corruption' were cut off at the root. Even citations from Wikipedia, about a deputy from United Russia who was killed in 2013, a doctor of law (Gadzhi Makhachev) who had served 3 years in prison on three criminal charges -- for rape, theft and heavy bodily damage -- were cut out from my [column] during editing."

In 2007, the prosecutor searched Pribylovsky's apartment in connection with an investigation on charges of "divulging of state secrets" regarding his publication on the site of materials on the murder of Anatoly Trofimov, former head of the Moscow office of the FSB, and his wife. His computer and rough drafts of the book The Corporation were seized. Nevertheless, he was later able to publish the book in the US in 2009 and in Russia in 2010 and then a second edition in 2012.

Pribylovsky was also known for his wit; he was founder of a spoof organization called "Subtropical Russia" whose goal was to "raise the temperature in Russia" so that "the banana republic can grow bananas" and was on the list of candidates for the "Beer Lovers' Party."

Currently "Vladimir Pribylovsky" is a topic trending on Moscow Twitter.

One curious incident we could note is that several days ago, we noticed that a duplicate account with the name "Vladimir Pribylovsky" had been made on Facebook on December 22. We sent a friendship request -- as did some 200 other friends -- and asked whether this was really his account. While the friendship request was accepted, no answer to our question was received. The last posts on this account were January 8, about the death of the GRU chief Igor Svergun and a post asking why Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's wife had not been seen in public.

Meanwhile, Pribylovsky's, last posts on the account known to be his  were dated December 21 about State Duma members' resistance to the state budget; the NKVD's arrest and execution of people in order to seize their apartments, and a question about why there were so many explosions in Russia lately. His last post on his LiveJournal blog was December 22, 2015, about the Magnitsky case.

Pribylovsky was born in Moscow and educated in Chistopol, Tatarstan and graduated from the history department of Moscow State University. He first became involved in dissident activity in 1979 as he was close to the "Young Socialists" group who published the samizdat journal Levy Povorot (Left Turn) for which they were arrested. He was also involved in the nyeformaly (informal) movement and the Club of Social Initiatives in the 1980s  and together with Sergei Mitrokhin, now in the Yabloko party, Vyacheslav Igrunov, now a Duma depty and others founded the Moscow Public Bureau for Information Exchange (M-BIO) to distribute independent reports on history and current events.

For many years he worked for Panorama, the independent research center and then authored a series of books on political movements and parties in Russia as well as maintained the site, which maintained a mirror presence after it was closed. (The site is currently not working but a Google cache version can be accessed.) Pribylovsky was also the translator of George Orwell's Animal Farm into Russian, published both in Russia and the US.

 -- Catherine A. Fitzpatrick