Vitaliev, Vitali 1954-

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VITALIEV, Vitali 1954-


Born 1954, in Kharkov, Ukraine, USSR (now Kharkov, Ukraine); immigrated to England, January 31, 1990, immigrated to Australia, naturalized citizen; son of a nuclear physicist and a chemical engineer; married, third wife's name, Jacinta; children: Andrei, Anya, Alina. Education: Kharkov University, B.A.


Office—The Herald, 200 Renfield St., Glasgow G2 3QB, Scotland.


Journalist in former USSR, 1981-90; print and television journalist in Australia and Great Britain; Herald, Glasgow, Scotland, writer-at-large, 2002—. Producer of television documentaries, including My Friend Little Ben, British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC1), 1990, and The Train to Freedom, Channel 4 (London, England), 1994. Guest on television shows in England, including Have I Got News for You, BBC, Saturday Night Clive, and Europe Direct, BBC World. Radio reporter for Breakaway, Radio 4 (London, England).


Golden Calf Literary Award (USSR); five Krokodil awards for journalism; Journalist of the Year honorary diploma (USSR), 1987; Ilf and Petrov prize for satirical journalism (USSR), 1989.


King of the Bar, Pravda Publishers (Moscow, USSR), 1987.

Investigating Perestroika, Arrow Books (New York, NY), 1990, published as Special Correspondent: Investigating in the Soviet Union, Hutchinson (London, England), 1990.

Dateline Freedom: Revelations of an Unwilling Exile, Hutchinson (London, England), 1991.

Vitali's Australia, Random House Australia (Milsons Point, New South Wales, Australia), 1991.

(With Derek Kartun) The Third Trinity, Hodder & Stoughton (London, England), 1993.

Little Is the Light: Nostalgic Travels in the Mini-States of Europe, Touchstone Books (New York, NY), 1995.

Dreams on Hitler's Couch, Richard Cohen Books (London, England), 1997.

Vitali Vitaliev, Vintage/Ebury (New York, NY), 1997.

Borders Up!: Eastern Europe through the Bottom of a Glass, Scribner (New York, NY), 1999.

Also author, with Kartun, of Ikonen-Mafia. Contributor to periodicals, including Granta, Ogonyok, Age, Literaturnaya Gazeta, Nedelya, Krokodil, Punch, Guardian, Spectator, European, and London Daily Telegraph.


Vitali Vitaliev defected from the former Soviet Union in 1990 after a decade of award-winning work as an investigative journalist in Moscow. Equipped with fluent English—learned during his college days when he wanted to be an interpreter—Vitaliev immigrated first to England and then to Australia, where he established himself as a reporter and essayist for English-language periodicals and newspapers. Although a citizen of Australia, Vitaliev has spent much of his recent career in the United Kingdom as a contributor to such periodicals as Guardian, Punch, and Spectator and as a writer-at-large for the Glasgow, Herald. He is well known for his travel writings, his on-air commentary for the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), and his regular appearances on the popular British television show Saturday Night Clive. Glasgow Herald correspondent Lorna Martin observed that Vitaliev's work in various media provides "a fresh, funny, and unique look at nationalism, cultural identity, and what it takes to create a country."

The son of a nuclear physicist and a chemical engineer, Vitaliev grew up in the Ukraine while it was still a state in the Soviet Union. He studied English and French in college and worked briefly as an interpreter and translator before turning to journalism in 1981. While still in the Soviet Union, his work appeared in the satirical magazine Krokodil as well as other periodicals, and he became known as a reporter who challenged the KGB and the Russian mafia. In 1990, fearing for his safety, he fled with his family to London. From there he traveled to Australia and began a new phase of his career.

In an interview with the Glasgow Herald, Vitaliev said that he had a hard time adjusting to "western liberties." He spent money lavishly, traveled nonstop, and bought more books, magazines, and newspapers than he could possibly read. "Unknowingly, I was suffering from freedom bulimia," he said. Fortunately, he was able to write vividly not only about his travels, but also about his life in the former Soviet Union and about political changes in that troubled country. He became something of a celebrity when host Clive James recruited him as Moscow correspondent for Saturday Night Clive, and since then has been productive as both a television and a print journalist.

Reviewers of his books have observed that Vitaliev can be humorous without resorting to cynicism. In a Globe magazine piece on the author's Borders Up!: Eastern Europe through the Bottom of a Glass, Andrew Varley wrote that Vitaliev "looks at humanity in all its splendour and vulnerability.…The strength and resilience of the human spirit in appalling or absurd circumstances shines through his invigorating prose." Times Literary Supplement contributor Anne Applebaum, in her review of the same title, maintained of Vitaliev, "There is a joyfulness in his writing that is hard to find elsewhere: the joy of a former citizen of the closed Soviet Union on the loose abroad, the joy of a non-English-speaker writing in English, the joy of a naturally humorous person confronted with endlessly amusing people and places." Martin concluded that Vitaliev "belongs to a rare group of people who can write with brilliance, humour, and style in a second language, to point out our foibles and idiosyncrasies and even enable us to laugh at ourselves in the process."



Birmingham Post (Birmingham, England), May 1, 1999, Charlie Hill, "Booze Cruise Goes East," p. 60.

Herald (Glasgow, Scotland), December 6, 2002, Lorna Martin, "The Vitali Spark in Search of a Storm," p. 14.

New Statesman & Society, August 16, 1991, Susan Richards, "Gangsters of Glasnost," p. 37.

Times Literary Supplement, October 29, 1999, Anne Applebaum, "Of Vines and Vodka."


Globe online, (1999), Andrew Varley, "Arise, Ye Starvelings, from Your Slumbers!"*