Alexander Goldfarb (biologist)

Alexander Davidovich Goldfarb (a.k.a. Alex Goldfarb, Russian: Александр Давидович Гольдфарб; born 1947 in Moscow) is a Russian-American microbiologist, activist, and author. He emigrated from the USSR in 1975 and studied in Israel and Germany before settling permanently in New York in 1982. Goldfarb is a naturalized American citizen.[1] He has combined a scientific career as a microbiologist with political and public activities focused on civil liberties and human rights in Russia, in the course of which he has been associated with Andrei Sakharov, George Soros, Boris Berezovsky, and Alexander Litvinenko.[2] He has not visited Russia since 2000.[1]

Alexander Davidovich Goldfarb
Alexander Goldfarb.jpg
Alexander Goldfarb in 2007
Born (1947-05-23) May 23, 1947 (age 76)
Moscow, Russia
Alma materMoscow State University (1969)
Occupation(s)Microbiologist, Activist, Author
Known forCo-founder of Litvinenko Justice Foundation

Scientific careerEdit

Goldfarb studied biochemistry at Moscow State University and graduated in 1969. After graduation, he worked at the Kurchatov Institute of Atomic Energy in Moscow.[3] He emigrated from the USSR in 1975. He received a Ph.D. in 1980 from the Weizmann Institute in Israel. Back in the west, he continued his research with a post-doctoral program at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Martinsried, Germany. From 1982 to 1991 he was an assistant professor at Columbia University in New York.[4] From 1992 to 2006 he was a faculty member at the Public Health Research Institute in New York where he led a U.S. government-funded study "Structure and Function of RNA Polymerase in E. coli" with a total budget of $7 million.[5] He also directed the project "Treating Multi-drug-resistant tuberculosis in Siberian Prisons" funded by a $13 million grant from philanthropist George Soros.[6]


After he emigrated, Goldfarb maintained contact with dissidents in the Soviet Union and was a spokesman for Moscow refuseniks.[7] He translated for Andrei Sakharov at press conferences in advance of his 1975 Nobel Peace Prize and helped organize the first American television appearance of Sakharov when Mikhail Gorbachev released the physicist from internal exile.[8][9] From 1984 to 1986 Soviet authorities refused Goldfarb's father permission to leave the USSR after their unsuccessful attempt to make him collaborate and entrap American journalist Nicholas Daniloff.[10][11][12]

Goldfarb was among the first political emigres to return to the Soviet Union after Gorbachev launched his reforms.[13] Impressions of his first visit in October 1987 were published as a cover story in The New York Times magazine under the title "Testing Glasnost. An Exile Visits his Homeland".[14]

The story caught the attention of US philanthropist George Soros, leading to a decade-long association between the two men. According to Soros' biographer Robert Slater, Goldfarb was among the first group of Russian exiles in New York whom Soros invited to brainstorm his potential Foundation in Russia.[15] In 1991 Goldfarb persuaded Soros to donate $100 million to help former Soviet scientists survive the hardships of the economic shock therapy adopted by the Boris Yeltsin government.[16]

From 1992 to 1995, Goldfarb was Director of Operations at Soros' International Science Foundation, which helped sustain tens of thousands of scientists and scholars in the former Soviet Union during the harshest three years of economic reform.[17] In 1994 Goldfarb managed Soros' Russian Internet Project, which built infrastructure and provided free Internet access for university campuses across Russia.[18] That project created a controversy because of a conflict with emerging Russian commercial interests in the ISP field.[19] In 1995, during the first months of the First Chechen War, Goldfarb oversaw a Soros-funded relief operation, which ended disastrously with the disappearance of the American relief worker Fred Cuny.[20] From 1998 to 2000 Goldfarb directed the $15 million Soros tuberculosis project in Russia.[21] He worked with Dr. Paul Farmer to battle TB in Russian prisons, an endeavor described by the Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Kidder in his book Mountains Beyond Mountains.[22]

Since 2001 Goldfarb has been Executive Director of the New York-based International Foundation for Civil Liberties, founded and financed by the exiled Russian oligarch Boris Berezovsky.[23]

Involvement in the Litvinenko affairEdit

Goldfarb first met Alexander Litvinenko during his tuberculosis project in Russian prisons. In October 2000, at the request of Boris Berezovsky, Goldfarb visited Turkey where he met Litvinenko and his family, who had just fled from Russia.[3] Goldfarb arranged their entry to the United Kingdom, an offense under British law, for which he was banned from visiting Britain for a year.[1] His involvement would also "cost him his job with George Soros."[24]

When Litvinenko was poisoned in London in 2006, Goldfarb was his unofficial spokesman during the two last weeks of his life [25] On the day of Litvinenko's death, Goldfarb read out his deathbed statement accusing Vladimir Putin of ordering the poisoning.[26]

Goldfarb later explained in interviews that he had drafted the statement at Litvinenko's request and that Litvinenko had signed it in the presence of a lawyer.[1] With Berezovsky, Litvinenko's widow Marina, and the human rights lawyer Louise Christian, Goldfarb founded the Litvinenko Justice Foundation to campaign for the truth about his murder, and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. [27] He later testified in a libel suit, in which Berezovsky successfully contested the claim by Russian state television station RTR (now Russia 1) that he had murdered Litvinenko.[28][29]

Libel lawsuit against Russian TV channelsEdit

Following the attack on Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, UK on March 4, 2018, Russian TV network coverage of the incident named Goldfarb as the murderer of Alexander Litvinenko in 2006.[30] Goldfarb sued two Russian TV channels, Channel One Russia and RT, for libel in US.[31] The case is pending in US District Court for the Southern District of New York.[32] On March 4, 2020, U.S. District Judge Valerie Caproni denied a motion to dismiss the case, ruling that New York had personal jurisdiction over the matter because Channel One Russia maintains a Manhattan studio where correspondent Zhanna Agalakova interviewed Goldfarb in relation to the allegedly defamatory story.[33]


Goldfarb has written for the editorial pages of The New York Times,[34][35] The Washington Post,[36][37][38] The Wall Street Journal,[39] The Daily Telegraph,[40] and The Moscow Times.[41] He helped Litvinenko to prepare his book Lubyanka Criminal Group for publication.[42] With Marina Litvinenko, he later co-authored the book "Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB", published in Russian as "Sasha, Volodya, Boris....The Story of a Murder." (Russian)Александр Гольдфарб – о Путине и Литвиненко, Алекс Гольдфарб представляет книгу “Саша, Володя, Борис. История убийства”.

His booksEdit

  • Alex Goldfarb and Marina Litvinenko. Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB. Free Press, New York, 2007. ISBN 978-1-4165-5165-2.

Appearances on TVEdit


  1. ^ a b c d Alex Goldfarb, with Marina Litvinenko Death of a Dissident: The Poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the Return of the KGB, The Free Press, 2007, ISBN 1-4165-5165-4.
  2. ^ "Гольдфарб, Алекс". Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  3. ^ a b "Founders: Alex Goldfarb". April 14, 2009. Archived from the original on 2009-04-14., Litvinenko Justice Foundation
  4. ^ "Alexander Goldfarb, Ph.D." Newark, New Jersey: The Public Health Research Institute Center, New Jersey Medical School. Archived from the original on 2008-04-04.
  5. ^ "Patient Crossroad – In Home Healthcare and Elder Care". Patient Crossroad.
  6. ^ "The PHRI/Soros Russian TB Program ... Treating MDRTB in Siberian Prisons". Newark, New Jersey: The Public Health Research Institute Center, New Jersey Medical School. Archived from the original on 2003-06-27.
  7. ^ Beckerman, Gal (2010-09-23). When They Come for Us, We'll Be Gone: The Epic Struggle to Save Soviet Jewry – Gal Beckerman – Google Books. ISBN 9780547504438. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  8. ^ Soviet Dissident Credits Westerners For His Emigration, by Clark Mason, The Harvard Crimson, October 30, 1975
  10. ^ "KGB Failed in Bid to Frame Detained Journalist in '84, Soviet Emigre Asserts". Los Angeles Times. September 1, 1986.
  11. ^ "Soviets Offering New Deal For Daniloff". Chicago Tribune. September 25, 1986.
  12. ^ Soviets Free Dissident Who Refused to Entrap Daniloff: Hammer's Jet Brings Him to U.S., Los Angeles Times, October 16, 1986
  13. ^ Barringer, Felicity (October 22, 1987). "On Ex-Dissident's Visit, Amazement in Moscow". The New York Times.
  14. ^ Goldfarb, Alex (December 6, 1987). "TESTING GLASNOST". The New York Times.
  15. ^ "George Soros, The Unauthorized Biography (Robert Slater)". Archived from the original on 2013-11-10. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  16. ^ Soros Foundation/Open Society Institute (1992). "Case 79, International Science Foundation" (PDF) – via
  17. ^ Bohlen, Celestine (December 10, 1992). "American Vows Millions to Ex-Soviet Science". The New York Times.
  18. ^ Allakhverdov, A. (1996-08-02). "Internet: High-Speed Network Will Link Russia's Far-Flung Universities". Science. 273 (5275): 594–0. doi:10.1126/science.273.5275.594. S2CID 167409122. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  19. ^ "COOK Report Study Finds Soros ISF Embroiled in Russian Networking Controversy". Archived from the original on 2011-05-26. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  20. ^ "The Lost American – Tapes & Transcripts | FRONTLINE". PBS. 1993-10-03. Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  21. ^ "Google Drive Viewer". Retrieved 2013-07-11.
  22. ^ Kidder, Tracy (January 28, 2001). "Mission impossible (part two)". The Guardian. London.
  23. ^ Penketh, Anne (July 6, 2007). "Death of a Dissident, by Alex Goldfarb & Marina Litvinenko". The Independent. London. Archived from the original on May 13, 2008.
  24. ^ Masha Gessen, The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin, Riverhead Books (Penguin Group): New York, NY 2012, ISBN 978-1-59448-842-9.
  25. ^ Litvinenko poisoning: the main players, The Guardian, 24 November 2006.
  26. ^ "Spy's death-bed Putin accusation". BBC News. November 24, 2006.
  27. ^ Alan Cowell (April 3, 2007). "Foundation Set Up to Seek Justice for Ex-K.G.B. Spy]". New York Times.
  28. ^ "Neutral Citation Number: [2010] EWHC 476 (QB), Case No: HQ07X01481" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-05-12. Retrieved 2011-07-26.
  29. ^ "Berezovsky wins poison libel case". BBC News. March 10, 2010.
  30. ^ Harding, Luke (2018-06-22). "Litvinenko widow threatens to sue RT over 'libellous' claims". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  31. ^ Knight, Amy (2018-09-06). "Russian TV Under the Gun in American Court for Its Litvinenko Murder Allegations". The Daily Beast. Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  32. ^ Beast), Cathy Fenlon (The Daily. "Goldfarb Complaint". Retrieved 2020-02-04.
  33. ^ "U.S. Court to Hear Case Against Russian State TV Over 'Defamatory' Coverage of Murdered Dissident". 5 March 2020. Retrieved 2020-03-07.
  34. ^ Goldfarb, Alex (November 20, 1986). "Gorbachev Loosens the Screws a Bit". The New York Times.
  35. ^ "Putin and the Victim". The New York Times. July 4, 2007.
  36. ^ Goldfarb, Alex (January 11, 1987). "What Should We Make of Gorbachev?".
  37. ^ Goldfarb, Alex (November 2, 1987). "Emigrating From Russia; It's an issue that Reagan and Gorbachev should negotiate at the summit".
  38. ^ Goldfarb, Alex (May 10, 1988). "Gorbachev: Still A Long Way to Go".
  39. ^ "The Litvinenko case in quotes". Archived from the original on 2011-10-01. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  40. ^ Goldfarb, Alex (July 18, 2007). "The new Stalins must be kept in check". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  41. ^ "Archived item". Archived from the original on 2012-07-28. Retrieved 2011-07-25.
  42. ^ A. Litvinenko and A. Goldfarb. Lubyanka Criminal Group (in Russian) GRANI, New York, 2002. ISBN 978-0-9723878-0-4.