Alexander Podrabinek was born on 8 August 1953 in Elektrostal near Moscow. He enrolled in the Department of Pharmacology of a medical institute in 1970 and worked as an assistant in a biology laboratory at Moscow State University. From 1971 to 1974 he studied at school for medial assistants and received certification as a paramedic. He went on to work in the Moscow ambulance service.
In the Soviet Union era, Podrabinek was a Soviet dissident.
For political reasons, Podrabinek was denied entrance to medical school. At the age of 20 in 1971, he worked in the ambulance service. During this time, he became interested the political abuse of psychiatry after reading poet Vladimir Gershuni's memoir of his treatment in Oryol Special Psychiatric hospital. Podrabinek began to compile his own book, Punitive Medicine, in which he intended to examine such abuse in detail.
On 5 January 1977, Podraninek initiated creating the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes. Members of the Commission visited psychiatric hospitals, wrote appeals to hospital doctors, and published information on psychiatric abuse in information bulletins.
In 1977, Podrabinek published his observations in the groundbreaking book Punitive Medicine. The KGB approached Podrabinek's family, threatening arrests of Alexander and his brother Kiril (who had criticized the treatment of conscripts in the Soviet army in a samizdat essay) if the family did not emigrate. Alexander held a press conference at the home of Andrei Sakharov, stating his refusal to submit to blackmail. On 15 August 1978, he was sentenced to five years of internal exile on charges of "anti-Soviet slander".
After serving the time, Podrabinek was allowed to work in a medical emergency team again.
He was also a contributing editor to the first Soviet underground samizdat journal A Chronicle of Current Events.
From 1987, he edited the weekly samizdat bulletin Express Chronicle, which won a high reputation among Western journalists in Moscow and circulated in about one hundred of the major Soviet cities. In 1987, he tried to initiate a campaign for amnesty for political prisoners.
In March 1989, he participated in the founding of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia.
Podrabinek started working freely as a journalist only from the beginning of Perestroika and Glasnost. From 1987 to 2000 he was editor-in-chief of the weekly human right magazine Express Chronicle («Экспресс Хроника»). Since 2000, he became editor-in-chief of the Prima information agency, which specializes in human right questions.
In 2004, he was involved in publishing and distribution of book Blowing up Russia: Terror from within written by Alexander Litvinenko and Yuri Felshtinsky. Unsuccessful in finding a publisher for the book, authors printed an early draft in Russian for would-be publication in Moscow in 2004. On December 29, 2003, Russian Interior Ministry and FSB units seized 4,376 copies of the book printed in Latvia and purchased by Alexander Podrabinek's Prima information agency, which had passed customs control and were being trucked from Latvia to Moscow for retail delivery. Podrabinek was summoned by the FSB to come for interrogation on January 28, 2004, but refused to answer the questions.
In March 2006 Podrabinek was briefly arrested in Minsk for involvement in peaceful protests against the re-election of the Belarusian president Alexander Lukashenko for the third term.
In some publications, he expressed his concern about the revival of the use of psychiatry for political repression in Russia, including the non-voluntary hospitalization of Larisa Arap.
On 3 June 2008, he became a founding signatory of the Prague Declaration on European Conscience and Communism.
Podrabinek was targeted by the nationalist youth movement Nashi after publishing an editorial on www.ej.ru in September 2009 about a Moscow restaurant changing its name from "Anti-Soviet" under pressure from local officials who said it was offensive to "Soviet veterans."
In March 2010 he signed the online anti-Putin manifesto of the Russian opposition "Putin must go".
On 25 September 2013, he held a protest in support of imprisoned Nadezhda Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot band.
Since 2014, Podrabinek is a host of program "Deja Vu" at Radio Liberty. His articles have been published by the Institute of Modern Russia.
On 4 May 2016, Podrabinek published An Open Letter to the Prosecutor of Crimea.
In 2015, Pordabinek was awarded with the Truman-Reagan Medal of Freedom.
Podrabinek appears in the 2005 documentary They Chose Freedom and in the 2013 documentary Parallels, Events, People.Nekipelov, Viktor & Podrabinek Alexander (1977). Из жёлтого безмолвия: Сборник воспоминаний и статей политзаключенных психиатрических больниц [From yellow silence: the collection of memoirs and articles by political prisoners of psychiatric hospitals] (in Russian). Moscow.
Podrabinek, Alexander (1980). Punitive medicine. Ann Arbor: Karoma Publishers. ISBN 0-89720-022-5. Russian text: Podrabinek, Alexander [Александр Подрабинек] (1979). Карательная медицина [Punitive medicine] (in Russian). New York: Издательство "Хроника" [Khronika Press]. Archived (PDF) from the original on 24 March 2014.
Подрабинек, Александр (2014). Диссиденты [Dissidents] (in Russian). Moscow: АСТ. ISBN 978-5-17-082401-4.
Podrabinek, Alexandre; Mathon, Tania (June 1981). "Déclaration finale" [Final declaration]. Esprit (in French). 54 (6): 127–145. JSTOR 24268683.
Podrabinek, Alexander (1990). "Does the Soviet press have a future?". Index on Censorship. 19 (8): 2–3. doi:10.1080/03064229008534912.
Podrabinek, Alexandre (2009). "Liberté russe et tolérance européenne" [Russian liberty and European tolerance]. Revue Russe (in French). 33 (1): 17–23. doi:10.3406/russe.2009.2381.
Александр Подрабинек (2014). Клеточников [Kletochnikov]. Zvezda (in Russian) (2). Retrieved 21 March 2014.
Строганова, Анна (10 June 2014). "Александр Подрабинек о своей книге "Диссиденты": "Все были готовы к тому, что их посадят"" [Alexander Podrabinek about his book Dissidents: "All were ready to be imprisoned"] (in Russian). Radio France Internationale.
Подрабинек, Александр (11 February 2015). ""Надежду обрекли на смерть", — Александр Подрабинек о суде над летчицей Савченко" ["Nadezhda is doomed to death," — Alexander Podrabinek about the trial of woman-pilot Savchenko] (in Russian). Radio France Internationale.
Подрабинек, Александр (17 February 2016). "Путин и судьи" [Putin and judges] (in Russian). Radio France Internationale.
Александр Подрабинек в программе Александра Гранта "Контакт" [Alexander Podrabinek in Alexander Grant's program "Contact", in Russian, 56 min, 16 July 2015] on YouTube
Встреча с А. Подрабинеком у Бориса Паланта [Meeting with A. Podrabinek in Boris Palant, in Russian, 99 min, 15 June 2015] on YouTube
Александр Подрабинек // "В Нью-Йорке с Виктором Топаллером" [Alexander Podrabinek // "In New York with Viktor Topaller", in Russian, 53 min, 28 July 2015] on YouTube