The author of one of Russia's most popular Telegram channels has verified his identity in a new interview
Alexander Gorbunov has confirmed in an interview with the BBC Russian Service that he is the author of StalinGulag, one of the most popular Telegram channels in Russia. The 27-year-old Makhachkala native launched the channel in 2016, three years after starting an anonymous Twitter account with the same name.
Explaining why he named his project after the USSR’s most notorious dictator, Gorbunov said, “It’s a kind of trolling. Someone comes to a channel with Stalin in the avatar and sees ‘StalinGulag,’ and thinks it’s going to be full of praise for that period, and then they see something completely the opposite.” “In fact,” Gorbunov told the BBC immodestly, “StalinGulag is the only popular Telegram channel that writes about how things actually are.”
In the interview, Gorbunov promised readers that his work on Telegram will remain unchanged, now that he’s confirmed his identity. “I’m going to write just the way I always have,” he said.
Gorbunov also revealed that he suffers from spinal muscular atrophy, a rare neuromuscular disorder that has confined him to a wheelchair. Asked why he doesn’t write about accessibility issues for the disabled in Russia, he said he doesn’t want to be associated only with his disability, and argued that the disabled community’s problems are “uninteresting and unreadable.” “Two and a half people would bother to read about mobility issues, and it would be useless,” Gorbunov said.
He also confirmed that police officers in Makhachkala recently came to his parents’ home, supposedly to investigate a bomb threat in Moscow. Gorbunov says he doesn’t know if the authorities actually searched the apartment, but he spoke to one of the officers over the phone, who claimed that the bomb threat had come from his parents’ telephone.
StalinGulag currently has about 300,000 subscribers on Telegram. In July 2018, the magazine RBC reported that Makhachkala native Alexander Gorbunov created the channel.
After the raid on the home of Gorbunov’s parents, Telegram verified the StalinGulag channel in a show of solidarity.