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RFE/RL Commentator, Writer, and Journalist Giovanni Bensi Dies

Italian Journalist and RFE/RL Russian Service contributor Giovani Bensi.
Italian Journalist and RFE/RL Russian Service contributor Giovani Bensi.

Giovanni Bensi, an Italian journalist and writer who worked with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for decades, has died in a hospital in Merano, Italy. He was 77 years old.

Bensi was born on December 20, 1938. He studied at the University of Milan and the University of Venice, until leaving for Moscow in 1961 to study Russian. In 1963, he was arrested by the KGB on charges of distributing anti-Soviet leaflets, and after being jailed for 20 days in the Lefortovo prison, he was deported from the Soviet Union. In addition to Bensi’s interest in Russia, he also studied the Middle East.

From 1972 until his retirement in 2002, Bensi worked as a commentator for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, focusing on Central and Eastern Europe affairs, as well as on the Soviet Union and later Russia. Bensi first published under the alias Francesco Sartori, and later under his real name.

Throughout his career, Bensi worked as a foreign correspondent in a number of countries. In 1986, he worked as a special correspondent for RFE/RL in Peshawar, Afghanistan, with assignments later in the former Yugoslavia, Portugal, the United States, Hungary and Poland.

After the fall of the Soviet Union, he wrote for the Russian daily, independent newspaper, “Nezavisimaya Gazeta.”

In recent years, Bensi produced and hosted the Russian Service's radio program "Continent of Europe" with Elena Kolomiychenko. He also worked with Italian newspaper "Avvenire" for more than 50 years.

Bensi is the author of numerous books, including Moscow And Euro-Communism, Afghanistan In The Fight, The Soviet Trace, Allah Against Gorbachev, Religions Of Azerbaijan, and Chechnya And The Tinderbox Of The Caucasus.