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After studying at Budapest University, Urban left Hungary in 1948, coming to the United Kingdom where he took up further studies at London University. He also began work for the BBC Hungarian service. He was a radio broadcaster for a number of years for the BBC World Service, leaving and joining RFE in 1960, and becoming its director for a period in the 1980s.
Urban is known also for his writing for Encounter magazine. His journalism and book writing drew heavily on long dialogues, in effect extended interviews, from his work at RFE, involving major intellectual and political figures who were prepared to engage with the Cold War. He also published a study of the Georgekreis, an early enthusiasm, and continuing shaper of his attitudes.
Urban was twice married.
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- The Sino-Soviet Conflict (1965) with Leo Labedz
- Toynbee on Toynbee: A Conversation between Arnold J. Toynbee and G. R. Urban (1974)
- Détente (1976)
- What is Eurocommunism? (1977) editor
- Eurocommunism: Its Roots and Future in Italy and Elsewhere (1978)
- Communist Reformation: Nationalism, Internationalism, and Change in the World Communist Movement (1979)
- Can the Soviet System Survive Reform?: Seven Colloquies About the State of Soviet Socialism Seventy Years After the Bolshevik Revolution (1989)
- End of Empire: The Demise of the Soviet Union (1992)
- Diplomacy and Disillusion at the Court of Margaret Thatcher: An Insider's View (1996)
- Radio Free Europe and the Pursuit of Democracy: My War Within the Cold War (1997)