A competitive swimmer in Russia, he was targeted for hazing by a sergeant in his army unit and feigned mental illness to avoid death or maiming. He later escaped and then swam from the USSR to Turkey. He was detained in Turkey and held in solitary confinement for long periods. He was sentenced to death for treason in absentia by the Soviet government for his escape.
Patrushev became a broadcaster, journalist, conference interpreter and translator in the West, working for the BBC in London and later for the Radio Liberty in Munich and San Francisco, as well as writing for Australian newspapers, radio and television. He has worked as a Senior Consultant, CIS and Eastern Europe for (Chatswood-based) Conflict Resolution Network. As a top level Russian translator and interpreter he was a member of AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters and the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters. He interpreted for Russian and Australian Heads of State i.e. (Vladimir Putin, John Howard), Prime Ministers, Members of the Cabinet, etc.
Patrushev's commentaries in the Sydney Morning Herald and on the national radio and television established him as one of the pre-eminent commentators on Soviet and Russian affairs. His work as an interpreter with American and Russian scientists in the 80’s and 90’s in the areas of brain/mind interaction provided him with a wealth of material for his book Project Nirvana.
Reportedly, when Patrushev visited his native Soviet Union in 1990 for the first time in 28 years - "the country which, only a few weeks before his return, overturned the death penalty imposed on him for his dramatic escape abroad all those years ago" - he was taken away by guards and detained for more than eight hours when he first arrived at Moscow Airport. He had made the trip to visit relatives, mainly in his native Siberia, and make contacts for the network, which teaches conflict resolution skills under the auspices of the United Nations Association of Australia. Although both Soviet and Australian authorities had assured Patrushev that it was safe for him to travel to the Soviet Union on his Australian passport, he was still detained, "most of the time in a hot and stuffy airport hotel, without being able to contact the Australian Embassy or his waiting relatives." He was freed with no explanation, except that of the hotel manager who commented: "See, perestroika is working."
- Sentenced to Death. St. Petersburg: Neva, 2005 (in Russian) by Pyotr Patrushev.
- Project Nirvana: How the Cold War Was Won. Booksurge, 2005. ISBN 1-4196-1179-8 by Pyotr Patrushev.
- Pyotr Patrushev's compelling journey as a translator and refugee March 11, 2010 ABC Radio National Retrieved April 7, 2016
- Interview, SBS Russian program
- Robyn Williams, ABC Radio National, "In Conversation".
- Sheila Browne. "Fear and Greed Rule as a Mighty Nation Falls Apart." Sydney Morning Herald, Northern Herald October 25, 1990, p. 18.
- The great escape weekender. Keeli Cambourne. Illawarra Mercury (Australia). Weekender; p. 8. February 3, 2007.
- Pyotr Patrushev in conversation with Richard Fidler, ABC Radio National, audio
- Pyotr Patrushev's translation and interpreting website
- on YouTube by Michael Rubbo
- Pyotr Patrushev's publications website
- Interview with Robyn Williams, ABC Radio National, "In Conversation"
- Interview by BBC (in Russian, an audio file)