Skip to comments.Russia's mental state (scary stuff)
Posted on 08/13/2007 3:06:55 PM PDT by propertius
One of the nastier manifestations of the culture of spin for which the Blair administration became notorious was its tendency to brief against its dissidents (informally, of course) by casting doubt on their mental health.
Clare Short and the late Mo Mowlam were both subjected to the slur, and we were even told that Gordon Brown was "psychologically flawed".
Distasteful as these slanders were, however, they could do little harm while Britain retained an accountable executive and a psychiatric profession of unimpeachable probity.
Things are different in modern Russia, where, as we report in horrifying detail today, it takes only modest influence to secure the incarceration and chemical torture of a business rival, wealthy relative or prosecution witness, and where the sectioning of citizens hostile to the Kremlin seems set to become once more a fact of political life.
That Vladimir Putin is still treated by civilised nations, especially those of the G8, as the president of a democracy is an indictment of their cowardice, for since he came to power Russia has again become a corrupt dictatorship, barely distinguishable from the Soviet Union under Khrushchev.
Germany's dependency on Russian energy, combined with the timidity of some of its neighbours, has helped smother European protests at Putin's behaviour.
So the sea-bed under the North Pole now ludicrously bears a Russian flag, and aerial sparring with Nato, abandoned after the Cold War, has been resumed.
In its firm diplomatic response to Russian arrogance over the Litvinenko murder, the British Government has hinted that it is prepared to stand up to a man whose influence will undoubtedly persist long after he formally leaves office next year.
But other countries must follow, before any more of them become enslaved to the need for Russian gas.
The alternative would indeed be madness.
Labelled mad for daring to criticise the Kremlin
By Adrian Blomfield
Last Updated: 3:23am BST 13/08/2007
Naked and with her hands and feet bound to the corners of a metal bed covered by a rubber incontinence sheet, Larisa Arap eyed with quiet defiance the doctors who wanted to declare her mad.
t was a futile gesture. The men in white coats standing over her were bitter adversaries.
Enraged by the allegations that she had levelled against them, they also knew that, as an open Kremlin critic, the state would do little to help her.
A needle sank into her arm. Over the coming weeks, as the treatment took its effect, Mrs Arap would become everything the doctors declared her to be: her head lolled to one side, her tongue hung out of her mouth and her face went slack.
“When she was brought out she was covered in bruises,” said Taisia, her daughter. “She couldn’t stand, could hardly speak and was drifting in and out of consciousness.”
The practice of “punitive psychiatry”, perfected by Nikita Khrushchev in the aftermath of Stalin’s Great Terror as a more palatable way of dealing with political dissidents, was once thought to have been buried with the Soviet Union.
But Mrs Arap’s ordeal has raised fears among Russia’s browbeaten human rights community that the Kremlin is preparing to incarcerate a new generation of dissidents in asylums.
Mrs Arap was by no means a high-profile critic of President Vladimir Putin. But in Murmansk, a drab city inside the Arctic Circle where she was seized by police, she had begun to be noticed.
At a rally in the city in June, she delivered as a member of the United Civil Front - the opposition party of Garry Kasparov, ex-chess champion - a powerful denunciation of Mr Putin’s crackdown on dissenters.
Such unorthodox views are enough to get anyone labelled an eccentric in Russia these days. But the state psychiatrists holding her insist she has a history of mental instability, pointing out that she sought counselling for stress and insomnia in 2004.
Because she is forbidden from seeing anyone apart from her immediate family - who were also threatened with enforced treatment after they demanded visiting rights - it is impossible to judge Mrs Arap’s state of mind.
Under Russian law, a patient can only be sectioned if they are a danger to society or to themselves. Colleagues say Mrs Arap is neither.
However, she was angry. Earlier this summer, she wrote a newspaper article that infuriated the medical establishment in Murmansk.
Detailing a pattern of systematic abuse at the clinic where she is being held, she alleged that children were subjected to electric shocks against their will.
She also wrote of several cases of sane individuals being held against their will at the behest of powerful opponents: a businesswoman sectioned by rivals intent on seizing her financial interests, a witness to a murder and a mother whose daughter was raped at a school where the well-connected headmaster wanted to avoid scandal.
“There are two reasons for what has happened to Larisa,” said Yelena Vasilieva, Mr Kasparov’s party chief in Murmansk.
“The doctors are concerned with the defence of their honour. Secondly they want to discredit the United Civil Front. They are using her as a political weapon in the struggle against the opposition.”
Mrs Arap’s allegations come as no surprise to those who have followed psychiatry in Russia in recent years.
In 2001, the law was quietly changed to remove the rights of sectioned patients to seek an independent assessment.
The Daily Telegraph has learnt of dozens of incidents that suggest that Russia’s psychiatric system is rapidly becoming as unsavoury as it was in Soviet times.
Andrei Fedorovich was held in a clinic for 43 days last autumn after his neighbours, who had powerful connections in the Moscow police force, reported him as mad in an attempt to seize his apartment.
Alexei Shuralyov tells a similar story - although this time his antagonists came from the FSB, the feared domestic spy agency that employed his wife.
Such stories are common. But increasingly the same fate is befalling those who oppose the authorities in Russia’s regions.
After fighting a lone battle to expose judicial, police and local government corruption in the city of Cheboksary, Albert Imendayev was hauled into an asylum the day before he was to register as a candidate in local elections in 2005.
In the same city the previous year, Igor Molyakov was sectioned after psychiatrists ruled (and a judge agreed) that his repeated letters detailing local corruption reflected an outlook so sombre it constituted a “mental disorder”.
“Once again psychiatrists see stubbornness in an individual as a sign of psychosis,” said Lyubov Vinogradova, the executive director of the Independent Psychiatrists’ Association. “If a person goes to court against a state institution or writes letters of complaint he is treated as a social danger and is in danger of incarceration.”
In a country where anyone with a history of mental deficiency is ostracised, the victims of abusive psychiatry must live with the stigma for the rest of their lives.
But until Mrs Arap’s case, it was generally believed that “punitive psychiatry” was not meted out on the orders of the Kremlin itself.
With a presidential election due next March, when Mr Putin hopes to shoehorn a handpicked successor into the Kremlin, fears are now mounting that her ordeal has been a “test case” - the first of many to come.
“Everything is ready for a wide scale political abuse of psychiatry,” said Mrs Vinogradova.
Asylums used as ‘tools of repression’
By Adrian Blomfield
Last Updated: 3:10am BST 13/08/2007
It was a meeting that seemed to symbolise how Russia was coming to terms with its troubled past.
Inside the fortress-like walls of the Serbsky Institute for Social and Forensic Psychiatry in central Moscow, the two people studied each other with mutual suspicion.
One was the dissident Vladimir Bukovsky, who spent much of the 1960s and 1970s in psychiatric units for criticising the authorities.
The other was Tatyana Dmitriyeva, Serbsky’s director. She had little reason to like Mr Bukovsky, whose books had revealed how the institute had become a tool of official repression.
But it was now 1992, and the system had collapsed. In the spirit of a new era, she held out her hand to Mr Bukovsky and acknowledged the role the institute had played in denying him his freedom.
Fifteen years later, however, and things have changed. After President Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000, Mrs Dmitriyeva recanted.
The Serbsky Institute, she said, had done nothing wrong, while the practice of “punitive psychiatry” had been grossly exaggerated.
Since then, positions have hardened still further. “Patient” Bukovsky, according to one Serbsky official, was undoubtedly “psychopathic”.
“After his arrest he wrote hundreds of letters of complaint,” said the official. “Not every person would do that. It was another manifestation of his condition.”
For Mr Bukovsky, who now lives in London and hopes to run for president next March, the hardening of attitudes at the institute is a sign that the era of “punitive psychiatry” is on the verge of a comeback.
“Everything is possible in Russia,” he said. “We live in a twilight zone. We are hearing exactly the same lies we did in the 1960s and 1970s.”
“Modern” Russia in action...
We are hearing exactly the same lies we did in the 1960s and 1970s.
Yep, same here and from the same people too.
The one thing that sticks in my mind about Putin, was that episode where he spotted a young boy, bent down and raised his shirt, then kissed his belly. I suppose that it was innocent enough (for that part of the world, perhaps), but what was that about...I mean...just damn.
That creeped me out too.
Those eyes are absolutely spooky.
There’s a young sergeant in my reserve unit who says he’s Chicago Polish, but I said he looks like “Hunt for Red October” with those ice-blue eyes.
Russia is going fascist, and fast. In an incredible coincidence, a reservist colleague this weekend introduced me to his new wife, who is Ukrainian. As we conversed in my very limited Russian, she made it clear that she is afraid to return to visit either Russia or Ukraine.
Ill bet Hillary is taking notes.
And Dennis Kucinich, if elected, would eliminate our nukes.
LOL! Unlike the person(s) making that statement, right?
Where is the SOUL that GWB saw?
"I question the sanity of anyone, and I mean anyone, who does not believe Global Warming is real."
Mo Mowlan IS nuts.