Punitive psychiatry returning with a vengeance in Putin’s Russia

Punitive psychiatry returning with a vengeance in Putin’s Russia (Image: Kasparov.ru)

Punitive psychiatry returning with a vengeance in Putin’s Russia (Image: Kasparov.ru) 

Analysis & Opinion, Russia

Chechnya governor Ramzan Kadyrov’s call for incarcerating members of the Russian opposition in psychiatric prisons much as the Soviets did has attracted widespread attention, but what makes the Chechen leader’s words even more worrisome is that officials elsewhere are already using psychiatry against their opponents.

Today, the Kasparov.ru portal, drawing on a report by RBC-Tyumen, says that officials in the Khanty-Mansiisk Autonomous District are working to put critics of the authorities in psychiatric prisons much as Brezhnev-era officials did.

Recently, the Tyumen outlet reported, officials in the city of Kogalyma, angered by complaints by a Russian woman about corruption in communal services, forcibly broke into her apartment, electro-shocked her husband who tried to protect her, and carried the woman away “on an invented pretext” to a psychiatric clinic 250 kilometers away.

The doctors who examined her concluded that there were no reasons to hospitalize her, but, the Kasparov.ru report says, “the bureaucrats are continuing their efforts to send [the woman] to a psychiatric facility and she has again been sent for a new forced examination” of her condition.

Such cases are “increasing in number daily,” Kasparov.ru reports. Another resident of Yugorsk was sent to psychiatrists for possible incarceration in a hospital after publishing information about problems with Putin’s health “optimization” campaign that has led to severe hardships in many places.

And a former school teacher there after being dismissed from her job for reporting on the way in which employees at her college had illegally pocketed money for work they didn’t do was subsequently sent for psychiatric examination as well.

A month ago, Kasparov.ru reported that in Chelyabinsk oblast, young men who had medical certificates exempting them from military service were sent to psychiatric dispensaries as well, with the officials involved threatening them with criminal prosecution.

If Putin does not explicitly and publicly overrule Kadyrov on such practices, it is likely that such cases will multiply – and the only defense those officials go after will be the protests of Russian human rights groups and of Western organizations, just as was true when Soviet psychiatrists at the notorious Serbsky Institute diagnosed dissent as “sluggish schizophrenia.”

For background on this issue and efforts by at least some Russian doctors to oppose the revival of this horrific practice, see “Putin Regime Abusing Psychology the Way Soviets Did Psychiatry, Russian Psychologist Says,” April 5, 2015.

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Edited by: A. N.

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