Saturday, June 29, 2019

New Psychiatric Diagnosis in Putin’s Russia: ‘Symptoms of the Disease of Being a Dissident’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 27 – In Soviet times, government psychiatrists were often involved in the mistreatment of dissidents; but they generally hid their actions behind diagnoses like “creeping schizophrenia” that suggested they were at least acting within the canons of their profession. But thanks to the work of Western scholars, their true goals were exposed and condemned.

            Now, under Putin, psychiatrists in the penal system apparently feel no need to conceal what they are doing, with some even justifying the use of drugs, electroshock treatment and other means on healthy prisoners to address “symptoms of the disease of being a dissident” (

                In a 5200-word article detailing the horrors to which several Muslim prisoners have been subjected in the last decade, Novaya gazeta provides what should be the basis of a new campaign against this perversion of psychiatry at the hands of an authoritarian state. Tragically, there appears to be far less interest in the West now than there was three and four decades ago.

            On the one hand, the Putin regime has chosen its victims with care. They are no longer Moscow dissidents with international names and contacts but often Muslims from the periphery who lack those resources and about whom many in the West are inclined to be less supportive than they were of dissidents from other communities.

            And on the other, the West is not what it was. Not only are many of its leaders less willing to focus on Moscow’s crimes against its own people than they were in Soviet times, they aren’t even willing to take a consistent stand against the Kremlin’s aggression against Ukraine and Georgia.

            In that environment, those in Russian psychiatric prisons can’t expect much; and the boldness of those “treating” them in speaking about the need to medicate and otherwise abuse those who object to what the Russian authorities are doing suggests that the door is now open to much worse in the future, something those now silent in the West should take into consideration.

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