Wednesday, September 25, 2019

Kremlin’s Dispatch of Shaman to Psychiatric Hospital Highlights Resurgence of Another Horrific Soviet Tradition

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 21 – Both to discredit and punish Aleksandr Gabyshev, the Sakha shaman who was marching toward Moscow to exorcize Putin from the Kremlin, one of the first actions of the Russian authorities was to forcibly confine him in a psychiatric hospital, an action that calls attention to the revival of another inglorious Soviet tradition by the Putin regime.

            Alina  Vitukhnovskaya, a Moscow publicist who herself was incarcerated in such a facility not in Soviet times but in 1994, argues that what is going on is both a return of a Soviet practice where the mad are in control of the asylum and testimony of the degradation of the leadership and of Rusisan society as a whole (

                The threat of being confined in a psychiatric hospital “has never gone away,” she says, and consequently, there is always the possibility that anyone who is inconvenient as far as the powers that be are concerned can have “a diagnosis” hung on them that will “follow them for their entire lives.”

            What the powers that be have done to the shaman is far from unique, Vitukhnovskaya continues. In the last year alone, there have been at least three cases in which activists have been confined to psychiatric prisons when the authorities can’t think of any better way to discredit them and their cause.

            Such actions do highlight the spread of insanity in the Russian Federation but not among the activists. They show “the hopeless psychic state of the powers themselves, including their leader” rather than being an indication of mental problems in a shaman “who chose on his own an original and accessible means of expressing social and political protest.”

            But it is not just the rulers and their siloviki defenders who, as a result of negative selection, have descended into madness, she argues, it is Russian society as a whole which has been sickened by the actions of the authorities to the point that most of its members accept as somehow inevitable and even natural the confinement of healthy people in mental hospitals.

            What is happening in Russia today, Vitukhnovskaya says, is “a counter-revolutionary revenge if we consider the liberal revolution as a revolution.” Led by people like Dugin, Limonov and Mamleyev and informed by the worst kind of conspiracy thinking, this revenge has been visited on the shaman and may soon be visited on others if no one stand up against it.

            “We really see the fruits of the counter-revolutionary activity of the schizophrenics,” she continues. A schizophrenic clique has come to power in the country,” one that is prepared to declare that black is white, evil is good, and the perfectly sane are mad in order to maintain itself in office.

            In Soviet times, the international community stood up against Moscow’s misuse of psychiatry, but most people assumed that “punitive psychiatry” had ended with the USSR. They were wrong. Vitukhnovskaya recounts that she personally was a victim of such a crime in 1994, at a time when “democracy in the country practically ruled.”

            It happened because the chekists couldn’t make their case even in the courts they controlled and so they sent her to the notorious Serbsky Institute.  “Both times,” she says, “the doctors were not only friendly and objective, they even allowed themselves stinging jokes – ‘it would be better if they had sent your judge here,’” they told her.

            Twice, these doctors released her, she continues, declaring after two months that “’Alina Vitukhnovskaya was absolutely normal and did not require any treatment.” But “unfortunately, after such relative progress, we have again returned to the wild Soviet times when chlorpromazine” is used when the courts are not enough.

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