Monday, January 10, 2022

Punitive Psychiatry Spreading in Russia by Power of Bad Examples, Shaman Gabyshev’s Lawyer Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 21 – Soviet-style punitive psychiatry in which people engaged in political dissidence are confined in psychiatric hospitals against their will is spreading across Russia less because of a specific order from above but as a result of the power of bad examples, Aleksey Pryanishnikov says.

            The lawyer for Sakha Shaman Aleksandr Gabyshev says that officials in various regions see how easy it is to use psychiatric confinement against their opponents when officials in another region do so and they move to copy it. That is what has happened since the persecution of Gabyshev began two years ago (

            The way the system is set up allows them to do this with little difficulty. If police say someone is dangerous to himself or others and doctors reviewing the case in the first two days of confinement agree, then the decision on whether to hold the individual passes to a court which is extremely deferential to doctors even if no evidence for the police claims are provided.

            If the individual so confined has a lawyer, he or she can appeal; but, according to Pryanishnikov, appellate courts as well are deferential to the doctors and so this plague spreads rapidly without any order being given from above to restore Soviet-style punitive psychiatry. It spreads on its own and often little can be done besides raising a public protest.

            The lawyer says that whenever he sees the words “dangerous for himself and those around him” on commitment papers, he is fairly confident that neither the police nor the doctors are doing their jobs, that they do not have the evidence the law says they should gather, and that the cases are in fact political rather than medical. 

            All this is evidence of the power of “a bad example,” Pryanishnikov says. “I always say that any case where the law is not observed serves as one for others in the regions … and I am convinced that all these histories received their development precisely in connect with the case of the shaman in 2019.”

            “This phenomenon does not yet have a mass character, but the methods which are already being used … clearly suggests that punitive psychiatry of the Soviet model is ahead of us,” the shaman’s lawyer says. 

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