[Editor’s note: Andrei Novikov is a Russian journalist, who at one point was subjected to involuntary psychiatric confinement after publishing articles critical of local government. His case first rose to international attention on this blog and was supported by Reporters without Borders. From time to time, he contributes opinion essays to us, such as the following, which takes a look at the interesting case of a doomsday cult led by Pyotr Kuznetsov, which has been featured heavily in recent Russian news.] THE END OF JUDGES AND THE DAY OF PYOTR KUZNETSOV Andrei Novikov, journalist In Russia right now there is the interesting trial of Pyotr Kuznetsov, an ascetic from Penza who has declared the world to be ending. I don’t know if he’s mentally ill or not.
Most likely they labeled him a “paranoid schizophrenic”; that’s what they always do in such cases. The diagnosis is so typical that it doesn’t even need to be discussed. But I do want to note: a sick person is measured not by ideas (these can be extremely varied), and even not by actions (these can be incomprehensible to others): a sick person is measured BY CONDITIONS. To what extent schizoaffective conditions, maniacality, affectation and others are present in him. Usually, a sick person is recognized as such immediately.Real paranoid delirium is characterized by incoherence, derangement. In such a condition, it is impossible to write books. The very fact that Kuznetsov wrote books speaks of the absence in him of derangement in the clinical sense. This – if one is speaking of the purely medical side of the case. Most likely, as was the case with me, they are imputing to him «persistent predominant anti-social behavior», that is they are talking not about a sickness in the direct sense, but about social non-normality, in which they are trying to find psychological roots. This is a direct sign that psychiatry is being used for special police objectives, and not for medical ones. Strictly speaking, there is no medical treatment for «persistent predominant anti-social behavior». This is a problem for the police, easily dealt with with the help of medical means. Nowadays, anything and everything can be called «persistent predominant anti-social behavior»: even writing literary pamphlets on the internet.A court right inside the walls of a psychiatric hospital – is a total monstrosity. They tried me in a psychiatric hospital, too – this was a trial in February of the year 2007, at which the doctor Irina Ivanova insisted on compulsory medical treatment, “because I write letters” and complain.She discerned a “social danger” in my actions, and my condition at the moment of the trial she acknowledged as “very grave”. To a representative of society she said: “This is a medical secret”.I pointed out to her in this regard: Irina Vasilievna, that, which you are doing, you are overstepping the bounds of a medical context. Do not think that you will get away with this! Time will put everything in its place!I do not understand why someone cloistering himself has evoked such agitation and such persecution. This is an absolutely non-violent act, little different from, say, people going off into the forest and founding a small community far from “contaminated civilization”. Why does this need to be persecuted so?I also know that people used to CLOISTER themselves in the times of the Roman Empire as well, and in the times of the Tatar invasion.I had the opportunity in Chernigov to personally descend into a cave, extending for dozens of kilometers, where people had cloistered themselves from the Tatars.I don’t know what kind of empire we’ve got today – a Roman one or a Tatar one. In my opinion, both the one and the other at the same time! But I can understand the desire to get away from this empire which has enveloped the life of every person in its tentacles. I myself would get away from this rotten empire with pleasure, but I’ve become too accustomed to the conveniences of civilization.I do not see anything violent or extremist in this.Who can prevent us from cloistering ourselves in our own apartments? Two women, most likely, did die of cancer, but Pyotr Kuznetsov is not at fault in their death. He did not commit any violent acts in relation to them.In my opinion, these people ought to be simply left alone and their conditions improved.But instead of this, they have launched a «psychiatric assault» against them and subjected them to public defamation. They have arrested an innocent person for some kind of books that he had written. Moreover, the books were declared «extremist». This is the first time when not pamphlets or newspapers, but books, have been declared extremist. This is the start of a witch hunt: the next step will be to declare as «extremist» the Bible, the Koran, the oeuvre of dozens of authors of the past in whom «incorrect» ideas will be found. And there’s a lot written there that can be called extremist. I have read a work by Henry David Thoreau, a great ascetic who settled on the shore of Walden Pond, entitled «On Civil Disobedience». Can he too be called an extremist writer? And what about Ghandi?If until now actions were being declared extremist, then now the state has reached the next stage of paranoia and is declaring whole systems of ideas, books, most likely directions in public philosophy, interest in religion to be «extremist».