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Grigory Pasko: You Can’t Understand Russia with the Mind, Part 2

[Editor’s note: yesterday we posted part 1 of Grigory Pasko’s interview with Dr. Yuri Savenko, president of the Independent Psychiatric Association of Russia, and an adviser to the Russian human rights ombudsman. Below the interview picks up right where Grigory left off … Pasko has reported on punitive psychiatry in Russia extensively for this blog.] An interview with prominent Russian psychiatrist Yuri Savenko – Part 2 By Grigory Pasko Q by Pasko: Recently, I met with yet another “dissenter” – a journalist from Rybinsk, Andrei Novikov. A from Dr. Savenko: A talented journalist in his 40 years has remained flamboyantly adolescent to such a degree that he is a group 2 invalid by mental illness, but he has never represented any kind of menace to society. The texts that served as grounds for opening a criminal case against him under part 1 of Article 280 of the CC RF [Criminal Code of the Russian Federation] were never published anywhere, did not hang on his website, but were taken from a private computer, that is there was no element of a crime, but turning to psychiatry allowed more than 9 months to treat him in an inpatient facility, although he was not refusing outpatient treatment. This is very cruel.

In the opinion of a commission of psychiatrists, that examined Novikov on 5 September of last year with my participation, Novikov is not in need of inpatient treatment and did not represent a menace to society. We are glad that now Andrei is found not in inpatient treatment.novnew.jpgAndrei Novikov, a Russian journalist held against his will in psychiatric confinement. Photo by Grigory PaskoAre we still far away from the Belarusian experience of lynching persons who are inconvenient for the powers?Fortunately, we have not attained the scales of the Belarusian experience. The example of Kristina Shatikova here is eloquent. In contrast to the Russian incidents, she had previously never had a psychiatric diagnosis [Our footnote: Employees of the Belarusian KGB abducted Belarusian activist of the United Civic Party Kristina Shatikova in March of last year in Mogilev [spelled Mahiloŭ in latinized Belarusian]. They forcibly held her in the local psychiatric hospital, injected with tranquilizers and released only after the completion in Minsk of actions of the opposition associated with Freedom Day. According to the official version, Kristina “was undergoing a health checkup”, the doctors did not identify any problems with health in her. Later Kristina recalled: “Soon after getting out of the hospital, they brought me in an ambulance to emergency, where they said that they would not put me in the hospital, inasmuch as I have intoxication with unknown substances, for which an antidote does not exist. That’s why they gave me a pain-killing injection and asked “not to drag them into politics”.]Who was the first to start talking about the wrongfulness of compulsory inpatient treatment?A psychiatrist always has something he can find fault with in a person. Alexander Yesenin-Volpin was the first to blaze the trail of challenging inpatient admission, and not diagnostics. [Our footnote: Alexander Sergeyevich Yesenin-Volpin (born 12 May 1924) — famous mathematician, in Soviet times—one of the leaders of the dissident movement, political prisoner (overall term of sojourn in jails, deportation and psychiatric hospitals — 14 years). Known as a mathematician, author of such publications as «Free philosophical tractate». In May 1972, at the insistent proposal of the Soviet powers, he emigrated to the USA.]If in the cases of Arap and Basyrov one could at least somehow justify hospitalization, then in the situation with Novikov – this is obvious isolation of a person out of censorial considerations. We don’t have divergences with the doctors with respect to diagnostics, but with respect to placement in an inpatient facility – we do. We received the support of the Russian Society of Psychiatrists. There is hope that this phenomenon – involuntary placement in an inpatient facility because of a person’s political views – will not spread. In such cases the most rational thing – is an outcry of the power. And we, our association, are calling our power to such an outcry. We’re calling together with the Ombudsman.But will our power hear your call? That power that’s afraid of those who think differently, of public actions?Good sense is on our side. Even without politics, reason suggests the need to suppress such kinds of cases at conception. But no! We encounter a rebuff. This – is a reflection of the monopolism that forensic psychiatry has acquired. Under Soviet power, a judge could call a psychiatrist into a commission. There was adversariality. Until the year 1995, I and my colleagues were included in such commissions. But then an end was put to this. There took place a complete stratification of forensic-psychiatric expert study. The Ministry of Justice threatened to liquidate our association if we didn’t remove the right to conduct forensic-psychiatric expert studies from the charter. And we backed down, because a law came out «On state forensic-expert activity», which they started to treat as prohibiting the conducting of such expert studies. Now, forensic-psychiatric expert studies are conducted only by state experts and state institutions, having a certificate. Adversariality is destroyed at the root.We now appear in courts as specialists, and not as experts. And the courts have clearly undergone instruction; they don’t even define us as specialists, but as witnesses. This leads, like any monopolism, to degradation.The case of colonel Budanov, who killed and, as they asserted, raped a Chechen girl, is also known because psychiatric expect studies were conducted in relation to this person six (!) times. A heavy case or the doctors were fulfilling a contract?I participated in the conducting of the three last expert studies with respect to this case. There was a tug-of-war going on up above. Some military people were defending Budanov, others wanted to punish demonstratively. This case divided the country. I myself was subjected to a bandit attack a day before the journey to Rostov for the expert study. Obviously with the aim of intimidation. And judge Bukreyev, who was trying Budanov, is now sitting in jail. This is revenge for his position. Such cases – are indicators of processes taking place in the country and in society. And also an indicator of the state of our judicial power.The book by Viktor Nekipelov on the center named after Serbsky, in my opinion, illustrates well the dependence of Soviet psychiatry on the powers…Professor Shostakovich – the leading professional from the old guard of the center named after Serbsky – admitted that everything in the book is true. But he is not the embodiment of this institution. In the darkest institutions there are worthy people, on whom one can rely and with whom one can cooperate. The center named after Serbsky, founded in the year 1921 for police purposes, was named with the name of a person who did not allow policemen to step on the threshold of his clinic.Today, the upper ranks of the center, like in the Soviet time, conducts a policy that suits the power. Dmitrieva [director of the center T.B. Dmitrieva—Author] runs a column in the government’s newspaper, her deputies are invited on TV, while opponents aren’t called. The position of the center named after Serbsky – this is the position of a «ministry of psychiatry», openly conducting a policy of police psychiatry.The leadership of the center named after Serbsky is still to this day making reference to the Commentary on the Law on Psychiatric Assistance, drawn up in the year 2002 and not answering to the spirit of the Law itself, adopted in the year 1992. In accordance with this Commentary, reflecting the traditions of police psychiatry (which was decisively opposed by all the classics of domestic psychiatry and which sees the task of psychiatry in protecting society and the state from the mentally ill, and not in protecting this most vulnerable in all respects category of citizens from society and the state), all the items of Art. 29 – «a», «b», and «c» are of equal value, while the word “immediate” [as in “representing an immediate danger to oneself and to society”—Trans.] is superfluous. The equal sign between immediate risk of murder, suicide, or grave physical injury on the one hand, and truancy from work, undermining one’s own reputation, damage to property and so forth on the other, reflects the orientation of the authors of the Commentary towards a gross expansion of involuntary measures.Predicting the future, naturally, isn’t your field of knowledge, but nevertheless, how, in your view, will the leadership of the country shape up in conditions of de facto dual power? From a medical point of view…This is outside the bounds of psychiatry. This is the embroiling of psychiatry into politics. But already in the year 1992, we conducted a congress on a hot topic: what should psychiatrists’ attitude be towards the power? We came to the conclusion that the lawmaking power and the fourth power – the mass information media – must have full freedom, and psychiatrists must not interfere. But the judicial and the executive powers – here psychiatrists wouldn’t be in the way.Looking at some of our parliamentary deputies…You’ve just shown your anti-psychiatric tendencies. In fact, all great people have something to do with psychiatry. All culture is mixed in with suffering, this helps others. All culture – this is the fruit of the sick, the weak, the slaves. There are far more criminals among the healthy.About the current situation – I don’t see dual power. The modern-day power is evil, but it is not like in the Soviet times. Everything is confounded by corruption, they’ll chew each other to pieces, even without our efforts.All is not so hopelessly bad as it may seem. Everything rots from the head.Thank you. As they say, “And on this optimistic note, we’ll end our talk”.Certain sayings by and about parliamentary deputies of Russia“The guys down at the garage told me a joke today: ‘If you want to get a 100% turnout at the elections, you should add the line “Kill ‘em all” on the ballot’.”Viktor Tyulkin, leader of the RKRP-RPK, State Duma deputy* * *“After such a heavy session of the State Duma, after such heavy work, you just want to drive to monasteries, to repent there of your sins.”Sliska Lyubov, first deputy chair of the State Duma of the RF* * *“Members of the State Duma are God’s creatures too. True, they’re more creatures than they are God’s.”Valeriya Novodvorskaya, leader of the movement «Democratic union»* * *“We’re not fools – we’re Russians.”Vladimir Platonov, chair of the Moscow City Duma* * *“Today there exist in our country the official point of view and the incorrect one.”Sergey Baburin, leader of the party “People’s will”A jokeZhirinovsky comes on a deputy’s visit to a psychiatric hospital. The patients have been fed, dressed, and lined up.Zhirinovsky: How’s it going, guys!Silence.Zhirinovsky: Huh? You really don’t have a clue who I am, do you?Silence.Zhirinovsky: No? Boy, you really are slimebags, you jerks! You still don’t get it, who’s come to visit you?!One patient steps out from the lineup.Zhirinovsky: Whoa! Look at this! YOU know who I am! Speak! Who am I?!!!Patient: A new arrival…