Renewal of Fainberg and Borisov’s Hunger-Strike, December 1971 (23.4)

<<No 23 : 5 January 1972>>

Victor Fainberg and Vladimir Borisov, who are in the Leningrad Special Psychiatric Hospital, declared a new hunger-strike on 26 December 1971 (on their previous hunger-strike see CCE 19.3 and CCE 22.8, item 14).

Victor Fainberg, b. 1931

Between 20 and 26 December 1971 Fainberg appealed to the USSR Minister of Health, Academician Petrovsky, protesting about:

  • the brutal beating-up of the patient Valery Afanasyev by hospital orderlies;
  • the blackmail and cruelties to which the patients are subjected; and
  • the open unwillingness of the medical personnel of the hospital to put an end to these disgraceful acts and to punish those guilty of them.

“I ask you to take immediate steps to investigate this crime thoroughly,” Fainberg finishes his letter, “and to bring the guilty people to criminal account. As regards myself, if no investigation is started in the next few days, and the affair is ‘hushed up’, as usually happens, then I will have no other choice but to renew my hunger strike”. In a post-script Fainberg adds that head of the block Medvedsky (who, incidentally, confirmed details about the beating-up of Afanasyev, but then renounced his testimony) has informed him that he had heard that Fainberg, after this episode, “would not be discharged”.


On 26 December 1971, Fainberg announced to the hospital administration that he was renewing his hunger strike. The reasons were the violation by the administration of all the promises made to him and Borisov, and also its new crimes: “the covering up of the brutal beating of the patient Afanasyev in Section 11 and of patient Averyanov in Section 1; and the ordering of neuroleptic drugs [? neiroleptiki] for mentally healthy people – the political prisoners [Yevgeny] Komarov [CCE 18.1], Purtov and Ponomaryov”.

Fainberg reports that his comrade Borisov has also declared a hunger strike, and he states that he will only conduct any discussions about ending the hunger strike together with Borisov, and that the ending of the strike will be possible only when guarantees are given that their demands will not be rejected.

On the same day Fainberg and Borisov announced their decision to go on hunger-strike in a letter addressed to world public opinion [note 1].

On 1 January 1972, A. D. Sakharov appealed to L. I. Brezhnev, A. N. Kosygin and N. V. Podgorny, informing them that the life of Fainberg and Borisov was in danger, and asking them [note 2]:

“(1) immediately to transfer Fainberg and Borisov to a psychiatric hospital of ordinary type, and thus to remove them from the authority of people whom they had accused of crimes.

(2) To carry out without delay an objective psychiatric examination of them.”



[1] On 3 January 1972, The Times carried a long summary of Fainberg and Borisov’s letter.

[2] Sakharov addressed the three most prominent Soviet leaders at that time: Podgorny, the country’s “president” or chairman of the USSR Supreme Soviet’s Presidium; “prime minister” Kosygin, chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers; and Brezhnev, Communist Party general secretary.

On 29 February 1972, The Times reported that Fainberg had attempted suicide with a broken light-bulb after doctors had used injections of Aminazin to try to make him end his strike; his relatives and those of Borisov had sent telegrams to the Ministers of Health and Internal Affairs on 14 January.

On 7 March 1972 the newspaper reported that the two men had ended their two-month strike in late February and been brought to the Serbsky Institute in Moscow for a three-month period of in-patient examination.

They then returned to the Leningrad SPH and in the autumn, CCE 27.6 reports, were threatened with transfer to special psychiatric hospitals in parts of the country where they had no relatives to visit them or bring parcels.