Leonid Plyushch is Released to go Abroad, December 1975 (38.9)

<<No 38 : 31 December 1975>>

In October there were more meetings and demonstrations on behalf of Leonid Plyushch in the West. In a letter Malva Landa called on those who participated in such actions not to slacken their efforts to obtain Plyushch’s release. Tatyana Khodorovich and Plyushch’s wife Tatyana Zhitnikova sent an expression of their gratitude to those who were actively concerned for Plyushch’s fate.

A. D. Sakharov sent the following address to the participants of a meeting in Paris on 23 October:

Today the whole world knows about Leonid Plyushch, a good and brave man who is undergoing the most terrible of experiences — torture in a madhouse. The root causes of Plyushch’s tragic fate and that of hundreds of other prisoners in the special psychiatric hospitals lie in the ideological intolerance which prevails in society and in the lack of principle, the egoism and the cowardice of those in whose hands their fate rests. Precisely these causes gave birth to the thinking and behaviour typical of Snezhnevsky, Morozov, Dyshel and others like them; it was this that made possible the decision to send an intelligent and compassionate thinker to the hell of a special psychiatric hospital. The same reasons lie behind the habitual cruelty, surliness and tyranny of those who carry out such decisions. This was what gave birth to the cynical and merciless manipulators behind the scenes who trample underfoot the very basis of human life — the mind.

But crimes against the mind threaten humanity as a whole. In the epoch of detente they are an anachronism which should not exist.

Help us to pull Plyushch from the hands of his torturers. You are defending not one man only, but the very principles of reason and humanity; you are therefore defending the future of us all and of our children.

* * *

On 27 October T. Zhitnikova appealed to the USSR Minister of Health, Petrovsky, asking him to assist her and her husband to emigrate from the USSR. She expressed the fear that her husband’s treatment in the Dnepropetrovsk special psychiatric hospital could do him irreversible harm.

However, on 21 November a routine psychiatric commission prolonged the compulsory treatment. A week later, though, Zhitnikova was summoned to the Ukraine Ministry of Health and told that her request had been granted: she could emigrate to Israel with her husband and children.

On 4 December the Visa Department accepted Zhitnikova’s documents and those of her children, but the processing of Plyushch’s documents was constantly put off. Only on 24 December was Zhitnikova told by the Visa Department to write to the head of the hospital, asking him to arrange a special psychiatric commission “because of the improvement in L. I. Plyushch’s health” (in December the hospital had informed her that his physical and mental condition had improved).

After this, Siforov, the head of the Visa Department, personally supervised the formal arrangements as quickly as possible and in the most cooperative way. For example, he himself passed to the regional court the application for guardianship “while treatment is continued in out-patient conditions”, and in the meantime he treated the family’s documents as if guardianship had already been established. On 30 December they were given visas with an ultimate departure date of 10 January 1976.

Observers (and T. Zhitnikova) believe that permission to emigrate was granted as a result of the widespread and lengthy public campaign in the West on behalf of Plyushch* while an important role was played by a recent appeal from the Central Committee of the French Communist Party to the Soviet leadership about Leonid Plyushch’s situation.[1]

NOTE

[1] See L’Humanite, 25 October 1975. On the Western campaign see I.-E Marie and T. Mathon, eds., L’Affaire Pliouchtch, Seuil, Paris, 1976.