In the Psychiatric Hospitals, December 1973 (30.9)

<<No 30 : 31 December 1973>>

On 9 July 1973 the HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE in Moscow published an official statement which is quoted here in full:

“We have learned that the International Congress of Psychotherapists in Oslo ruled against passing any resolution condemning the use of psychiatric hospitalization as a means of political repression in the USSR and other East European countries. The grounds were that such a resolution would allegedly hinder ‘the currently most progressive process of rapprochement with the countries of Eastern Europe’. This decision was taken in the face of numerous appeals to the congress from individuals and from national and international organizations.

“The Committee feels compelled to express its negative attitude to the decision taken by the Congress of Psychotherapists. The numerous cases of the use of psychiatry in our country for political persecution represent blatant acts of barbarism, in the face of which an indulgent attitude is inappropriate whatever the pragmatic considerations.

“We welcome the rapprochement of countries with divergent political systems, but we believe that such rapprochement should be contingent on the renunciation by these states of actions which outrage the conscience of mankind and should not be used to promote mutual indulgence regarding such actions. The United Nations has, in its documents, repeatedly affirmed the principle of international responsibility for guaranteeing the rights of man, and the International Congress of Psychotherapists ought not to undermine this principle. Objectively speaking, its decision only encourages the expanded use of psychiatric repression in our country and is a betrayal of the numerous inmates in the psychiatric prisons.

We appeal to all honourable psychiatrists to strive to have this decision reviewed.


Grigory Podyapolsky, Andrei Sakharov, Igor Shafarevich


Leonid Plyushch

Leonid Ivanovich PLYUSHCH (CCE 24.3; CCE 26.4; CCE 29.6) is still in the Dnepropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital [SPH] of the Ukrainian SSR’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. He was sent to the prison hospital on 15 July 1973 and placed in ward 12.

On 22 August, for the first time in the 18 months since his arrest, he was permitted a meeting with his wife. When she questioned him about the food, treatment, and daily routine in the hospital, Plyushch made no reply – he was forbidden to disclose such information.

Leonid Plyushch, 1939-2015

In October Plyushch was transferred to ward 9, which is reputed to be the “most oppressive”. Of the 26 people confined there, many are violently disturbed. The patients are locked in a cell-type ward and allowed out only once a day for an hour of exercise for inspection.

When his wife visited him on 22 October L. Plyushch started to gasp for breath and was seized with convulsions. It was clear that from time to time his hearing lapsed and he lost the ability to speak. Plyushch himself asked to have the visit cut short and he was taken back to his ward.

Plyushch’s physician, Lydia Alexeyevna (she refused to give her last name), stated:

“I have not yet detected in him any signs of ‘philosophical intoxication’. Nonetheless, the patient has shown a tendency to mathematicise psychology and medicine. I am a doctor and I know that mathematics has nothing to do with medicine.”

She refused to disclose either the type of medicine or the dosage administered to L. Plyushch and said: “What business is it of yours? We give him whatever he needs.” Shortly thereafter it was learned that Plyushch had begun to be forcibly treated with haloperidol. When Plyushch’s wife visited him again (after a two-week interval), the convulsions had ceased. He may have been given a drug to counteract them. But his general condition is one of great depression, apathy, sleepiness and defeat.

Earlier – in August and September – Plyushch wrote a lot of long and interesting letters. After the beginning of the treatment, he ceased writing almost entirely and was even unable to read.


N. Plakhotnyuk (see CCE 24.3; CCE 27.1; CCE 28.7, item 1), N. Ruban (CCE 17), A. Lupynos (CCE 22), B. Kovgar (CCE 28) and Chinnov (CCE 26.5) are also confined in the Dnepropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital. All were brought to trial for political reasons.

The address of the Dnepropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital: Dnepropetrovsk, 101 Chicherin St., post office YaE 308/RB-9.



Listed below are the names of some prisoners confined in the Sychovka Special Psychiatric Hospital [Smolensk Region], which has a particularly bad reputation. Unfortunately information about these prisoners is fragmentary and may not be completely accurate. Most of it was provided by former inmates of the Sychovka camp which adjoins the prison-hospital [Sychovka SPH].

Yury Belov (CCEs 9; CCE 26.5; CCE 27.6) – transferred from Vladimir Prison.

Mikhail Kukobaka (CCE 27) – a porter from Aleksandrovsk [b. Bobruisk, Belorussian SSR]. Arrested in 1970 brought to trial under Article 190-1; declared non-responsible at an examination in the Serbsky Institute; diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Boris Davarishvili – About 35 years old. After obtaining a visa to Israel, he went to Moscow where, in the vicinity of the GUM Department Store, some people instigated a fight with him. He was arrested, convicted of hooliganism (in 1972) and declared non-responsible. Davarishvili’s family has emigrated to Israel.

Bzheslavsky – Served in the frontier guards on the Turkish border in 1941. In 1945 he was convicted under Article 58-1 [pre-1960 criminal code] for attempting to cross the border and sentenced to be shot but his sentence was commuted to 10 years imprisonment. Released m 1955, he went to the Turkish Embassy. When he came out, he was arrested, tried and ruled non-responsible.

Kitov – a man of about 70 who has been tried several times for his religious beliefs. He was tried and ruled non-responsible.

Vladimir Titov – about 34 years old, sentenced under Article 70 to a 5-year sentence. Was tried under the same article for a letter he sent from Vladimir Prison. He was ruled non-responsible.

Josif Mikhailovich Terelya – (b. 1942) originally from the Carpathian region [note 1]. Served 8 years, was convicted again in Vladimir Prison and pronounced non-responsible.

Administrative Staff of The Hospital

The commandant of the hospital is Lyamin. A remark of Lyamin’s to Yu Belov: “We are curing you not of an illness but of your beliefs.”

  • The Chief Physician is Igor Igorevich Kushanovsky.
  • Head of the Operations Section, First Lieutenant Gennady Vasilyevich.
  • Head of the district KGB Division is Major Shestinsky.
  • Vasily Ivanovich Yermakov, chief physician of a neighbouring camp, has a joint appointment as a department head of the Sychyovka Special Psychiatric Hospital (he is not a psychiatrist).

It is said that at a political education session attended by 20 prisoners Vasily Yermakov stated that “he did not feel it necessary to use recent medical advances in treating criminals.”

The orderlies, as well as those who do service jobs (the so-called khozobsluga) are recruited from among the common criminals serving terms of imprisonment in the camp that adjoins the SPH.  

Eye-witnesses report cases in which orderlies administered vicious beating to patients in the Sychyovka Prison Hospital.



P. G. Grigorenko (CCE 12.1; CCE 14.2; CCE 16.9; CCE 24.11, item 15) is still undergoing treatment in a psychiatric hospital – no longer in a prison hospital, it is true, but one of ordinary type. On 15 January 1973 a medical commission declared that Pyotr Grigorevich GRIGORENKO no longer required treatment in a special psychiatric hospital.

By then the 66-year-old had been imprisoned for almost four years, roughly three of which he had spent in solitary confinement in the Chernyakhovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital.

On 29 January however, the court refused to accept the commission’s decision. Neither P. Grigorenko nor his relatives were informed of the fact of the court session or of its decision until late in April.

Zinaida Mikhailovna GRIGORENKO then appealed against this decision by the Chernyakhovsk City Court. The Kaliningrad Regional Court upheld her appeal and sent the case back for further examination. On 10 July 1973, a second commission confirmed the decision of the first. Two days later, on 12 July the Chernyakhovsk City Court ruled that P. G. Grigorenko be transferred, for his compulsory treatment, to an ordinary psychiatric hospital near his place of residence.

The procurator protested against the court’s decision, stating that the court had no authority to designate the location of the hospital. On 31 August the Kaliningrad Regional Court convened again, upheld the procurator’s objection and deleted this point from its decision.

On 19 September 1973 Grigorenko was transferred to Psychiatric Hospital No. 5, at Stolbovaya Station, 100 kilometres from Moscow.

The prison regime had ended. Now Grigorenko is no longer in solitary confinement but in a large ward with 50 mentally disturbed people. He walks a great deal and more frequent meetings permitted with his relatives are not attended by KGB officials.

P. G. Grigorenko is allowed not only to read, but also to write. However, he is not in a position to exercise these rights. He is exhausted, surrounded by mentally disturbed people, and under these conditions he finds it difficult to concentrate. As before, he is living in a madhouse.

In October two Western psychiatrists visited P. Grigorenko. Grigorenko declined to have a detailed conversation with them, as no translator whom he could trust was provided.

The physicians who visited Grigorenko informed the press that the administration intended to discharge him in November [note 2].


Fainberg and Borisov

Victor Fainberg (see CCEs 24, 27, 28) and Vladimir Borisov (see 24-28) were confined in the Leningrad psychiatric prison for over four years. Their courageous struggle there, which included prolonged hunger strikes, is well known.

The Central Forensic-Psychiatric Commission came to the conclusion that Victor Fainberg could be transferred, for his compulsory treatment, to an ordinary hospital. The court upheld this decision in February 1973, and on 14 February Fainberg was transferred to Psychiatric Hospital No. 5 in Leningrad.

In August 1973 a psychiatric commission examined Fainberg again and decided to terminate his treatment and have him sent home. The court upheld this decision. On 11 November he was released into the care of his parents. On his discharge from the hospital, he was issued a disability certificate (invalid of the second group) with the notation “non-responsible and unfit for work”. He was not issued with a passport [i.e., the normal city-dweller’s identity papers].  

In the summer of 1973 Vladimir Borisov, also, was transferred for his compulsory treatment to an ordinary hospital. He was committed to Psychiatric Hospital No. 3 in Leningrad and placed in Section 8, the very section from which he had attempted to escape in summer 1969. That attempt resulted in his transfer to the special hospital on Arsenalnaya Street. In Hospital No. 3 he was given injections of haloperidol. Zhivotovskaya, head of the section, told Borisov’s mother that they were giving him injections “because he has remained the same man that he was before”. She added: “We don’t have the kinds of bars and alarm system they do at Arsenalnaya Street and Borisov is capable of anything.” According to her, before they could terminate Borisov’s treatment they would have to receive an order from Belyaev, the chief psychiatrist of Leningrad (who was on leave at the time).

Borisov declared a hunger strike a week after the injections were started. The same day he was transferred to Psychiatric Hospital No. 2, where all “treatment” was discontinued immediately.

A month and a half later, a commission headed by [N. K.] Svetlanova considered the question of Borisov’s final discharge. Among other things, Svetlanova asked Borisov whether he supported the position of Solzhenitsyn. The answer was in the affirmative and he was not discharged.


Vladimir Lvovich Gershuni (see CCEs 10, 11, 13,14, 17) arrested in October 1969 (under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code) is still confined in Oryol SPH.

In December 1973, a medical commission concluded that Gershuni could be transferred, for his compulsory treatment, to an ordinary psychiatric hospital. According to information available on 31 December 1973 the court had still not convened [to consider this recommendation].


A “public appeal” by Sakharov and Podyapolsky, and a work by T. Khodorovich, “Punishment by Madness” [Nakazaniye bezumiyem], were sent to Secretary General Kurt Waldheim of the United Nations on 25 June.

The authors of the appeal urge Waldheim to speak out in defence of Vladimir Borisov and Leonid Plyushch, two members of the Action Group who have been sentenced to confinement in Special Psychiatric Hospitals:

“World public opinion knows of Borisov’s heroic struggle for the right to appear before a court and the prolonged hunger strikes he conducted with Victor Fainberg…

“At present we are especially alarmed about the fate of the Kiev mathematician Leonid Plyushch. His case has been characterized by a level of determination to conceal everything which has been unusual even for our country, and which forces one to suppose that the authorities wish to conceal even more serious violations of law. Plyushch’s trial was conducted in an empty courtroom, with neither the accused nor his representative present…

“Counsel for the defence was permitted only one brief visit with his client. The court, basing its decision on a forensic-psychiatric report which was not read out, … committed him to a Special Psychiatric Hospital”.

T. Khodorovich’s work contains a detailed account of L. Plyushch’s “case” and a request to Western lawyers and psychiatrists “to consider impartially the materials” which she “has had the greatest difficulty compiling”. The reason for this has been that before the proceedings began Judge Dyshel stated: “The examination of L. Plyushch’s case is a state secret and therefore it will take place in closed court.”


Publicity in the West about the psychiatric persecution of “dissenters” was the subject of an interview Professor R. A. Nadzharov [note 3] gave to a Tass correspondent, published in Izvestiya on 10 August:

“It is perfectly obvious that the attempt to exploit, for anti-Soviet purposes, a field like psychiatry—one of the most ticklish branches of medicine—merely underscores the anti-human and profoundly amoral nature of this libellous campaign.

“The absurd assertions about the use of Soviet psychiatry to exert some sort of “pressure” on “dissenters” has no relation to reality. Yet the propagandist hullabaloo they are trying to whip up around this mythical “issue” goes against the interests of psychiatrists struggling to promote people’s health, the noble aims of medical science as a whole, and the interests of extending international collaboration and strengthening peace.”



[1] Terelya’s name is variously mis-spelled in the Chronicle as Vareta, Tereza and Terelli (see CCEs 11, 18, 27). Further information on him is available from a former fellow cellmate Anatoly Radygin (CCEs 24 and 27) who now lives in the USA. On Titov see CCE 27.

[2] In fact, only one of the two visiting doctors, Dr Carlo Perris of Sweden, said this (The Times, London, 19 October); the other, Dr Denis Leigh of London, denied it a few days later in an interview with The Guardian, London. See also CCE 32.

[3] See CCEs 14, 19. Nadzharov has participated in psychiatric examinations of Zhores Medvedev, Victor Fainberg and Victor Kuznetsov.