Psychiatry in the Soviet Union
There was systematic political abuse of psychiatry in the Soviet Union, based on the interpretation of political opposition or dissent as a psychiatric problem. It was called “psychopathological mechanisms” of dissent.
During the leadership of General Secretary Leonid Brezhnev, psychiatry was used to disable and remove from society political opponents (“dissidents”) who openly expressed beliefs that contradicted the official dogma. The term “philosophical intoxication”, for instance, was widely applied to the mental disorders diagnosed when people disagreed with the country’s Communist leaders and, by referring to the writings of the Founding Fathers of Marxism–Leninism—Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin—made them the target of criticism.
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Political dissidents were usually charged under Articles 70 (agitation and propaganda against the Soviet state) and 190-1 (dissemination of false fabrications defaming the Soviet state and social system) of the RSFSR Criminal Code. Forensic psychiatrists were asked to examine offenders whose mental state was considered abnormal by the investigating officers.
In almost every case, dissidents were examined at the Serbsky Central Research Institute for Forensic Psychiatry in Moscow, where persons being prosecuted in court for committing political crimes were subjected to a forensic-psychiatric expert evaluation. Once certified, the accused and convicted were sent for involuntary treatment to the Special Psychiatric Hospitals controlled by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic.
The accused had no right of appeal The right was given to their relatives or other interested persons but they were not allowed to nominate psychiatrists to take part in the evaluation, because all psychiatrists were considered fully independent and equally credible before the law.