Monday, August 13, 2007

Russia's return to Soviet-era policy

Back in the bad old days of the Cold War, a favorite tactic of the government in repressing dissent was to declare the dissident "insane" and have them institutionalized. It seems that with the neo-Soviets in charge of Russia, the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Naked and with her hands and feet bound to the corners of a metal bed covered by a rubber incontinence sheet, Larisa Arap eyed with quiet defiance the doctors who wanted to declare her mad.

It was a futile gesture. The men in white coats standing over her were bitter adversaries.

Enraged by the allegations that she had levelled against them, they also knew that, as an open Kremlin critic, the state would do little to help her.

A needle sank into her arm. Over the coming weeks, as the treatment took its effect, Mrs Arap would become everything the doctors declared her to be: her head lolled to one side, her tongue hung out of her mouth and her face went slack.

"When she was brought out she was covered in bruises," said Taisia, her daughter. "She couldn't stand, could hardly speak and was drifting in and out of consciousness."

The practice of "punitive psychiatry", perfected by Nikita Khrushchev in the aftermath of Stalin's Great Terror as a more palatable way of dealing with political dissidents, was once thought to have been buried with the Soviet Union.
Mr. Bush may do well to take another look into the eyes of Mr. Putin.

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