9.3 Two trials about compulsory medical treatment

No 9 : 31 August 1969

On 16 July 1969, the Moscow Region Court, under the chairmanship of Judge Makarova, examined the case of Victor Kuznetsov at a closed hearing. Kuznetsov’s activities had been classified by the investigators under Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code. The substance of his activities was as follows: spreading the works of Sinyavsky, Daniel and Tarsis; and also Academician Varga’s work (The Russian Road to Socialism) and [Valentin] Moroz’s letter “Report from the Beria Reservation”.

Kuznetsov was examined by an in-patient forensic psychiatric commission of experts, consisting of Lunts, Landau and Pechernikova, who pronounced him of unsound mind, gave a diagnosis of ‘sluggish schizophrenia’, and recommended that he be sent to a psychiatric hospital of special type for treatment.

Kuznetsov’s defence lawyer, E. Kogan, pleaded for an open hearing, demanding that the accused’s nearest relatives be allowed into the courtroom, and also that a new commission of experts be appointed. The Procurator Sorokin proposed that the appeal be rejected. The court rejected the appeal without giving reasons.

Several witnesses who appeared in court confirmed that they had read the works in question, and that they had been given them by Kuznetsov. But the ‘anti-Soviet intent’ necessary for conviction under Article 70 was not indicated by the witnesses’ testimony. A woman expert from the Serbsky Institute, who appeared in court without ever having seen Kuznetsov, agreed with the opinion of the preliminary commission and stated that Kuznetsov was in need of a protracted course of treatment in a closed hospital.

The court resolved to send Victor Kuznetsov to a psychiatric hospital of special type.

On 26 August the Russian Supreme Court examined the case of Victor Kuznetsov after his defence lawyer had lodged an appeal. The decision of the court of first instance was left unaltered. But earlier, on 23 August, even before the appeal was heard, Kuznetsov had been sent to the Kazan special psychiatric hospital [see 10.10].

It should be noted that Victor Kuznetsov had never previously had any psychiatric treatment, and the only time he had been in a mental hospital before his arrest was in the autumn of 1966 [Chronicle 7.3] when he was forcibly taken away by the KGB and interned in the hospital after a speech he made at a debate.

Kuznetsov & Kazan SPH (web)

Victor Kuznetsov and the Kazan Special Psychiatric Hospital

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At the end of August 1969 the Latvian Supreme Court examined the case of Ivan Yakhimovich. Yakhimovich’s activities had been classified under article 183-1 of the Latvian Criminal Code (equivalent to Article 190-1 of the Russian Code). The substance of his activities was as follows: spreading Bogoraz’ and Litvinov’s letter ‘To World Public Opinion’, preparing and distributing a letter to the Central Committee of the party, writing a letter in defence of the 25 August demonstration – the only copy of which had not been circulated and was taken away during a search – and also uttering statements against the sending of troops into Czechoslovakia.

Ivan Yakhimovich had never been on a psychiatrist’s register before. The first conclusion that he was of unsound mind was made by an out-patient commission of experts, who diagnosed ‘schizophrenia’. The diagnosis of the in-patient commission was completely different: ‘paranoid development of a psychopathic personality, amounting to mental illness’ – and they also pronounced him insane. Both commissions recommended that Yakhimovich should be sent to a psychiatric hospital of special type.

The court granted the requests submitted by the defence lawyer S. V. Kalistratova: that additional witnesses be summoned, that additional documents be added to the case, and that Ivan Yakhimovich be called to appear in court. The defence also submitted a request that Yakhimovich be sent to another commission of experts since the conclusion of the second commission was not supported by the evidence it had examined. The specialist doctor in court said that she could not argue with the conclusions of the in-patient commission, but that since, during the interrogation of witnesses closely acquainted with Yakhimovich and during the interrogation of Yakhimovich himself, new data had been collected which could help to define his psychological state, she considered it necessary that Yakhimovich be sent to a repeat commission. The Prosecutor supported the lawyer’s request for a repeat commission. The court resolved to have Ivan Yakhimovich sent to a repeat commission of forensic psychiatry experts at the Serbsky Institute. Judge Lotko, who presided over the trial, conducted the whole of the two-day hearing with a full observance of procedural norms, and with respect for the accused’s right to a defence. According to eyewitnesses, Ivan Yakhimovich aroused the sympathy of all present, not excluding the Prosecutor and the escort soldiers.