11.10 The trial of Vladimir Borisov (Leningrad)

No 11 : 31 December 1969

The trial of Vladimir Borisov, charged under Article 190-1 of n the Russian Criminal Code, took place on 19 November. V. E. Borisov was judged to be of unsound mind and the court decreed that he should undergo compulsory treatment in a psychiatric hospital of special type, i.e. a prison hospital. One of the main reasons for Borisov’s indictment was his signing of an appeal to the United Nations.

Borisov, born in 1943, is an electrician and a member of the Action Group for the Defence of Civil Rights in the USSR. From 1964 to 1968 he was in a psychiatric hospital prison in Leningrad (9 Arsenal Street), charged under Article 70 of the Russian Criminal Code. In May 1969 he signed the [first] appeal to the United Nations [see 8.10] and a letter in defence of P. G. Grigorenko. In June Borisov was summoned by the doctor in charge of the Vyborg District Out-Patients Clinic for Psychiatric and Neurological Diseases in Leningrad, where he had been registered since his discharge from the special hospital in the spring of 1968.

On 12 June 1969, an ambulance and two doctors from the out-patients clinic were sent to fetch Borisov from work. The samizdat he was carrying was taken from him and he was driven to the clinic. No conversations were conducted with him. One of the doctors came up to him and said: ‘Listen, Borisov, you’re quite normal; you don’t want to be sent to a lunatic asylum, do you? Better change your ideas about politics.’ The other doctor began looking through the literature that had been taken away from Borisov: ‘I’ve seen this and this, ah, now this is something new—must have a look at this.’ His colleague called out to him: ‘Leave that alone or you’ll end up in the same place as him.’

Dzhemma Kvachevskaya, Vladimir Borisov’s wife, went to the clinic and asked to be given the literature confiscated from her husband. She was told: ‘The literature will be appended to his medical record.’

The doctor at the clinic told Borisov: ‘I am hospitalizing you not on my own initiative, but in accordance with orders’, and sent Borisov to Leningrad’s Psychiatric Hospital No. 4 (the doctor in charge there, Vladimir Pavlovich Belyayev, is also the chief psychiatrist of Leningrad).

The following day V. P. Belyayev spoke with Borisov in the presence of doctors and orderlies. Borisov was questioned about his views and beliefs and about the reasons for his being admitted to hospital in 1964. At the end of the interview Belyayev said that what happened to Borisov would be decided by a commission, which would request that documents be sent from the hospitals in which he had previously been treated; Borisov would stay in this hospital for about ten days; he was permitted to read any literature published in the Soviet Union, but not to comment on it to the patients; he could have pencil and paper, but everything he wrote would have to be handed in for inspection and he was not entitled to correspond with people outside. In reply to Borisov’s question, ‘On what grounds have I been brought here?’ Belyayev replied: ‘It was reported to us that your behaviour had changed: you had become nervous and excitable.’ Belyayev refused to say who made these ‘reports’.

On 23 June Borisov was called to the office of the head physician of the hospital, where the ‘top-level’ commission was in attendance. Its members were V. P. Belyayev, Chief Psychiatrist of Leningrad; Major-General Timofeyev, Chief Psychiatrist to the Leningrad Military District (who retired a few months ago, and who, in 1965, was a member of the commission which examined Borisov in the Leningrad hospital prison); a section head from Psychiatric Hospital No. 4; and a man in civilian clothes, who refused to give his name (it turned out later that this was Sluchevsky, Chief Physician of Leningrad Psychiatric Hospital No. 3). The conversation was mainly conducted by Timofeyev. Borisov’s past and the reasons for his present confinement in hospital were discussed and Borisov was informed that he had been brought there because of the samizdat materials and because he had signed protest letters. These, as the man in civilian dress said, could only be regarded as evidence of mental disorder or hooliganism.

Timofeyev was interested in how Borisov had come to know P. G. Grigorenko. Borisov replied: ‘At Arsenal Street’, i.e. in the special hospital there. Then Timofeyev began questioning Borisov about his other Moscow acquaintances, and their views, and why Borisov did not like life in the Soviet Union. Borisov was asked how he intended to behave in the future, to which he replied that he had no intention of committing himself in any way; it would all depend on the circumstances. At this the meeting of the commission came to a close.

The commission’s decision, that further treatment was essential, was announced not to Borisov but to his wife. Borisov was transferred to a hospital near where he lived (the Skvortsov-Stepanov Psychiatric Hospital No. 3, Section 15). In conversation with his wife, the section head, a woman, told her that Borisov needed treatment because he did not behave as a normal person should. To his wife’s objection that this was not a symptom of illness, but a question of Borisov’s personal opinions, the section head replied: ‘Maybe, but he was unlucky; he is down on our register. What may be a system of opinions in a normal person is a sign of illness in your husband’, and she recommended that Borisov’s wife exert her influence on Borisov to make him see reason, since otherwise he would have to undergo constant treatment.

Circulating in samizdat is a detailed account of how Borisov was sent to the psychiatric hospital entitled: ‘A socially restive man.’

The Chronicle does not yet know in which prison hospital Borisov will be confined [see 14.11, item 13].