Podcast No. 85. Simon & Sergei – with Viktor Davydov

This week our guest on the podcast is the journalist and human rights activist Viktor Davydov. Victor Davydov studied at Kuibyshev Technical University and then at the History Department of Kuibyshev University. In 1974, he began publishing and distributing samizdat, for which he was interrogated by the KGB in September 1975. In 1975 he became a member of the dissident groups in Kuibyshev, and in April 1976 was among the organizers of ‘Happening,’ for which he was jailed for 10 days and expelled from university. In 1976-1979 he studied at the Orenburg department of the All-Union Correspondence Law Institute. He was forcibly hospitalized in Kuibyshev Medical Institute clinic in the spring of 1979. He worked on the Chronicle of Current Events and authored two samizdat works, for which he was arrested in November 1979 under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. He was declared insane by experts from the Serbsky Institute, with a diagnosis of ‘flaccid schizophrenia.’ In September 1980, by decision of Kuibyshev Regional Court, he was sent for compulsory treatment to Kazan Special Psychiatric Hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, from where he was transferred to the Blagoveshchensky Hospital in Amur Region. In the hospital he was ‘treated’ with strong doses of neuroleptic drugs. He was released in July 1983. After release, he took part in the work of the Russian Social Fund for Persecuted Persons and Their Families (the Solzhenitsyn Fund). In October 1984 he emigrated from the Soviet Union. In October 1991 Victor returned to the USSR and in the years 1991-1993 was a member of the political council of the Free Democratic Party of Russia, headed by Marina Salie. In 1993 he founded the Globus Press Syndicate, an independent news agency which operated until 2005. At present, he is editor-in-chief of the online publication New Chronicle of Current Events. Since 2015, he has lived in Tbilisi. [Source: Colta.ru]

Questions discussed on the podcast are: Becoming a dissident in the Soviet Union as a young person; becoming a victim of punitive psychiatry; why the Soviet regime used this method of dealing with dissidents; use of psychiatry in post-Soviet Russia; democratic politics in Russia in the 1990s and the contrast with the 2000s; the future of human rights in Russia.

This podcast is in Russian. You can listen to it in full here:

You can also listen to the podcast on Podcasts.comSoundCloud,  Spotify  and  iTunes

The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Given the length of the podcast, we have also divided it into three parts that you can listen to separately.

Part One: Becoming a dissident; punitive psychiatry in the Soviet Union:

Part Two: Punitive psychiatry in Russia today:

Part Three: Comparing the 1990s and the 2000s; the future of human rights in Russia:

Sergei Nikitin
 writes on FacebookViktor Davydov’s biography could form the basis of an adventure novel. A student at Kuibyshev Polytechnic Institute who tape-recorded Deutsche Welle broadcasts of a reading of the Gulag Archipelago, and then retyped the text on paper with a typewriter; a student expelled from university for participating in a “Happening”; arrested under Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR for publishing samizdat; diagnosed as having “sluggish schizophrenia” by the notorious Serbsky Institute and sent to a Special Psychiatric Hospital. After an August break we have resumed our meetings with Russian human rights activists and our conversation with Viktor Davydov was fascinating. In September 2021, Viktor Davydov’s book “The Ninth Circle” is to be published by the NLO Publishing House, in which he describes in great detail his “odyssey in the psychiatric Gulag”. Simon Cosgrove and I listened as if spellbound to Viktor’s interesting story, shaken by his fate. And we rejoiced that this brave man was not broken by his experiences, that he is, that he is writing and that we could talk to him. I highly recommend listening to our conversation. 

Simon Cosgrove adds:  A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.

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