Aleksandr Podrabinek: An appeal to psychiatrists in defence of Aleksandr Skobov

22 May 2024

by Aleksandr Podrabinek

Source: Facebook

Appeal to psychiatrists in defence of Aleksandr Skobov

KOMI REPUBLICAN PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL, 1a Ezhvinskaya St., Syktyvkar, 167019 Tel: (8212) 36-50-57 Fax: (8212) 36-51-10 E-mail:

Chief physician Larisa Viktorinovna Knyazeva, deputy chief physician for clinical care Elena Vladimirovna Kalimova, head of department for compulsory treatment and inpatient forensic psychiatric expertise, Aleksandra Nikolaevna

Dear Ms. Knyazeva, Ms. Kalimova, Ms. Ladonina,

Yesterday, 21 May, Aleksandr Valerievich Skobov, born 1957, was admitted to your hospital for a forensic psychiatric examination. He has been charged with organizing terrorist activity and incitement of such activity under Article 205-2 (Part 2) and Article 205-4 (Part 2) of the Russian Criminal Code, respectively. The investigation is being conducted by the FSB.

I realize that it is not your role to assess the validity of the charges brought against Aleksandr Skobov. However, you can hardly ignore the relatively recent experience of the use of psychiatry for political purposes to suppress dissent in the USSR. At that time, this practice was carried out by the KGB and psychiatrists working for them at the Serbsky Central Research Institute of Forensic Psychiatry and departments of the USSR Ministry of Health and the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs. The use of psychiatry for political purposes was condemned by the World Psychiatric Association, from which in 1983 the Soviet Psychiatric Association was forced to withdraw half an hour before the vote to expel it from the WPA.

In the late 1980s, the All-Union Society of Neurologists and Psychiatrists condemned past abuses of psychiatry and declared that the practice was over for good. Recently, however, more and more cases have appeared in our country that can be considered a revival of the practice of using psychiatry for repressive purposes. The court order that Aleksandr Skobov undergo a forensic psychiatric examination appears to be just such a case. In Soviet times Skobov was twice (in 1978 and 1982) subjected to compulsory treatment in psychiatric hospitals on the basis of court decisions related to charges of anti-Soviet activiy.

In 1989, Aleksandr Skobov underwent a voluntary examination by American psychiatrists during a visit by a delegation of the American Psychiatric Association to the USSR. Skobov was found to be of sound mind, legally capable and mentally healthy, and his compulsory treatment was found to be unjustified.

I urge you, when examining Skobov, to scrupulously take into account the life history of the person in question and not to deviate from the norms of medical ethics, no matter how much pressure you may come under from law enforcement agencies. The Skobov case has already attracted public attention in Russia and abroad, and the results of the forensic psychiatric examination, and the role therein played by psychiatric experts, will inevitably be discussed not only in the professional community, but also among all those who care about human rights and the protection of people from arbitrariness.

Russian psychiatry must never again become a tool of repression in the hands of the organs of state security and a means of suppressing rights and freedoms in our country.

In hope of your professional integrity,

Aleksandr Podrabinek

Moscow, 22 May 2024

Translated by Simon Cosgrove