September 24, 1997

No Asylum: State Psychiatric Repression in the Former USSR

Author Affiliations

Southwestern Medical Center Dallas, Tex New York University Medical Center New York, NY


by Theresa C. Smith with Thomas A. Oleszczuk, 289 pp, with illus, $45, ISBN 0-8147-8061-X, New York, NY, New York University Press, 1997.

JAMA. 1997;278(12):1036. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550120096046

Subsequent to the death of Stalin and the execution of Levrenti Beria, the inhumane head of the KGB, Soviet leadership under the helm of Premier Khrushchev confronted the embarrassing repatriation of thousands of prisoners who had been sentenced to serve time in the Gulag. The Gulag was an amorphous series of detention, work reform, and prison camps, which dotted some of the bleakest horizons of the remote, frequently barren, semiarctic regions of the Soviet Union. It hosted a wide array of miserable souls ranging from ordinary grifters to luminaries.

The return of these exiles, however, did not herald an end to the pervasive repression of the Soviet political system, but merely signaled a change in the style of how suppressive policies of the post-Stalin era could best be hidden. Gulag excesses were attributed to the Stalin era, while the terror used to handle any opposition was transformed into less visible