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June 1983

Serbsky and Czarist Dissidents-Reply

Author Affiliations

Kennan Institute for Advanced Russian Studies Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars Smithsonian Institution Building Washington, DC 20560

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1983;40(6):697-698. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1983.04390010107015

In Reply.—In general, I agree with Professor Kazanetz. While the quotes from Serbsky sound suggestive enough, they hardly provide sufficient grounds for the conclusion that the czarist authorities punished "dissidents" (or, more precisely, revolutionaries) by psychiatric means.

Soviet sources, in particular staff members of the forensic psychiatric institute later named after Serbsky (including its current director), have indeed accused czarist officials of systematically referring healthy revolutionaries to special psychiatric institutions:

Under conditions of class terror and brutal reprisal against revolutionaries, especially during the intense reaction after 1905, the courts of Tsarist Russia sometimes prescribed an expert examination in order to create at least the external appearance of impartiality of their actions, while at the same time they attempted to use such examinations in their class interests. In other cases they would reject an expert opinion for no reason whatever.

Because the Tsarist autocracy did not entrust a psychiatric expert

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