Petro Hryhorenko
RUSSIA - USA

Thanks to all who came here to commemorate millions of innocent victims!

Repressive psychiatry in the USRR

Repressive psychiatry was one of the methods of repression employed against the political opponents in the former USSR. It was used also against people who were considered as a threat to social norms. It was based on a compulsory psychiatric treatment at a hospital-prison, commonly known as psychuschka.

“Thanks to all who came here to commemorate millions of innocent victims! Thank you for your being here, which is a sign of solidarity with the prisoners of conscience!” said Petro Hryhorenko during a demonstration for human rights at Pushkin Square in Moscow. It was 1976.

Half a century earlier, Hryhorenko, who came from a peasant family from Zaporizhia, joined the Communist Party, became a general and assistant professor.

The 20th Convention of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU) in 1956 changed his life. He realized that political system of the USSR was incompatible with the Leninist ideology. He called for democratic elections, turnover of the staff and eliminating infringement of the principles – particularly high salaries and irremovability. He initiated an underground Union for the Struggle of Leninist Revival.

He was arrested by KGB; while in prison, he was diagnosed with paranoid personality. He was forced to undergo special treatment at a psychiatric hospital. He was also downgraded – a general turned into a private.

Having been sacked, he worked as a janitor and a foreman at the building workshop. Soon he became one of the leading figures of the dissident movement. He was in favour of establishing a committee of human rights’ defenders. He was a non-official leader of the Tatars’ struggle to return to their historic homeland (they had been deported from Crimea in 1944). He was arrested and yet again forced to undergo a psychiatric treatment. People demonstrated demanding his release – both in Tashkent and at Mayakovski Square in Moscow. Andrey Sacharov began a fight for human rights with his support for Hryhorenko.

Petro Hryhorenko. Photo: Ośrodek Karta

Following his release, he renewed the dissident activity, perhaps with even greater zeal. He was a founding member of the Moscow Helsinki Group (MHG) and signed most of its documents in the years 1976-1977. He was also a prime mover behind establishing a Working Committee for the Study of Using Psychiatry for Political Purposes, as part of the MHG.

He participated in creating the Ukraine Helsinki Group and was entered on its list of founding members. He intervened in defence of the detained.

“I was deprived of the right to pass away in my homeland,” he declared at a press conference in New York in 1978.

By then, he had spent several months in the United States, undergoing treatment. On 13 February, following a decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet, he was stripped of his Soviet citizenship, due to his infamous activities, unworthy of a citizen of the USSR. While on emigration, he abandoned his communist beliefs completely, became a member of the Ukrainian diaspora in the US and converted to Russian Orthodoxy.

Petro Hryhorenko and his wife Zinaida. Photo: Ośrodek Karta
Repressive psychiatry in the USRR

Repressive psychiatry was one of the methods of repression employed against the political opponents in the former USSR. It was used also against people who were considered as a threat to social norms. It was based on a compulsory psychiatric treatment at a hospital-prison, commonly known as psychuschka.