Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Actors in a "Cheap Comedy": Dissidents in Soviet Psychiatric Hospitals, 1968-1974

This paper examines the Soviet government's hospitalization of political dissidents diagnosed with mental disorders between 1968 and 1974. Relying primarily on memoir accounts produced by the victims of Soviet punitive psychiatry, the purpose of this paper is to explicate the purpose, function, and effectiveness of the Soviet program of committing dissidents to psychiatric institutions. It concludes that this program served primarily to control behavior, rather than suppress ideas or counter-ideologies, embarrassing to the Soviet government. Furthermore, it suggest that in many cases committing dissidents to mental hospitals served the state as a means of negotiating with dissidents and reaching an agreement on what constitutes acceptable behavior, instead of functioning simply as a way to remove them from general society. This paper also argues that some dissidents possessed means of pressuring the state, and that the dialogue between political malcontents and government authorities was not a one sided conversation.