Human Rights in Russia week-ending 10 September 2021 - with Viktor Davydov


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This week our guest on the podcast is the journalist and human rights activist Viktor Davydov. Victor Davydov studied at Kuibyshev Technical University and then at the History Department of Kuibyshev University. In 1974, he began publishing and distributing samizdat, for which he was interrogated by the KGB in September 1975. In 1975 he became a member of the dissident groups in Kuibyshev, and on 1 April 1976 was among the organizers of a protest march, for which he was jailed for 10 days and expelled from the university. In 1976-1979 he studied at the Orenburg department of the All-Union Correspondence Law Institute. He was forcibly hospitalized in Kuibyshev Medical Institute clinic in the spring of 1979. He worked on the Chronicle of Current Events and authored two samizdat works, for which he was arrested on 28 November 1979 under Article 190-1 of the RSFSR Criminal Code. He was declared insane by experts from the Serbsky Institute, with a diagnosis of "flaccid schizophrenia". On 19 September 1980, by decision of the Kuibyshev Regional Court, he was sent for compulsory treatment to Kazan Special Psychiatric Hospital of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, from where he was transferred to the Blagoveshchensky Hospital in Amur Region. In the hospital he was 'treated' with strong doses of neuroleptic drugs. He was released in July 1983. After release, he took part in the work of the Russian Social Fund for Persecuted Persons and Their Families (the Solzhenitsyn Fund). On 28 October 1984 he emigrated from the Soviet Union. Thereafter he worked for Radio Liberty and Voice of America and published in Russkaya mysl' and Novoe Russkoe Slovo. In 1986-1988 he worked at the Centre for Democracy in the USSR headed by Vladimir Bukovsky and Yury Yarym-Agaev. In 1988-1991 he worked as a programmer in American companies. In October 1991 he returned to the USSR. In 1991-1993 he was a member of the political council of the Free Democratic Party of Russia, headed by Marina Salie. In 1993 he founded the Globus Press Syndicate, an independent news agency which operated until 2005. At present, he is the editor-in-chief of the online publication New Chronicle of Current Events. Since 2015, he has lived in Tbilisi. [Source:]

Questions discussed on the podcast: 1) When you were young, in Soviet times, you were a dissident. Why did you become a dissident? 2) You became a victim of punitive psychiatry. Why did the Soviet regime use this method of dealing with dissidents? 3) The use of psychiatry in post-Soviet Russia. 4) After your return to Russia in 1991, you participated in the democratic movement and then founded a news agency. How do you view the contrast between the 1990s and post-2000s in terms of opportunities for independent political activity and freedom of speech? 5) You left Russia in 2015. Does this mean you are pessimistic about the future of human rights in the country?

This podcast is in Russian. You can also listen to the podcast on our website or on SoundCloud, Spotify and iTunes. The music, from Stravinsky’s Elegy for Solo Viola, is performed for us by Karolina Herrera.

Sergei Nikitin writes on Facebook: Viktor Davydov's biography could form the basis of an adventure novel. A student at Kuibyshev Polytechnic Institute who tape-recorded Deutsche Welle broadcasts of a reading of the Gulag Archipelago, and then retyped the text on paper with a typewriter; a student expelled from university for participating in a "Happening"; arrested under Article 190-1 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR for publishing samizdat; diagnosed as having "sluggish schizophrenia" by the notorious Serbsky Institute and sent to a Special Psychiatric Hospital. After an August break we have resumed our meetings with Russian human rights activists and our conversation with Viktor Davydov was fascinating. In September 2021, Viktor Davydov's book "The Ninth Circle" is to be published by the NLO Publishing House, in which he describes in great detail his "odyssey in the psychiatric Gulag". Simon Cosgrove and I listened as if spellbound to Viktor's interesting story, shaken by his fate. And we rejoiced that this brave man was not broken, that he got free, that he is writing, and that we could talk to him. I highly recommend listening to our conversation.

Simon Cosgrove adds: A summary of some of the week’s events in Russia relevant to human rights can be found on our website here.

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