Kirghiz SSR, USSR
|Known for||Soviet dissident|
Early life and career
Leonid Plyushch was born into a Ukrainian working-class family in 1939 in Naryn, Kirghizia. His father worked as railway foreman, and was killed at the front in 1941. Leonid's childhood was marked by tuberculosis of the bone, which he contracted at age of 8.
Plyushch graduated Kiev University in 1962 with a degree in mathematics. In his last year of studies he become interested in mathematical modeling of biological systems, in particular mental illness, which he sought to model with the help of a computer (cybernetic machine in the terminology used in the Soviet Union). This proved too difficult of a task, but Plyushch published papers on modeling and regulating simpler biological systems like the blood sugar level. He was eventually hired at the Institute of Cybernetics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which was often tasked with solving various problems for the Soviet space program.
Plyushch became a dissident by taking a public stance on political hot topics of the time. In 1968 he protested against the misconduct of the Galanskov–Ginzburg trial by sending a letter to Komsomolskaya Pravda, which was not published. When Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, Plyushch jointly signed with 16 other Soviet dissident a declaration of solidarity with the democratic movement in Czechoslovakia. In the same year he joined the Initiative Group for the Defense of Human Rights in the USSR, which sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Commission asking it to investigate the violations by the USSR of the right to hold independent beliefs and to propagate them by legal means. Plyushch was one of the fifteen signatories to this letter. Due to blowback from his political stances, he was dismissed from the Cybernetics Institute in 1968, and the KGB confiscated a number of his manuscripts and interrogated him several times.
Trial and imprisonment
He was arrested in January 1972 on charges of anti-Soviet activity, and was jailed for a year before his trial began. During his trial, the court sat in camera and in the absence of the accused. Although no expert witnesses of any kind were called, Plyushch was declared insane, and was ordered to be "sent for treatment in a special type of hospital." He was locked up in a ward for severely psychotic patients in the Dnipropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital where was administered high doses of haloperidol, insulin and other drugs, which temporarily made him incapable of reading and writing. Three commissions that examined him after a year of detention, one of which was chaired by Andrei Snezhnevsky, found him suffering from "reformist delusions" with "Messianic elements" and "sluggish schizophrenia."
While he was imprisoned, he corresponded with Tatiana Khodorovich. Plyushch's letters to her later formed the basis of the book The Case of Leonid Plyushch, first published in Russian in 1974 by an Amsterdam publisher, and translated in English two years later, which received attention in medical ethics journals. His imprisonment triggered international protests, including a letter by 650 American mathematicians addressed to the Soviet embassy. Henri Cartan brought the case to the attention of the participants to the 1974 International Congress of Mathematicians, which was held in Vancouver. Amnesty International sponsored an International Day for Plyushch in April 1975, and Andrei Sakharov also pleaded on his behalf.
Freedom and later life
Eventually he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union together with his family in 1976. His arrival in the West increased the friction between Western and Soviet psychiatrists leading eventually to a condemnation of Soviet practices by the World Psychiatric Association at the Sixth World Congress of Psychiatry. At a press conference in Paris, Plyushch gave a memorable account of the effects of his detention and medications:
|“||I noted with horror the daily progression of my degradation. I lost interest in politics, then in scientific problems, finally in my wife and children. My speech became blurred; my memory worsened. In the beginning, I reacted strongly to the sufferings of other patients. Eventually I became indifferent. My only thoughts were of toilets, tobacco and the bribes to the male nurses to let me go to the toilet one more time. Then I began to experience a new thought: 'I must remember everything I see here, I told myself, so that I can tell about it afterwards.'||”|
In 1979, with the contribution of his wife, Leonid Plyushch published his book History's Carnival: A Dissident's Autobiography in which he described how he and other dissidents were committed to psychiatric hospitals. At the same year, the book was translated into English. In 1980, Andrei Snezhnevsky, who was a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry, was invited by his British colleagues to answer criticism relating to Plyushch and other dissidents. He refused to do so, and instead resigned his Fellowship.
- Plyushch L., (1979) pp. 3-4
- Sakwa, Richard (1999). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991. Routledge. p. 403. ISBN 0-415-12290-2.
- Plyushch L., (1979) pp. 31–37
- Khodorovich T. (1976), p. xv
- The "Madness" of Leonid Plyushch, Radio Free Europe Research material, 1973-1-31
- Khodorovich T. (1976), p. 5
- A.V. Campbell, "The Case of Leonid Plyushch", J Med Ethics. 1976 December; 2(4): 211.
- Lipman Bers, "Imprisoned Soviet Mathematician", Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4153 (Aug. 30, 1974), pp. 735-736
- Whitaker, Leighton C.; Antonio E. Puente (1992). Schizophrenic Disorders: Sense and Nonsense in Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment. Springer. p. 25. ISBN 0-306-44156-X.
- Boobbyer, Philip (2004). Conscience, Dissent and Reform in Soviet Russia. Routledge. pp. 117–118. ISBN 0-415-33186-2.
- S. Bloch, "Psychiatry as ideology in the USSR", J Med Ethics. 1978;4; 126-131
- Notices of the AMS, Vol. 46(7), page 788
- "Sakharov in appeal on detained Russian". New York Times. February 20, 1974.
- Censuring The Soviets, TIME, Sep. 12, 1977
- Walter Reich, Soviet Psychiatry on Trial, Commentary Magazine, January 1978
- The Psukhushka Horror, TIME, Feb. 16, 1976
- (Russian) Плющ, Леонид (1979). На карнавале истории. London: Overseas Publications Interchange. (The Russian text of the book in full is available online on the website of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center by click)
- Plyushch, Leonid (1979). History's carnival: a dissident's autobiography. Collins and Harvill Press. ISBN 0-00-262116-9.
- Sidney Levine, The Special Committee on the Political Abuse of Psychiatry, Psychiatr. Bull., May 1981; 5: 94 - 95
- PLYUSHCH, Leonid Ivanovych at the Dissident Movement in Ukraine Virtual Museum