Poor Food, Large Doses of Medication : Grim Hospital Treatment for Soviet Dissidents Told

From Times Wire Services

Political prisoners are subjected to large doses of medication, poor food and unhealthful living conditions in Soviet psychiatric hospitals, a former political prisoner said Wednesday.

Vladimir Titov, who was released from a psychiatric hospital in Orel on Oct. 9, said at least 10 political prisoners remained in the facility. One prisoner, Alexei Pavlov, has been there for 20 years, Titov said.

At least a dozen other hospitals hold political prisoners, he said. But he could not estimate how many political prisoners were being held.


Titov, 49, who has been given permission to emigrate, said in a telephone interview that in Orel, he was held in a room “like a regular prison cell, without a toilet.”

‘Regarded Us as Animals’

Soldiers and hospital employees walk up and down corridors, watching the patients through the doors of their rooms, he said.

“They regarded us as animals,” Titov said.

The criticism echoes that of Soviet psychiatrist Anatoly Koryagin who was sentenced to a labor camp in 1981. He was released earlier this year and allowed to emigrate.

Titov spent 18 years in Soviet labor camps and psychiatric hospitals before his release from Orel, about 185 miles south of Moscow. He was incarcerated for passing information to human rights activists about the living conditions of Soviet political prisoners.

90% Mentally Sound

Titov asserted that 90% of the patients at the Orel hospital were mentally sound and had been sent there for crimes such as stealing.

He said he knew of 11 suicides in a two-year period at Orel, and that many more people attempted suicide.

Titov has been given until Oct. 30 to leave the Soviet Union, but he said Wednesday he does not know when exactly he will leave.

Koryagin now lives in Switzerland. In the Soviet Union, he was active in a dissident group called the Working Commission to Investigate the Use of Psychiatry for Political Purposes.

His Soviet citizenship was revoked after publication by a British medical journal of an article in which Koryagin accused the Soviets of confining sane people to mental hospitals.

In an article published recently in the government newspaper Izvestia, a Soviet journalist and legal expert complained of abuses of Soviet psychiatry and proposed revision of the terms under which patients are confined.

The number of political prisoners in mental hospitals is unknown. Some Western sources estimate about 1,000.

It must be “several thousand,” Sergei Grigoryants, a former political prisoner and editor of the independent periodical Glasnost, told journalists this week.

Titov and other former patients said that patients in mental hospitals include many accused of anti-Soviet propaganda, workers who complained about work conditions, and Baptists and other religious worshipers.