Monday, July 30, 2007

Sliding backwards

During the old days of the Soviet Union, political dissent was equated with mental illness, and opponents of the regime were frequently institutionalised in psychiatric hospitals to be tortured "cured". They even invented their own "mental illness" to explain these detentions: sluggishly progressing schizophrenia. For a while after the breakup of the USSR this practice ceased, but under Putin it has had a resurgance, and now it seems things are back to "normal". The latest victim is an opposition activist called Larisa Arap. The sign of her illness? She questioned the use of electroshock therapy on children. As a result, she was forcibly detained for "treatment".

This is Putin's legacy: a country which briefly had a chance at moving towards democracy and joining the civilised world seems now to be sliding back towards authoritarianism.