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[Essay] Mental health and human rights in Russia—a flawed relationship

When the Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991, new independent psychiatric associations were established in many of the former Soviet republics, and groups of reform-minded psychiatrists initiated projects to discard the old Soviet psychiatric system, a system notorious for its political abuse of psychiatry and characterised by an almost exclusively biological orientation and institutional form of care. Russia was no exception and even boasted some of the most prominent mental health reformers, such as psychiatrist Yuri Nuller in St Petersburg1 and the Moscow-based lawyer Svetlana Polubinskaya, an associate of the Institute of State and Law who formulated the Soviet Union’s last law on psychiatric help and Russia’s first law on psychiatric care, which was adopted in 1992.