Soviet practice of psychiatric evaluation of political criminals reemerges in Russia today

UCSJ STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF RUSSIAN HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST Mrs. TATYANA KOTLYAR With nearly 50 years of involvement, the UCSJ has extensive experience in supporting human rights activists in the former Soviet Union.  After years of such experience, UCSJ has observed that too often in Russian history, authorities have persecuted brave, honest, heroic, and innocent people instead of lauding them. One form of such persecution that has reemerged is the use of psychiatric assessment to evaluate a person’s political aims, especially when they seem out of line with the official position of the Russian government. The victim in this instance is Mrs. Tatyana Kotlyar, deputy of the Obninsk (located in the Kaluga region of the Russian Federation) City Council.  Obninsk and Kaluga are remembered and well known for forcibly placing the famous scientist Zhores Medvedev in a psychiatric hospital for his democratic views and actions in the 1960s and 70s. He was one of many political activists who were punished in similar and sometimes even crueler ways.  Tatyana Kotlyar’s son Mr. Neverovsky, an advocate for alternative military service, perished when his home was set fire, presumably an act of arson.

In 2013, an administrative case was opened against Mrs. Tatyana Kotlyar to investigate her assistance to former Soviet Union citizens who recently had moved to Russia (from the former Soviet Union republics or from abroad) for permanent residence.  According to a new Russian law, these people, in order to get jobs and receive Russian citizenship, must rent or buy a place for temporary residence and be officially registered at these places (sometimes just floor spaces).  Most local Russian house/apartments owners are unwilling and afraid to register the supposed new leasers after quite a few cases in which such leasers (even relatives), after being officially registered, tried to “bite off” a part of the owner’s living space for themselves, pretending they lived there. Furthermore, according to the law, the number of leasers depends strictly on the size of the owner’s place (no less than 8 square meters per person). If this rule is violated by an owner of a living space, the authorities will consider him or her a criminal. Due to all these restrictions, many newcomers have found themselves in a desperate situation, forcing them to change their life plans and return to the places they came from.

Over the course of 2 years, Tatyana Kotlyar registered more than 100 people in her small apartment. The majority of those she registered arrived to Russia in accordance with a governmental program that gives those who were formerly Soviet citizens, priority in attaining Russian citizenship. In this way, Mrs. Kotlyar helped these people live their life in Russia, in an absolutely unselfish act as a deputy of the City Council and as a responsive, kind person.

On March 11th 2014, Mrs. Kotlyar was accused of defying the new articles 322.2 and 322.3 of the Criminal Code of Russia concerning fraudulent registration in place of residence, and a criminal case was opened against her and confirmed by the chief of Kaluga Region Investigation Department, General V. Efremenkov .

On May 12th 2014 the investigator of Mrs. Kotlyar’s case, U. Zimin ordered her to be sent to a psychiatric hospital to examine her mental health.  Think of it.  Acts of compassion in helping returning former Soviet citizens are now considered the work of persons with phychiatric problems.  In no other civilized society would the heroism of Mrs. Kotlyar be treated in this fashion.


Larry Lerner, UCSJ President