La Russophobe is pleased and proud to offer yet another original translation from the pages of Novaya Gazeta. This time, the translation is provided by second a talented professional translator who has agreed to contribute to the blog, reader Vova Khavkin. It tells the story of just what results you can get when you write a letter to Vladimir Putin. The rendering of the Russian style into English is particularly interesting — Russian is another language even when perfectly translated into English.
A Straitjacket Subpoena
A Yoshkar-Ola resident who had written
a letter to Putin was quickly summoned to a psychiatric clinic
by Boris Bronstein, staff reporter
April 9, 2007
At long last there’s solid proof that Vladimir Vladimirovich [TN: Putin] will not go for a third term. Furthermore, there are people who speculate that even as we speak he won’t undertake any new projects. Yes, they argue, Putin’s still in the Kremlin, but he is probably taking stock and once he’s finished, he will wearily pack up his belongings and put them in duffel bags. One has to be crazy to ask him about anything at all.
And if one is crazy, there’s not much to discuss. So Citizen G, a Yoshkar-Ola resident, was served a subpoena printed on the stationery of the [Mari-El] Republic’s psycho-neurological clinic. The wording of the summons merits it becoming a case study in the textbooks. And not just in psychiatry textbooks but in Russian history textbooks as well. Where in the world except in Russia would one find the following: “YOU ARE HEREBY REQUESTED URGENTLY TO COME FOR AN APPOINTMENT WIRH DR. I.Yu. YeRMOLAYeVA REGARDING YOUR LETTER TO V.V. PUTIN.”
Had it asked to come and see Dr. Yermolayeva because of an illness or for a scheduled checkup—that would have been readily comprehensible. Or to have an appointment with Sobyanin or Sechin [TN: Sergey Semenovich Sobyanin, Kremlin chief of staff, appointed 14 November 2005, former governor of the Tyumen region and Igor Ivanovich Sechin, also known as the “Grey Eminence,” Kremlin deputy chief of staff and chairman of the board of directors of Rosneft] regarding a letter to the president—this is something one could only dream about, but this would have been logical. But to see a doctor regarding a letter to the president — go figure where the office of the president ends and a nuthouse begins.
Thinking that this was a silly practical joke which had nothing to do either with the authorities or with medicine, a Novaya gazeta reporter decided to go to the clinic after all; there he met Dr. Yermolayeva who turned out to be a real person. Irina Yuryevna [Ms. Yermolayeva] confirmed that the subpoena was not a fake, although she wasn’t the one who filled it out; this was done by a certain paramedic whose illegible signature embellished the summons.
How did Citizen G’s letter end up in a psychiatric clinic? It followed a rather standard series of bureaucratic machinations, which is evident from interim reports. Thus, on 12 January she received a quite convincing reply from A.M. Yagodkin in Moscow, a consultant at the office of written petitions. And on 23 January a rather innocuous letter came from the office of the republic’s president in Yoshkar-Ola signed by A.V. Dimakov, chief of the section dealing with petitions from members of the public. In other words, the letter in which Citizen G asked that her living conditions be improved was being handled in a routine fashion. Yet who could have imagined that the power vertical, together with all its chambers, will run afoul of “Chamber Number Six” [TN: A social and political satire by A.P. Chekhov describing life in a mental asylum]?
Dr. Yermolayeva made it clear that being compliant with the psychiatry statutes she could offer no insight into the relationship between a medical facility and a letter about square meters of living space [TN: i.e., the content of the letter in question]. Of course, had Citizen G asked for example about “round meters” instead of “square meters,” forwarding the letter to the clinic would have made some sense. But doesn’t any person, even of some interest to doctors, have the right to write to the president and ask for something? He does, but it is probably easier to tranquilize him with a summons instead of addressing the substance of the issue.
Citizen G maintains that she never had anything to do with psychiatrists, never had a psychiatric record, and she cannot understand where they obtained her address. Whether or not this is true is beside the point. When she met the Novaya Gazeta reporter she explained the situation quite coherently. Being forced migrants, she and her son received a single-room apartment from the Republic’s Migration Department in 1996. The local authorities never reneged on the promise to improve their living conditions with time. There even have been concrete attempts to do so: in 2003 they were offered a two-room apartment, an offer that citizen G declined. As she explained it itself, there was a leaky roof.
Upon receiving the summons Miss G did not show up at the clinic. She went to the “Man and Law” human rights organization [TN: in Russian it is called “человек и закон” — unfortunately, we can find no indication that it maintains a web presence so we cannot link to it] and filed an affidavit about her right to petition and seek redress from state authorities being infringed upon. But let’s imagine she did show up [at the clinic] as summoned. How would the clinic staff correlate the summons with the letter? The people in white gowns would have said: “But why, dear Miss G, go ahead, write to Putin. Can’t you see how much work in progress is sitting on his desk. Had he stayed for the third term, he would have had enough time to attend to your request. Try another tack. There is a patient here, he’s writing a letter to Lenin… Here’s the address.”
NB: To read more about how the Kremlin is re-weaponizing psychiatry in Russia, see our previous coverage here and here.