The big red brick complex to the right is Kresty Prison. The dome to the prison church, Alexander Nevsky Cathedral, can be seen in the middle of the prison complex. The light building to the left is one of the psychiatric clinics controlled by the secret police and in which dissidents were tortured to break them mentally and physically.
KRESTY PRISON AND PSYCHIATRIC CLINICS, ST. PETERSBURG
Arsenalnaya Naberezhnaya. On the banks of the river Neva.
THE PRISON’S HISTORY REFLECTS RUSSIAN HISTORY
Kresty Prison is the remaining prison of St. Petersburg. The prison has 960 cells. It was originally built as a wine warehouse in the 1730s but was rebuilt as a prison (1867) and later extended (1890). The building forms a cross, hence its name “Kresty”. An administrative unit and a large church are built in the middle of the cross.
The prison overflowed during Stalin’s political repression and persecution after the war, often with 15-20 inmates in 8 square meter cells intended for two.
PUNITIVE PSYCHIATRY. “NO SANE PERSON WOULD DECLAIME AGAINST THE SOVIET GOVERNMENT AND COMMUNISM”
Kresty Prison was also used for dissidents who politically disagreed with the Communist regime. Many dissidents were forcibly admitted to psychiatric centres or hospitals to discredit their ideas as “mentally ill persons”, to break them mentally and physically and even to treat them medically with the aim of changing their dissenting political views.
The official reason for the psychiatric treatment was that “no sane person would declaim against the Soviet government and Communism”. The psychiatrists diagnosed “Sluggishly progressing schizophrenia”, an illness that affected the person’s social behaviour “with ideas about a struggle for truth and justice formed by a personality with a paranoid structure”. The “treatment” included protracted fixation, electric shock treatment, electromagnetic and radiation torture, entrapment, enforced medication (narcotics, tranquilizers, insulin etc.), beating and lumbar punctures.
At least 365 people were treated for “politically defined madness”. Many of the survivors suffered serious mental or physical harm because of the treatment.
Some of the psychiatric centres are located near Kresty Prison, see the photo, from where the dissidents were forcibly hospitalized. Many centres were controlled by state security forces from the very start, in the late 1940s. In 1969, the KGB presented a plan for at network of centres. Many of the psychiatrists held high positions in the state security services.