Psychoactive

“It’s an Exhibitionist Move to Proclaim You Have an Illness”: Who Marched with the Psychoactivists on May Day
Ilya Panin
Takie Dela
May 2, 2018

At this year’s May Day demo in Moscow, almost three dozen people marched with placards inscribed with slogans on the harm caused by stigmatizing mental illnesses. Police detained the marchers at the head of the Bolshomoskvoretsky Bridge and took them to police stations. Only a few marchers in the group managed to avoid being detained. Takie Dela found out what the psychoactivists wanted to say by marching. 


“I was treated without my knowledge: you have a right to know your diagnosis.” | “People need hope, not neuroleptics.” Psychoactivists at this year’s May Day march in Moscow. Photo by Ilya Panin. Courtesy of Takie Dela

This year, a group of psychoactivists—artists and human rights defenders, researching mental illnesses, mental quirks, and the boundaries between normal and abnormal—brought up the rear of the traditional procession organized by the Federation of Independent Trade Unions (FNPR). The marches carried placards inscribed slogans like “Antidepressants are a girl’s best friend,” “We’re coming out of the psycho-closet and expect acceptance, not a 100 years of solitude,” “I know my own diagnosis. Do you know yours?” “The affective class,” and “Stop romanticizing and depreciating us.” Katrin Nenasheva, an organizer of the Psychoactive Movement, leafleted passersby with flyers detailing how to behave if your loved one suffes from depression, anxiety or panic.

The group had managed to cross the Bolshoi Moskvoretsky Bridge, from the police checkpoint and the metal detectors to Basil’s Descent, when the activists were detained by regular police and riot police (OMON). As witnesses testified, the police roughed up the activists and ripped their placarads. The law enforcers could not settle on a reason for apprehending the activists. Some of them were told it was because of what written on the placards, while others were told it was because the march had not been authorized.

The detainees were split up, loaded into paddy wagons, and taken to the Basmanny and Tagansky police stations. In the paddy wagons, policemen told the activists they should have vetted their placards with the rally’s organizer, the head of the Moscow Federation of Trade Unions. However, the rally’s website indicated all comers had been welcome to join the demonstration.

“We were asked to write statements and undergo preventive discussions. Each of us was assigned our own personal police officer, who said he was informing us that, by law, it was wrong to be involved in unauthorized rallies,” said Mikhail Levin.

The activists were released several hours later without having been charged with any offenses or fined. The detainees noted they had also been questioned by Center “E” (Extremism Prevention Center) officers, who photographed their placards.

Katrin Nenasheva
Artist, activist, organizer of the Psychoactive Movement and the May Day bloc


Katrin Nenasheva. Photo by Ilya Panin. Courtesy of Takie Dela

People who have mental illnesses still have no place to speak out and act. Organizing the May Day bloc was an attempt to create a discursive field for people who have mental illnesses or mental quirks. What does it do for them? According to the people who were with us yesterday, community gives them the important sense that they are not alone. There was a slogan to that effect on one of the placards: “You’re not the only one in the hood.”

It is believed that people with mental disorders can only be consumers of someone’s kindness, charity, tolerance, and pity. But they are completely capable of speaking out for themselves and being a social, political, and cultural force.

Mikhail Levin
Organizer of the Psychoactive Movement and the May Day bloc
It’s a slightly exhibitionist move to proclaim you have an illness. The guys and gals marched with very personal placards about their own quirks. We also want to demand reforms in psychiatric treatment and talk about the need for deinstitutionalizaton and our disagreement with plans to ban the import of certain medicines.

Marching with trade unions, with other workers, was an important statement. We wanted to say we also produce meaning, ideas, and work. This was the first attempt to do something like this, so it is fine that we are not a united fist, that we have different demands and opinions. What we wanted was just this: to bring together people with different mental makeups and show off this polyphony.

Sasha Starost
Artist, psychoactivist, organizer of the Psychoactive May Day bloc


Sasha Starost. Photo by Ilya Panin. Courtesy of Takie Dela

I have paranoid schizophrenia. I have been hospitalized five time; three of those were involuntary. In the psychiatric field, I’m involved on an institutional level as a simultaneous interpreter and translator. Our May Day bloc was conceived as the Russian version of Mad Pride.  On the whole, however, we are more inclusive than Mad Pride, because in recent years they have shifted very hard towards antipsychiatry, and that is not for everyone. Yes, there is the system, and it is really poor organized. It contains neuropsychiatric residential care facilities and neuropsychiatric dispensaries in which nothing goes to plan and the rules are not followed, but this does not discredit the idea of psychiatry, the presence of illnesses, and the possiblity of treating them.

If we have taken the step of vetting our bloc, the demo’s organizers would have found excuses for not letting us march. I’m totally convinced that the cops saw a bloc of young people, some of them had tattoos, and they were carrying placards with slogans too boot. In their minds, there was a clear like with youth rebellions, and their immediate reaction was to remove us right away.

Alyona Agadzhikova
Media artist, journalist, photographer, organizer of the Psychoactive May Day bloc
Since childhood, I have had a few mental illnesses (OCD, agoraphobia accompanied by panic attacks, and  anxiodepressive disorder) and so for a long  time there was nowhere I could go and no one to go with me, because people’s awareness of mental health in Russia is somewhere around nil. So, I write and talk a lot about the visibility of people with similar quicks. I’m not afraid to say I have mental illnesses. I want the people in my life to pay attention to their own states of mind and offer help to people having trouble. I want the hate speech to disappear from the Russian language. People who do dumb or bad things should be not called psychos and schizos, and they do not need psychiatric treatment. All of these things have nothing to do with each other. Fortunately, things have been getting better lately, thanks to psychoactivists, journalists, and blogger doing outreach work on the rights of people with mental quirks and bringing the topic of psychiatry out of the gray zone.

What happened on May 1 was unprecedented, of course. It was the first Mad Pride in Russia, and it did not end the way everyone expected. We had come out to tell people that we people with mental illnesses existed. The people in our midst, the other marchers in the May Day demo, smiled at us, applauded us, and took our pictures. After reading our placards, several people decided to join our bloc. But then, twenty minutes or so later, a mob of riot police (OMON) and Russian National Guardsmen came running at us. They ripped our posters and our banner, confiscated all our placards, and dragged people away. Some people they practically dragged over the pavement, while they took other people by the arm. Many peole had severe panic attacks, including me. Fortunately, I always have my pills along. Otherwise, I simply would have passed out right there on the spot. That is how I react to unexpected, stressful circumstances.

My panic attack continued in the paddy wagon, but it was no longer so intense because I had taken a tranquillizer. But I suffer badly from claustrophobia, so I asked to be released from the cage, which opens from the outside. Fortunately, the riot  police immediately agreed. I think it had something to do with the fact that there have been precedents at the European Court of Human Rights, cases in which transporting claustrophobics in so-called cages and glasses has been deemed torture.

While we drove to the Basmanny police station, the law enforcers were keen to ask me why I was so nervous, what Psychoactive was about, who had diagnosed me, and why we had marched.

When I had described in detail how a panic attack works, one of the riot policemen  said, “Oh that’s nonsense. Try doing a five-kilometer cross-country run. Your heart is pumping so hard, it makes your head spin.”

I replied immediately.

“It’s the same feeling, only imagine you haven’t run five kilometers, that these feelings come on for no reason at all,” I snapped back.

The riot police exchanged glances and said, “Yeah, that’s harsh.”

Miroslava Podlesnykh
Ceramicist, animal rights advocate

Miroslava Podlesnykh. Photo by Ilya Panin. Courtesy of Takie Dela

Mental quirks and mental disorders are a topic means a lot to me, something I tried to live with for a long time without paying attention to it. Ultimately, however, I realized that living a full-fledged life meant accepting myself the way I was. I realized that if I wanted to changed the world I had to get a move on, to be around people who shared my values and views, to be part of a community.

The arrests were particularly hilarious when you could hear the announcers in the background talking about peace, labor, unity, and May, while the police were detaining a group that was just gaining the strength to assert itself, because this was an incredible effort for them. I know what a person who suffers from sociopathic disorders feels like in a crowd. Going on a demo is a huge effort, a big step towards a partial recovery.

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The psychoactivist community emerged in January 2018. Their projects have included Psychoactive, which focused on communication and creativity, and I’m Burnt Out, which dealt with emotional burnout. They also have their own brand of clothing and accessories.

Translated by the Russian Reader

David Burliuk: “The Ugly Face of Happy Blockheads Will Be a Hole”

DSCN5460 2“Arrangment of the burials and cremations of deceased veterans of the VOV [Great Fatherland War], the MO [Defense Ministry], the FSB [Federal Security Service], the MVD [Interior Ministry], etc. Manufacture of tombstones.” Central District, Petersburg, 15 April 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

We now regard the word “USSR” as a proud acoustic commonplace, and “US” appears as solid as money to us. The first word emerged after the lab experiments of the Futurists. […] I am not writing a research paper here, but for words like “USSR” the term that describes their emergence is alphabetized words. The alphabetization of words involves compacting, abbreviating, and truncating words, turning them into titlos.

When you look at a book printed in Finnish, you see the pulse of life in the land of lakes is slow, and during the long winter evenings people lazily articulate what they want to say without letting their tongues hasten their breathing.

Without knowing it himself, Kruchonykh produced the first poem based on the principle of initializing words [“Dyr, bull, shchol”].

He occasionally wrote down only the initial sounds of words. The initialization of words is a magnificent principle, now in full use in the USSR.

VIL = Vladimir Ilyich Lenin*

NEP = New Economic Policy.

OPAHWENESP = Our Plains Are Huge, WE NEed SPeed.

“Dyr bul shol [sic]” = dyroi budet urodnoe litso schastlivykh olukhov [“The ugly face of happy blockheads will be a hole”].

* This particular abbreviation, spelled Vil (Виль), was used as a male first name in Soviet times, by analogy with the English “Will.” Vil Lipatov, a semi-famous Soviet writer, was probably the most well-known bearer of the name. Vil Lipatov achieved a modicum of renown for his novel A Village Detective, which was made into a movie. TRR

Source: David Burliuk, Excerpts from a Futurist’s Memoirs, Letters, and Poems (St. Petersburg: Pushkinskii Fond, 1994), pp. 41-42. Thanks to Comrades Stas and Lena for the heads-up. Translated by the Russian Reader

Sonnet 17

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Who will believe my verse in time to come,
If it were fill’d with your most high deserts?
Though yet, heaven knows, it is but as a tomb
Which hides your life and shows not half your parts.
If I could write the beauty of your eyes
And in fresh numbers number all your graces,
The age to come would say ‘This poet lies:
Such heavenly touches ne’er touch’d earthly faces.’
So should my papers yellow’d with their age
Be scorn’d like old men of less truth than tongue,
And your true rights be term’d a poet’s rage
And stretched metre of an antique song:
But were some child of yours alive that time,
You should live twice; in it and in my rhyme.

Source: Shakespeare’s Sonnets. Photo by the Russian Reader

Anna Tereshkina: At Viktor Filinkov’s Remand Extension Hearing

Anna Tereshkina
Facebook
March 21, 2018

I went to Viktor Filinkov’s court hearing, where his motion to have his remand in policy custody changed to house arrest was reviewed.

I arrived at the Dzerzhinsky District Courthouse by 10 a.m., already hungry although I had eaten breakfast. Outside the subway station, I bought a pasty and put it in my backpack.

It turned out there was no need to arrive fifteen minutes before the hearing was scheduled to begin, because they kept everyone stewing for over an hour before starting.

I was able to draw my girlfriends as they languished in the stuffy court building.

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Then a tall, skinny court bailiff herded everyone to the end of the hallway. Viktor was brought in, and everyone raised their arms and focused the cameras on their smartphones. There was a round of applause.

I was somehow expecting a huge ovation, but then it hit me, mournfully, that there were not very many of us, something like fifteen to twenty people, I think. Or is that a lot? Or was every other person monkeying with his or her camera?

We were not let into the courtroom immediately.

Everything seemed quite dicey, as if at any minute they might never let us out of there.

My hands were shaking, so my only drawing of Viktor did not come out very legible.

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Viktor himself looked liked a man who had not lost hope.

I noticed his shoes were tied with strange laces. Were they fashioned from plastic bags, as he had described, or did someone give him white laces for the hearing?

The judge’s voice was unexpectedly kind and polite, like the voice of a school guidance counselor.

We were kicked out of the courtroom, of course, while the court deliberated whether to hold the hearing in chambers or not.

After waiting for an hour, I took out my pasty, which had gone cold.

The lanky bailiff was tormented. He would try and drive everyone away from the passage to the courtroom, the walls, and the doors. But the people who had come to the hearing reacted to him as if he were an annoying fly. The only thing that interested them were the big wooden doors and what has happening on the other side of them.

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I sketched the bailiff, wondering whether he beat his wife and kids.

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Finally, he called another bailiff, who had bangs and wore ordinary jeans instead of the trousers issued with his uniform. He stood by the door more calmly.

Suddenly, a fresh breeze wafted through the hallway. It was workers carrying furniture. Two massive wooden benches, a wardrobe, and a whole suite of judge’s thrones adorned with crests. One of them had no seat at all, as if its makers had wanted to use it as a toilet at the dacha.

The bailiff with the bangs got distracted and stepped away from the door. One of the workers immediately dashed to our coveted Courtroom No. 9, stuck his nose in the door, and loudly asked, “Can we bring in the wardrobe?”

A clerk in a gray dress came out and said they should wait until the hearing was over.

Yes, the hearing had long been underway, but we had not even been called into the courtroom and told the court had decided to hold the hearing in chambers.

People grumbled and wrote complaints.

Nastya showed me a book, The Suffering Middle Ages, which had a chapter about how, from the twelth to fourteenth centuries, law books were lavishly illustrated with giant penises.

The tall, nervous bailiff returned and once more herded everyone to the end of the hallway.

Viktor was brought out by the guards. The applause and shouts of support were louder than the first time.

The court had again recessed for deliberation. The workers finished their unloading, and stuffiness again reigned in the hallway. Someone brought juice, biscuits, and bananas.

The bailiff with the bangs immediately popped up, saying it was forbidden to eat in the courthouse. He was probably the hungriest of us all.

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For five minutes or so, no one did, in fact, eat anything, but then we passed around the biscuits, divvied up the bananas, and poured the juice into cups. The bailiff didn not feel like reminding us again, apparently, and he said nothing.

Viktor’s defense attorney Vitaly Cherkasov came out and said we would have to wait for at least another hour. We had been sitting there for four hours as it was.

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Many people left the courthouse to have a smoke and eat lunch, so they could come back later.

I left altogether because my brain had completely melted.

I was home when I read that, at 3:46 p.m., the court had ruled Viktor be kept in police custody until June 22.

I felt a sharp pang of the suffocating absurdity that nearly everyone has accepted. But no, I hope they haven’t.

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Ms. Tereshkin for her kind permission to reproduce her drawing and publish a translation of her text here. All images © Anna Tereshkina, 2018. If you have not heard about the Penza-Petersburg “terrorism” case, you need to read the following articles and spread the word to friends, comrades, and journalists.

Sonnet 12

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When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silver’d o’er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer’s green all girded up in sheaves
Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,
Then of thy beauty do I question make,
That thou among the wastes of time must go,
Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake
And die as fast as they see others grow;
And nothing ‘gainst Time’s scythe can make defence
Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

Source: Poetry Foundation. Photo by the Russian Reader

This Russian Life

medicinal lettersFeatured Letter: But There Is Sun in the Countryside! ‘You know how hard life in the countryside can be, especially in the winter when the snow drifts so badly you cannot leave the house. All the more so because I needed to help the young folks when our granddaughter was born. We moved to the city, but we could not live there long. Of course, the stores and the clinic were nearby, and that was convenient, but what was the point? It’s abnormal to breathe exhaust fumes from cars and gaze all winter at a grey, gloomy sky. You cannot open the window because of the noise and soot. And the ailments you get when you are trapped between four walls are not slow in coming. In the countryside, the sun makes an appearance every day, even in the winter, the pure snow glitters, and the air is like a salve. And we get Medicinal Letters regularly, in which there are prescriptions for nearly any ailment. It was a good thing we didn’t sell the house. Our son had to fix it up and insulate it, and now everyone is happy. Our granddaughter comes for frequent visits. We have everything for her: a sled, skies, and skates. The girl is сheerful and kind, and Grandma and Grandpa’s little helper, not something you can say about every city kid. May God bless you and your loved ones with health and happiness. A.E. Vikhrova, Perm.’ Our Readers Know How to Be Healthy.” Cover page of Medicinal Letters 4 (400), February 2018

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rita-evilScreenshot from Danish TV series Rita. Courtesy of Netflix

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wine-dear or cheap“Should you cook with cheap wine or expensive wine?” Source unknown

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fridge magnet calendar2018 refrigerator magnet tear calendar. Published by Bronze Horseman Publishers (www.mvsadnik.ru) in an edition of 3,000 copies. Rated 0+

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destroy floridaScreenshot of the imaginary obliteration of Florida by Russian missiles, as broadcast live on RT at 1:24 p.m. MSK, 1 March 2018. Video courtesy of the Daily Star,  1 March 2018

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fdd choco bar.jpeg“February 23. Fatherland Defenders Day. Dark Chocolate.” Manufacturer unknown. Purchased at Bukvoyed Bookstore in Galeria Shopping Center, 30A Ligovsky Prospect, St. Petersburg, for ₽121 (approx. €1.73) on 23 February 2018

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tokarev's eyesVasily Yegorovich Tokarev, Arkhangelsk. Right after the army I got a job as a welder. I worked for many years in the tundra on various gas and oil pipelines. The job was hard on the eyes in itself. There were the constant flashes from the welding equipment, and the weather conditions in the north were also extreme. So, I would get conjuctivitis and styes from time to time. My eyes were always red and caked with pus, and nothing could relieve the gritty feeling and smarting. Farsightedness became a problem, and I had to drag glasses with me everywhere. During a routine exam, the doctor diagnosed glaucoma! I went through all the drugs available at the chemist’s, but the payoff was practically nonexistent. That was when I decided to try Okapin drops. At first, I went through a whole course of treatment, but now I only use them sometimes as preventative. The results have been excellent. My eyes are not red and inflamed, I no longer have that feeling of burning and grittiness, and my eyesight has rebounded so that I no longer have any need of glasses or doctors. The pressure in my eyes has dropped to 17 mmHg. I see great both far and up close, I don’t squint, and nothing bothers me!” Excerpted from the front page of the Health Herald [March 2018], an advertising circular disguised as a newspaper.

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sms.jpg“March 18 is the election of the president of the Russian Federation. You can choose a voting station in advance, including the one assigned to your registered domicile. To do this, before March 12 you must submit—.” Excerpt from an SMS received on my mobile phone at 1:24 p.m. MSK, 3 March 2018.

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all goes well 1Refrigerator magnet “All Goes Well.” On the reverse side of the magnet, the human being is identified as “The President of the Russian Federation. Vladimir Putin.” The dog is not identified by name.

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Old Woman Crossing Street on Cold Day in Petersburg, 27 February 2018. Photo by the Russian Reader

Assembled and translated by the Russian Reader. Dedicated to Comrade SG on his birthday

Sonnet 6

Then let not winter’s ragged hand deface
In thee thy summer, ere thou be distill’d:
Make sweet some vial; treasure thou some place
With beauty’s treasure, ere it be self-kill’d.
That use is not forbidden usury,
Which happies those that pay the willing loan;
That’s for thyself to breed another thee,
Or ten times happier, be it ten for one;
Ten times thyself were happier than thou art,
If ten of thine ten times refigured thee:
Then what could death do, if thou shouldst depart,
Leaving thee living in posterity?
Be not self-will’d, for thou art much too fair
To be death’s conquest and make worms thine heir.

Source: Shakespeare Online. Photo by the Russian Reader