Leonid Plyushch

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Leonid Ivanovich Plyushch
Native name Леонід Іванович Плющ
Born (1938-04-26)26 April 1938
Naryn, Kirghiz SSR
Died 4 June 2015(2015-06-04) (aged 77)
Bessèges, France[1] France
Nationality Ukrainian
Citizenship  Soviet Union,  France
Alma mater Odessa University, Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv
Occupation mathematics
Known for human rights activism with participation in the Ukrainian Helsinki Group
Movement dissident movement in the Soviet Union
Awards Order For Courage, 1st class
Antonovych prize (1987)

Leonid Ivanovich Plyushch (Russian: Леонід Іванович Плющ, 26 April 1938, Naryn, Kirghiz SSR – 4 June 2015, Bessèges, France) was a Ukrainian mathematician and Soviet dissident.

Early life and career

Leonid Plyushch was born into a Ukrainian working-class family in 1938 in Naryn, Kirghizia. His father worked as railway foreman, and died on the front in 1941. Leonid's childhood was marked by tuberculosis of the bone, which he contracted at the age of 8.[2][3]

Plyushch graduated from Kiev University in 1962 with a degree in mathematics. In his last year of studies he become interested in the mathematical modeling of biological systems, in particular mental illness, which he sought to model with the help of a computer. This proved too difficult a task, but Plyushch published papers on modeling and regulating simpler biological systems like the blood sugar level. He was eventually hired by the Institute of Cybernetics of the USSR Academy of Sciences, which was often tasked with solving various problems for the Soviet space program.[4][5]

Dissident activities

Plyushch became a dissident by taking a public stance on political hot topics of the time. In 1968 he protested against the misconduct of the Galanskov–Ginzburg trial by sending a letter to Komsomolskaya Pravda, which was not published. When Soviet troops invaded Czechoslovakia in 1968, Plyushch jointly signed with 16 other Soviet dissident a declaration of solidarity with the democratic movement in Czechoslovakia. In the same year he joined the Initiative Group for the Defense of Human Rights in the USSR, which sent a letter to the UN Human Rights Commission asking it to investigate the violations by the USSR of the right to hold independent beliefs and to propagate them by legal means. Plyushch was one of the fifteen signatories to An Appeal to The UN Committee for Human Rights.[6] Due to blowback from his political stances, he was dismissed from the Cybernetics Institute in 1968, and the KGB confiscated a number of his manuscripts and interrogated him several times.[7][8]

Trial and imprisonment

He was arrested in January 1972 on charges of anti-Soviet activity, and was jailed for a year before his trial began. During his trial, the court sat in camera and in the absence of the accused. Although no expert witnesses of any kind were called, Plyushch was declared insane, and was ordered to be "sent for treatment in a special type of hospital." He was locked up in a ward for severely psychotic patients in the Dnipropetrovsk Special Psychiatric Hospital where high doses of haloperidol, insulin and other drugs were administered, which temporarily made him incapable of reading and writing.[9][10] Three commissions that examined him after a year of detention, one of which was chaired by Andrei Snezhnevsky, found him suffering from "reformist delusions" with "Messianic elements" and "sluggish schizophrenia."[11]

While he was imprisoned, he corresponded with Tatiana Khodorovich.[12] Plyushch's letters to her later formed the basis of the book The Case of Leonid Plyushch, first published in Russian in 1974 by an Amsterdam publisher, and translated into English two years later, which received attention in medical ethics journals.[9][13] His imprisonment triggered international protests, including a letter by 650 American mathematicians addressed to the Soviet embassy.[10] Henri Cartan brought the case to the attention of the participants to the 1974 International Congress of Mathematicians, which was held in Vancouver.[14] Amnesty International sponsored an International Day for Plyushch in April 1975,[12] and Andrei Sakharov also pleaded on his behalf.[15]

Freedom and later life

Eventually he was allowed to leave the Soviet Union together with his family in 1976.[12] His arrival in the West increased the friction between Western and Soviet psychiatrists leading eventually to a condemnation of Soviet practices by the World Psychiatric Association at the Sixth World Congress of Psychiatry.[16][17] At a press conference in Paris, Plyushch gave a memorable account of the effects of his detention and medications:[18]

Plyushch became a member of the Ukrainian Helsinki Group in 1977, promoting human rights in his native Ukraine.[19] In 1979, with the contribution of his wife, Plyushch published his book History's Carnival: A Dissident's Autobiography in which he described how he and other dissidents were committed to psychiatric hospitals.[20] At the same year, the book was translated into English.[21] In 1980, Andrei Snezhnevsky, who was a Corresponding Fellow of the Royal College of Psychiatry, was invited by his British colleagues to answer criticism relating to Plyushch and other dissidents. He refused to do so, and instead resigned his Fellowship.[22]

Later in life, although he retained communist convictions,[12] Plyushch supported anti-totalitarian publications in other communist countries, including Vietnam.[23]

Plyushch died 4 June 2015 in Bessèges,[1] France.[24][25] His death was reported by a friend and fellow ex-Soviet dissident, Arina Ginzburg.[26]


  1. 1.0 1.1 "Lettre ouverte de Tatiana Pliouchtch". Blog Mediapart. 16 June 2015. Retrieved 2 August 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. Plyushch L., (1979) pp. 3-4
  3. Sakwa, Richard (1999). The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union, 1917-1991. Routledge. p. 403. ISBN 0-415-12290-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Plyushch L., (1979) pp. 31–37
  5. Khodorovich T. (1976), p. xv
  6. Yakobson, Anatoly; Yakir, Pyotr; Khodorovich, Tatyana; Podyapolskiy, Gregory; Maltsev, Yuri; et al. (21 August 1969). "An Appeal to The UN Committee for Human Rights". The New York Review of Books.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. The "Madness" of Leonid Plyushch, Radio Free Europe Research material, 1973-1-31
  8. Khodorovich T. (1976), p. 5
  9. 9.0 9.1 A.V. Campbell, "The Case of Leonid Plyushch", J Med Ethics. 1976 December; 2(4): 211.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Lipman Bers, "Imprisoned Soviet Mathematician", Science, New Series, Vol. 185, No. 4153 (Aug. 30, 1974), pp. 735-736
  11. Whitaker, Leighton C.; Antonio E. Puente (1992). Schizophrenic Disorders: Sense and Nonsense in Conceptualization, Assessment, and Treatment. Springer. p. 25. ISBN 0-306-44156-X.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 Boobbyer, Philip (2004). Conscience, Dissent and Reform in Soviet Russia. Routledge. pp. 117–118. ISBN 0-415-33186-2.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. S. Bloch, "Psychiatry as ideology in the USSR", J Med Ethics. 1978;4; 126-131
  14. Notices of the AMS, Vol. 46(7), page 788
  15. "Sakharov in appeal on detained Russian". New York Times. February 20, 1974.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Censuring The Soviets, TIME, Sep. 12, 1977
  17. Walter Reich, Soviet Psychiatry on Trial, Commentary Magazine, January 1978
  18. "The Psukhushka Horror". TIME. 16 February 1976.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  19. "Украинский диссидент Леонид Плющ умер сегодня во Франции" (in Russian). RBC Ukraine. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. Плющ, Леонид (1979). На карнавале истории (in русский). London: Overseas Publications Interchange.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles> (The Russian text of the book in full is available online on the website of the Andrei Sakharov Museum and Public Center by click)
  21. Plyushch, Leonid (1979). History's carnival: a dissident's autobiography. Collins and Harvill Press. ISBN 0-00-262116-9.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  22. Sidney Levine, The Special Committee on the Political Abuse of Psychiatry, Psychiatr. Bull., May 1981; 5: 94 - 95
  23. "Help Save "Que Me"". New York Review of Books. 13 May 1982. Retrieved 4 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. "Помер правозахисник, дисидент Леонід Плющ" (in Ukrainian). RFE/RL. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  25. "Famous Soviet dissident Leonid Plyushch dies aged 77". Ukraine Today. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. "Prominent Soviet dissident Leonid Plyushch dies". Business Insider. 4 June 2015. Retrieved 4 June 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>


  • Plyushch, Leonid; Khodorovich, Tatyana (1979). History's carnival. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. ISBN 0-15-141614-1.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Alexeyeva, Lyudmila; Bukovsky, Vladimir; Amalrik, Andrei; Voikhanskaya, Marina; Plyushch, Leonid; Elina, Emilia; Voronina, Lidia; Bresenden, Yevgeniy (November 1977). "The Orlov tribunal". Index on Censorship. 6 (6): 52–60. doi:10.1080/03064227708532716.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

Further reading

External links