Psychoanalysis was introduced into Russia in 1905 when Nikolai Osipov (1877-1934) returned to Moscow after training with Carl G. Jung, about the same time as Moshe Wulff (1878-1971) settled in Odessa after studying with Karl Abraham. Like their teachers, neither man underwent a personal analysis. Osipov and psychiatrist Osip Feltzman carried out the first psychoanalytically-based treatments and taught Freudian theory at a university clinic directed by Vladimir Serbski who, although critical of the significance accorded sexuality in psychoanalysis, recognized therapeutic successes of the approach.
Near the beginning of the First World War, Sigmund Freud (1914d) wrote: "In Russia, psychoanalysis has become generally known and has spread widely; almost all my writings, as well as those of other adherents of analysis, have been translated into Russian. But a really penetrating comprehension of analytic theories has not yet been evinced in Russia; so that the contributions of Russian physicians are at present not very notable. The only trained analyst there is M. Wulff who practices in Odessa" (p. 33). That Wulff was considered an exception is explained by the quality of his publications in German; he was also the chief translator of Freud's works into Russian.
Among the early Russian analysts, Wulff and Sabina Spielrein (1882-1941) produced the most innovative clinical and theoretical work, but they wrote in German. Spielrein's important paper, "Destruction as the Cause of Becoming," influenced Freud's development of the theory of the death instinct. Articles by Osipov and Alexander Luria (1902-1977) discussed applied psychoanalysis while revealing their authors' lack of training and clinical experience.
The advent of the communist regime after the 1917 revolution upset the development of psychoanalysis, both ideologically and institutionally. The Communist Party, with Nietzschian aspirations to create the "new man," at first lent its indispensable imprimatur to the creation of the Russian Psychoanalytic Society in 1922, presided over by Serbski's successor at the State Psychoanalytic Institute, Ivan Ermakov. These organizations shared offices in a beautifully appointed Art Nouveau mansion in Moscow.
Following in the footsteps of Tatiana Rosenthal, who in 1911 had introduced psychoanalysis to St. Petersburg, Vera Schmidt (1889-1937), a physician and pedagogue, opened a psychoanalytic "children's home" (Detski Dom) in 1921. In 1922 her husband, Otto J. Schmidt (1891-1956), although a mathematician, began to supervise the Psychological and Psychoanalytic Library, an imprint of the State Publishing House; he made possible the publication in Russian of Freud's works.
In spite of such developments, conflicts inside the Soviet Union proved lethal for analysis both as a profession and a psychological theory even as it gained international recognition. Although at the Berlin Congress in 1922 Freud seemed pleased with progress, Ernest Jones was more cautious, especially as regards the Moscow group; he supported a group based in Kazan and headed by Luria. The International Psychoanalytical Association (IPA) requested that the Russian Society have at least two "instructors"; Spielrein thus returned to Moscow from Switzerland, joining Wulff, who had been in the city since 1919. The Kazan group relocated to Moscow and the IPA recognized the Russian Society at the Salzburg Congress in 1924.
But all was not well from the start. Osipov had already fled communism to settle in Prague, and after just eighteen months in Moscow, Spielrein retired to her birthplace, Rostov-on-Don, where she and her family met a tragic end at the hands of the Nazis during World War II. In 1927, Luria turned to neuropsychology and Wulff fled to Berlin.
By the end of the 1920s, when physicians were compelled to solemnly renounce private practice, training analyses were no longer available in the Soviet Union. The Russian Psychoanalytic Society, which formally existed until 1933, was vitally dependant upon the whims of various "red professors" who were controlled by the Communist Party; this would have made training with Wulff or Spielrein impossible in any event. This situation went unappreciated by Wilhelm Reich when he visited Russia in 1929 under the auspices of the IPA. Reich paid no attention to Wulff and Spiel-rein; he was instead duped by the communist professors to such an extent that he reported that analysts occupied important posts in the Soviet Union.
Psychoanalysis required the approbation of the Communist Party, and initially received it most especially from the revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky. The fortunes of analysts in the Soviet Union declined upon Trotsky's fall from grace and political exile to Alma-Ata (now Almaty, Kazakhstan) in 1928, shortly before the Psychoanalytic Institute closed its doors and the Psychoanalytic Society became inoperative. In 1930, a year after Trotsky was exiled from the Soviet Union altogether, all psychoanalytic publications stopped. Otto Schmidt had not awaited the inevitable; he retrained to become a noted Arctic scientist and explorer.
In Civilization and Its Discontents (1930a ) Freud commented, apropos Russian communism: "One only wonders, with concern, what the Soviets will do once they have wiped out their bourgeois" (p. 115). In 1931, the great proletarian writer Maxim Gorky (1868-1936) settled into Ryabushinsky Mansion, where Stalin met with him and famously called writers "engineers of human souls." Freud's works were consigned to "special storage" in public libraries; they might be consulted, but propagation of Freudian ideas was in this way greatly limited.
The Cold War saw development of a powerfully anti-psychoanalytic establishment in the Soviet Union. In 1950, at the Pavlov Conference, sponsored by the Soviet Academy of Sciences and the Academy of Medical Sciences, psychoanalytic concepts were criticized in a welter of attacks, with many participants obliged to repent for having previously voiced positive comments about analysis.
The official anti-psychoanalytic stance was modified somewhat three decades later when, at the end of East-West detente, participants at the Tbilisi Congress, held in Georgia in 1979, promoted a theory of "unconscious behavior" proposed by the Georgian experimental psychologist Dmitri Uznadze (1887-1950). The congress was preceded by publication of three long volumes on "the unconscious" that included a significant number of articles by Western authors such as André Green and Daniel Widlocher; these texts, however, were not translated into Russian. For fear of ideological manipulation and compromise, well-known psychoanalysts from the IPA did not attend, although Leon Chertok and others, and especially Lacanians such as Serge Leclaire, accepted the invitation in the hope of starting a dialogue that was expected to be difficult in any event due to linguistic and political barriers. The Western articles were not included in the fourth volume, which appeared in 1985, concerning "Results of the Discussion." Some present-day Russian analysts consider the Tbilisi Congress the first step in the renewal of Russian psychoanalysis.
During perestroika, from 1985 to 1991, Russians were allowed to organize psychoanalytic meetings. In 1987, a first encounter with French analysts from the Institute of the Freudian Field took place in Moscow, followed by meetings with representatives of the School of the Freudian Cause. In 1988, a meeting seems also to have taken place with representatives of the American Psychoanalytic Association. Two new academic societies were created, the members of which almost all belonged to the Society of Moscow Psychoanalysts. The Franco-Soviet Group of the Freudian Field, founded in 1988, became the Russian Circle of the European School of Psychoanalysis from 1991 until 1995; its orientation was Lacanian and it was established without official statutes or stable direction. The Soviet Psychoanalytic Society, founded in 1989 and in 1991 renamed the Russian Psychoanalytical Association, did have official statutes and was presided over by Aron Belkin (1927-2003), who had a special interest in the social uses of psychoanalysis. The IPA welcomed Belkin at its congresses in Rome in 1989 and in Buenos Aires in 1991, and gave his group the special status of guest study group.
The historic events of August 1991, during which Russia separated from the Soviet Union (which itself was dissolved several months later), created prospects for travel and genuine psychoanalytic training. Thus, in 1992, Pavel Katchalov was able to undergo a personal analysis and training in Paris, helped by a grant from the French government and an alliance between Hopital Esquirol in Saint-Maurice, a suburb of Paris, and the Serbski Center in Moscow. Alexander Khostov, of Lomonosov University, and Victoria Potapova traveled to Paris in 1994. All three joined the Paris Psychoanalytical Institute; others followed suit. When, in 1995, Lola Komarova left to train in London, it was the end of the Russian Psychoanalytical Association. Some former members, decided to create a new group following an IPA curriculum, the Moscow Society of Psychoanalysts. Several of its members had classical or shuttle analysis; the French influence was dominant. Since 1995, an annual Franco-Russian debate has been held every fall by Katchalov and Hervé Benhamou, a member of the Paris Psychoanalytic Society, with the support of the French Embassy.
The Moscow Psychoanalytic Society was founded due to Boris Kravtsov, who in the 1970s ran a psychoanalytic seminar that was attended by a number of psychologists, including Pavel Snejnevsky, Julia Alyoshina, and Sergei Agrachev. In 1988 he established a psychoanalytic section of the Association of Practicing Psychologists, and by 1990 contacts were established with IPA members in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and the Czech Republic, where several members were trained. Alyoshina and Snejnevsky were trained in the United States and decided to remain there. In 1995, this group became the Moscow Psychoanalytic Society, over which Agrachev presided until his death in 1998, promoting a training program for psychoanalysts with IPA support. Publications of this group soon included translations of works by Otto Kernberg, the three volumes of the Modern Psychoanalysis by Helmut Thomä and Horst Kächele, and Melanie Klein's Envy and Gratitude. The institute's subsequent director, Igor Kadyrov, was the first Russian to be elected a direct member of the IPA; he was trained by shuttle analysis, as were the other members of the society, which by 2004 included six members of the IPA.
In 1998 the St. Petersburg Society of Child Psychoanalysis was founded, the result of productive exchanges between psychoanalysts at the Anna Freud Centre in London and a Russian group that included Svetlana Chaeva and Nima Vasilieva, the society's president at that time.
Problems of quackery and imposture have plagued recent psychoanalysis in Russia. Institutes and societies of dubious origin have sprung up throughout the country, which train ersatz therapists without personal analysis, "certifying" them to take profitable advantage of psychosocial misery. With the decree of June 19, 1996, concerning "the revival and development of philosophic psychoanalysis, clinical and applied," President Boris Yeltsin made possible establishment of the controversial East European Institute of Psychoanalysis in St. Petersburg. The Russian intelligentsia and general public alike have grown more distrustful of untrained or quack psychoanalysts. As a countermeasure, the two Moscow Institutes have combined forces to provide training and to improve awareness through yearly psychoanalytic seminars.
Angelini, Alberto. (1988). La psicanalisi in Russia: dai Percursori ali anni trenta. Naples: Liguori Editore.
Freud, Sigmund. (1914d). On the history of the psychoanalytic movement. SE, 14: 1-66.
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Katchalov, Pavel. (1994). Historiques des méthodes psychothérapiques dans l'ancienne URSS. Journal de psychiatrie, 7, 102-104.
Marti, Jean. (1976). La psychanalyse en Russie et en Union Soviétique. Critique, 32, 199-236.
Miller, Martin. (1998). Freud and the Bolsheviks: Psychoanalysis in imperial Russia and the Soviet Union. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
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