The heading for this article is a quotation from the letter addressed to the Prosecutor General of the USSR where the political prisoner Anatoly Marchenko told about applied to him torture – enforced alimentation. The last hunger strike of a political prisoner finished in Soviet Union on 8 December 1986. Anatoly Marchenko, the writer and civil rights advocate, died in the prison of the city of Chistopol at the age of 48. This was not his first, but the longest hunger strike – it lasted 117 days. His requirement was to stop the torturing of and to release all political prisoners in the USSR.
Being an experienced inmate, Marchenko knew what one should be afraid of when going on a hunger strike – enforced alimentation was equal to a torture. Two months after that torture began he applied to the Prosecutor General of the USSR, A.Rekunkov. Below is the first publication of the letter provided for Novaya Gazeta by civil right advocate organization Memorial.
Since 4th of August I have been on hunger strike with a demand of stopping torturing political prisoners in the USSR and releasing them.
On the 40th day of the hunger, 12 September, I was forcibly fed for the first time and since that day on they applied enforced alimentation procedure daily, except Sundays.
In relation to the fact of force feeding in the form in which this humane in itself act is applied to me personally by administration of UE-148/st-4 I have to apply to You with this statement, Citizen Prosecutor General of the USSR.
I have had personal experience of force feeding since the 50’s where they began to apply enforced alimentation to hunger strikers not on the 40th day, but during the first week.
So I have something to compare my present hunger strike with. This comparison gives me grounds to state to you that the enforced alimentation in my case is nothing but humiliation disguised as humane act of saving the life of the hunger striker. The only purpose of those procedures is forcing me to quit the hunger strike, with the use of such a perfidious and unlawful form of physical abuse.
That is the fact of this disgusting method.
The feeding mixture is made intentionally with rather big pieces of food that cannot pass the hose. They clog it up and the feeding mixture fails to pass it through to my stomach. Under a disguise of clearing the hose they give me a torture, rumpling and pulling the hose without taking it out of my stomach.
This testifies about evil intent of the torture given to me under a disguise of a humane act.
As a rule, the whole procedure is done by one medical person. He is not able to mix the feeding staff well while pouring the mixture as both his hands are busy at the process: with one hand he holds the hose and with the other hand he feeds the mixture from the basin. I repeat that in this case the soviet authorities make me undergo a physical torture with the purpose of forcing me to stop the hunger strike, disguising all that as a humane act. From my many-year personal experience I know Your manner of responding to the notifications about lawlessness by the prison staff. You give a commission to see into the matter to people from same penal system, to the chief of the Department, for example. “The facts were not confirmed during the inspection made” – this is a standard reply in such cases. Of course, it can be convenient for domestic use, but it is not likely to be convenient being presented to soviet representatives by international organizations. And in our day the soviet authorities will have to deal with it soon or late!
So, Citizen Prosecutor General of the USSR, stop this humiliation and torture and do not use the humane act - of saving the life of the hunger striker – as the means of coercion with the purpose of forcing him to stop hunger strike.
Freedom to all political prisoners in the USSR!
Political prisoner Marchenko.”
12 days after his hunger strike was over Marchenko felt unwell. From prison he was sent to a local hospital where he died. Official version was that his death was caused by cardiovascular collapse.
And a month later, in January 1987, mass release of other political prisoners began.