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Jacobs, M.S. (2000). A Most Compelling Situation. Am. Imago, 57(1):83-93.

(2000). American Imago, 57(1):83-93

A Most Compelling Situation

Marilyn S. Jacobs


In this paper, I will consider how political thought and social conditions can influence the psychoanalytic institutions of a society. I will describe the situation within the Russian Federation during the past decade with the reemergence of a psychoanalytic movement. The implicit question is: How do socio-politics impact psychoanalysis?

During two weeks in October of 1997, I was the leader of a delegation of American psychoanalysts who traveled to Russia. Our trip was organized under the auspices of the Spokane-based People to People Citizen Ambassador Programs. We met with diverse groups of Russian professionals and academics interested in psychoanalysis in Russia. The dialogues between our two groups considered a variety of subjects related to the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, both in our society and theirs.

The idea that a former Communist totalitarian state would embrace the idea of psychoanalysis is a compelling one. The ideal of psychoanalysis represents freedom of thought, awareness of self, autonomy of action, and emotional expression, all of which were antithetical to Marxist-Leninist ideology. Moreover, psychoanalysis has always required its society to have sufficient economic stability in order to flourish. Yet, in spite of the obvious limitations, in Russia today, a psychoanalytic movement exists.

A Brief History of Psychoanalysis in Russia

To create a context, let's consider the history of psychoanalysis in Russia. For this account, I am indebted to my colleagues Nina Vasileyva of St. Petersburg and Dr. Andrei Brushlinskii of the Moscow Institute of Psychology.

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