Some psychologists believe that the extremely high suicide rates in the Baltics and Russia are the legacy of Stalin and his successors.
Rokas M. Tracevskis, Transitions Online, 7 February 2011
The future Czechoslovak president Tomas Masaryk wrote his doctoral thesis on suicide, quite a bold academic choice in the 1880s. Suicide rates vary dramatically from country to country, with some, such as Hungary and Japan, becoming known as places where social pressures, or the weight of history, bring people to kill themselves distressingly often. In general, the countries in the northern part of Europe, including many of the post-communist states, have high rates of suicide. A few of the former Soviet republics exhibit some of the highest rates of all, including Lithuania, Belarus, Russia, and Kazakhstan. Yet, others in the Caucasus and Central Asia have very low rates, suggesting that other factors than the experience of totalitarian rule must be considered in order to explain the difference.
Twenty years ago this week Lithuanians overwhelmingly voted for independence from the Soviet Union. But with freedom came the ability to think, talk, and write openly about that experience – and for some, the inability to bear the memories. This article, originally published 9 April 2004, asked whether Lithuanians’ particularly brutal treatment by the Soviets partly explained their inclination toward self-destructive behavior.
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A Nation With Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder