History of the SGA starts in the early autumn 1990, when British group analyst Raymond Blake was invited by a group of enthusiastic specialists to give a workshop in St-Petersburg (then called Leningrad), Russia. At that time Russian specialists had just started to learn what had been forbidden for decades because of ideological reasons, so psychoanalytic approaches in psychology and psychotherapy stirred their vivid interest. Thus, Blake’s visit and his eagerness to cooperate were welcomed and attracted all those who were interested in psychoanalysis and its different approaches. As a result, constitutional convention was held in January 1991, and the Association of Group Analysis (AGRA) was founded as a public organization. The first President of the AGRA was Professor J. M. Gubachev (St-Petersburg Medical Academy of Postgraduate Studies), who studied psychosomatic relationships in medicine. Information about a new professional organization maintaining contacts with a group analyst from London and planning to provide systematic professional training spread quickly in the city. Consequently, in the next two months more than ten specialists joined the AGRA, including such famous professionals as M. M. Reshetnikov and V. V. Zelensky. In 1991 Blake came to our city three times. The members of the AGRA studied theory and participated in groups; although some of them developed interest to other psychoanalytic approaches, such as classic psychoanalysis, analytical psychology and other schools of psychotherapy, and left the ARA, the remaining 20 people stayed in touch with their British teachers. There were regular seminars, 3-4 times a year, and regular group meetings. When in 1993 G. V. Burkovsky was elected the next President of the AGRA, the contacts with the IGA (London) expanded, and systematic training in St-Petersburg was contemplated. Simultaneously, the AGRA underwent the process of official registration and was registered in 1994 as a public organization.
In 1994-1995 the AGRA reached the next stage in its development, when the IGA (London) started the Introductory Course in Group Analysis in St-Petersburg; it was attended by 32 professionals, including well-known specialists (the list of participants is here). The Introductory Course was given by D. Kennard, J. Roberts and B. Elliot; Bakirova G. H. was the Chair of the AGRA Organizing Committee.
After successfully organizing the Introductory Course, which was one of the first experiences of systematic psychoanalytic training in Russia, the AGRA maintained its contact with the IGA (London) and aimed at further education. However, the Diploma Course was postponed due to insufficient funding. Partly as a result of this unclear situation, and partly due to influence of representatives of other psychoanalytic and psychotherapeutic approaches developing in St-Petersburg, some members of the AGRA left the group analysis. A group of specialists (E. A. Ivanova, N. M. Lebedeva, D. N. Ovechkin) quitted the AGRA and established the St-Petersburg Institute of Gestalt. However, the AGRA continued its functioning and expanded its interest to group analysis. At that time, the AGRA members acquired their first experience of conducting group-analytic groups, participated in conferences, published papers in group analysis. The AGRA, which elected V. A. Shamov its President, maintained contacts with the IGA (London), which provided the second Introductory Course in 1997-98; the Chair of the AGRA Organizing Committee was Molchanova A. V. The Course was attended by 24 specialists and was given by such specialists as J. Campbell, G. McNally и P. McGraff. This Course was marked by participation of specialists from other Russian cities (Moscow, Voronezh, Yaroslavl, etc.) and from Estonia, who brought information about the approach to their locations, and many of them continued to be in touch with the AGRA.
Specialists who completed this Course had some difficulties with continuing the training. That is why some members of the AGRA joined other projects which provided training in group analysis, in particular, in Ternopol. At that time, in context of decreased cooperation with the IGA (London), our organization established contact with the Centre for Group Studies (the CAGS, New-York, the USA) via the group psychoanalyst H. Stern. In 1998, a training group of the AGRA members was organized and coordinated by V. A. Shamov; since then, many professionals have got acquainted with techniques of this approach applied by H. Stern. Later, the CAGS specialists carried out two-year study course at the AGRA (the Chair of the AGRA Organizing Committee was I. V. Pazhiltsev) attended by 28 specialists from different regions of Russia. This encounter with modern group psychoanalysis was very fruitful for them and had significant impact on group-analytic practice in St-Petersburg.
At that time, the AGRA decided to focus on organizing its own training, which was reasonable because the organization included the most competent specialists in group-analysis in Russia. The AGRA President V. A. Shamov organized a study course “Fundamentals of Group Analysis” at the East-European Psychoanalytic Institute, which had got state accreditation; this course has been given 6 times in St-Petersburg and other cities (Moscow, Norilsk). In 2000 V. A. Shamov structured the AGRA qualification categories in group analysis in order to set standards for qualifying specialists based on their group analytic practice. At the same time, the first conference was organized by the AGRA which aimed at establishing contacts and exchanging experience with group analysts from different countries and regions (the Chair of the AGRA Organizing Committee was I. V. Pazhiltsev). Afterwards, such conferences have been held annually and gathered participants from different Russian cities and European countries.
After I. V. Pazhiltsev became the AGRA President in 2002, the training courses were provided not only at the EEPI, but also in cooperation with other organizations. The courses were held in Barnaul, Novosibirsk, Almaty. At the same time, the AGRA established the Training Committee, aimed at assessment of specialists’ professional level to determine their qualification status as well as assessment of training courses conducted on behalf of the AGRA and development of requirements for specialists and for training in general. Contacts with the IGA (London) were re-activated and aimed at the EATIN-approved Diploma Course in group analysis in St-Petersburg. Initially, it was planned to be carried out jointly by the IGA (London) and Lithuanian Group Analytic Society in order to decrease the expenses, but later the majority of the society decided to cooperate in this relation solely with the IGA. Finally, the AGRA joined the EGATIN as an advanced member, and the AGRA training courses were recognized as introductory courses.
After T. V. Dmitrieva was elected the AGRA President, the urgent issue of renewed registration in accordance with the 2000-laws was resolved. Thus, the public organization Association of Group Analysis (the AGRA) became the Society of Group Analysis (SGA) as a non-commercial partnership. In 2005, the IGA (London) started Diploma Course in group analysis, which became the main project of the SGA during the following five years. It continued while E. N. Belov, M. I. Erish and then E. A. Bilim were the SGA Presidents. The training required intense involvement and effort, so other activities of the SGA were temporarily postponed, although a part of the SGA members continued carrying out training programmes on the basis of the EEPI. However, in 2010 the conferences started anew and immediately attracted much interest.
After this course, some specialists of the SGA were certified as group analysts, so the SGA applied to re-assess its membership in the EGATIN and receive full membership, which happened in 2012. At that time, O. V. Aksinenko was elected the SGA President. The SGA Training Committee continued its work and re-considered qualifying criteria of the SGA and training programmes in accordance with the EGATIN requirements. The training activity started anew, and the GSA members started giving the accredited Introductory Courses and arranging the Diploma Course in group analysis. Contacts with newly developed group analytic organizations in Russia (first of all, with the Moscow Society of Group Analysis, the MSGA) and other states (Estonia, Lithuania) have been expanded, and a training course in Kazakhstan has been organized. For the last two years there has been much progress in this direction, while G. H. Bakirova was the SGA President and then L. A. Savinykh, the current President, was elected. Regular contacts have been maintained with the IGA (London), which keeps providing its training in St-Petersburg; thus, the Group Supervision Course at the SGA has started this year.