It was the day that Oleg Mitasov was to receive his Doctor of Philosophy in Economics. With his dissertation typed up and in hand, Mitasov headed out to give his defense at the university in Kharkov, Ukraine. Mitasov hopped on a tram to the university, but when he arrived, his dissertation did not.
By the time Mitasov realized he had left his paper on the tram, it was too late. Mitasov would never have the honor of being called a “doctor.” According to local legend, it was at this moment that Mitasov experienced a mental breakdown, and one which would give way to a number of bizarre writings and drawings that Mitasov soon produced in his Kharkov apartment.
Sometime in the 1980s, living alone in a seven-room communal apartment in the Kharkov city center, Mitasov took to writing in a small notebook. When he had filled every line of every page with text, he proceeded to scribble on the living room walls, even stretching to the double overhead ceilings.
His imaginary canvas then expanded to the kitchen, where he carved into the steel refrigerator and the bathroom, working his way outward, as if in concentric circles. Mitasov wrote in the pod’ezd (the stairwell entryway to the apartments), and even on the stairs themselves. Finally reaching the property boundary, Mitasov started to write on the brick walls of his neighbors’ houses.
Using multicolored paint, Mitasov filled every inch of his surroundings with incomprehensible phrases and etchings that expressed whatever ran through his head at the time. As his sister, Olga, would say to explain such behavior, “In moments of enlightenment (remission) he kept his hands busy so that he wouldn’t have to think with his head.” Because of his mental illness and artistic capabilities, locals came to know him as the modern Van Gogh.