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Soviet Medicine

Culture, Practice, and Science

Francis L. Bernstein, Christopher Burton, Dan Healey

Publication Year: 2010

Thanks to the opening of archives and the forging of exchanges between Russian and Western scholars interested in the history of medicine, it is now possible to write new forms of social and political history in the Soviet medical field. Using the lenses of critical social histories of healthcare and medical science, and looking at both new material from Russian archives and interviews with those who experienced the Soviet health system, the contributors to this volume explore the ways experts and the Soviet state radically reshaped medical provision after the Revolution of 1917. Soviet Medicine presents the work of an international group of leading scholars. Twelve essays—treating subjects that span the 74-year history of the Soviet Union—cover such diverse topics as how epidemiologists handled plague on the Soviet borderlands in the revolutionary era, how venereologists fighting sexually transmitted disease struggled to preserve the patient’s right to secrecy, and how Soviet forensic experts falsified the evidence of the Katyn Forest massacre of 1940. This important volume demonstrates the crucial role played by medical science, practice, and culture in the shaping of a modern Soviet Union and illustrates how the study of Soviet medical history can benefit historians of medicine, science, the Soviet Union, and social and gender historians.

Published by: Northern Illinois University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

...Most of the essays in this volume were first presented to a Swansea University symposium held at the Gregynog Centre in mid-Wales, May 26–29, 2005. At “The Science, Culture, and Practice of Soviet Medicine,” Russian scholars of the history of medicine joined historians of the field from the UK, USA, Canada, and Japan. Present in their capacity as senior...

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Editors' Notes

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pp. ix-xii

...commissariats” and “ministries of health,” and other domains of government. From the outset of Bolshevik rule in late 1917, Soviet government departments were known as “people’s commissariats” and they were led by “people’s commissars.” After March 3, 1946, these bodies became “ministries” led by “ministers.” For consistency and simplicity we translate...

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Introduction—Experts , Expertise, and New Histories of Soviet Medi cine

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pp. 3-26

...How can we describe medicine as it was conceived, organized, and practiced during the lifetime of the Soviet Union? For the historian of medicine, the singularity of the Soviet experience suggests a range of questions that clamor for attention. What did revolutionary upheaval do to lay the foundations for a seemingly new type of medicine...

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Chapter 1—Toward a Soviet Psychiatry

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pp. 27-48

...At the start of the twentieth century, Russian physicians, most of whom worked in the public sector, were in an uneasy situation. The state was the source of both their status—it recognized their medical credentials and guaranteed their employment—and rigid constraints. The same law that...

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Chapter 2—Fighting Plague in South East European Russia, 1917–25

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pp. 49-70

...Plague broke out in the village of Vetlianka, halfway between Astrakhan’ and Tsaritsyn on the Volga’s right bank, in September 1878, and in the course of a year killed 434 people. The Vetlianka epidemic cost the state budget dearly and also harmed the Russian Empire’s international reputation, especially in relation to Germany...

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Chapter 3—Foreign Expertise on Russian Terrain

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pp. 71-91

...The experts from “away” were a varied lot, with a mix of backgrounds, scientific interests, and agendas. Elsewhere I have examined some of the leading American experts, specialists in comparative public health systems and medical education, who were dispatched in the 1920s by private philanthropies to learn about the Soviet system of health care and...

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Chapter 4—Behind the Closed Door

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pp. 92-110

...The huge Hall of Columns of Leningrad’s House of Unions was already filled to capacity, yet eager crowds thronged outside, held back by the police.1 Such scenes were perhaps not uncommon at the more sensationalized debates and agitational trials that took place during the 1920s...

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Chapter 5—Defining Sexual Maturity as the Soviet Alternative to an Age of Consent

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pp. 111-131

...In all contemporary polities sexual citizenship comes with adulthood, marked by a specific age of majority. Young people below this age are protected from sexual assault and from the supposed harm of premature consensual sex. In modern states this protection is normally based on an age of consent, or, as it was often called a century ago, an “age of protection.” Most European states only began fixing ages of protection...

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Chapter 6—Vaccination against Tuberculosis with BCG

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pp. 132-154

...The vaccination campaign against tuberculosis between 1925 and 1941 in the Russian Republic (RSFSR), by far the largest and most populous of the 15 republics of the USSR, was an exercise in socialized preventive medicine that demonstrated the strengths and weaknesses of the Soviet medical system. In 1937, after 11 years of limited trials with the...

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Chapter 7—Between Power and Experts

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pp. 155-173

...On January 16, 1944, train 95 left Moscow for the city of Smolensk, on the western border of the Soviet Union. Its international wagon-lit was occupied by a group of high-ranking Soviet bureaucrats, including Chief Surgeon of the Red Army academician Nikolai Burdenko; the head of the RSFSR People’s Commissariat of Education Viacheslav...

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Chapter 8—Medical Expertise and the 1946–47 Famine

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pp. 174-194

...Perestroika in the USSR presented historians with the opportunity to study a once forbidden problem: Soviet famine. At the end of the 1980s formerly secret state and party collections in central and local archives were declassified. Scholars set about gathering the...

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Chapter 9—“Abortion Is Killing Us”

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pp. 195-213

...In 1920, the Soviet Union was the first country in the world to make legal abortion available to women on demand. Abortion was recriminalized in 1936 as part of a broad effort to strengthen the family and in conjunction with Stalin’s concerns about population decline. Under the new policy, clinical (legal) termination was only available to women with...

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Chapter 10—The Political Economy of Water Supply Under Late Stalinism

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pp. 214-236

...much larger, and now much better known work of Feshbach and Friendly on “ecocide.” Chris Burton’s essay in this volume discusses the reactions of communal hygienists, after the death of Stalin in 1953, to the degradation of the environment. The present article takes this story back to the early postwar years, but approaches it from a different perspective: the role that...

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Chapter 11— Destalinizationas Detoxification ?

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pp. 237-257

...Although it had prerevolutionary roots, the Soviet science of communal hygiene developed as a means to reconcile health protection with very rapid industrial development under Stalin. Entering the Khrushchev years, most communal hygienists understood human-created, or anthropogenic, threats to human health cautiously, even conservatively...

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Chapter 12—White Coats and Tea with Raspberry Jam

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pp. 258-280

...years in the field of children’s health care. Even two or three years ago, children were getting medical care in the same out-patients’ departments as adults. But now there are 20 specialist out-patients departments for children, as well as polyclinics and centers of prophylactic medicine.” This item was typical. Until the late 1980s, when the onset of press freedom generated a stream...

Abbreviations and Glossary

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pp. 281-282

List of Contributors

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pp. 283-284


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pp. 285-294

E-ISBN-13: 9781609090128
Print-ISBN-13: 9780875804262

Page Count: 312
Illustrations: 4 tables, 2 figures
Publication Year: 2010