On Rural Health in the USSR, Or On the Quality of Medical History
Keywords:history of Stalinism, history of medicine, Soviet public health
In this text, the authors debate the research carried out by D. Khristenko on early Soviet rural healthcare, questioning the trustworthiness of the sources, their interpretation, and the historical and biographical context of the narrative. The authors provide statistics that recorded a reduction in the Soviet healthcare system’s ability to treat the population. They analyse the reports of people’s commissars and heads of regional health departments, who opened the party’s eyes to the acute shortage of personnel, the critical condition of hospitals, and the low level of qualifications possessed by Soviet medical graduates. Referring to these testimonies and data, the researchers demonstrate that the Soviet healthcare of the 1920s–1930s was a problematic and acutely undersupplied area of public life. This was especially noticeable in rural Russia, which suffered significant human losses. This is probably a rare case in Russian history when the analysis of officials who headed the healthcare system turned out to be more critical than the accounts of occasional foreigners about their trips to the exotic country of the Soviets. This requires a special approach to the evaluation of the trustworthiness of such opinions and the extent of awareness of the problem.
Hutchinson, J. F. (1997). Dances with Commissars: Sigerist and Soviet Medicine. In Fee, E., Brown, T. M. (Eds.). Making Medical History: The Life and Times of Henry E. Sigerist. Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, pp. 229–258.
Kaminskii, G. N. (1934). Zadachi sovetskogo zdravookhraneniya [The Aims of the Soviet Health Sector]. Moscow, Biomedgiz. 164 p.
Kaminskii, G. N. (1935). Okhrana zdorov’ya v Sovetskom Soyuze [Health Care in the USSR]. Moscow, Biomedgiz. 118 p.
Khristenko, D. (2022) Sovetskaya sel’skaya meditsina dovoennogo perioda v otsenke otechestvennykh i inostrannykh ochevidtsev [Pre-War Soviet Rural Medicine as Assessed by National and Non-National Observers]. In Quaestio Rossica. Vol. 10. No. 2, pp. 629–645. DOI 10.15826/qr.2022.2.692.
Ofitsial’nyi sbornik NKZ RSFSR [Official Collection of the NKZ of the RSFSR]. (1935). No. 23–24, pp. 39–40; (1936). No. 2, pp. 11–18.
Ratmanov, P. E. (2021). Sovetskoe zdravookhranenie na mezhdunarodnoi arene v 1920‒1940-kh gg.: mezhdu “myagkoi siloi” i propagandoi (Zapadnaya Evropa i SShA) [Soviet Public Health in the International Arena in the 1920s-1940s: Between “Soft Power” and Propaganda (Western Europe and the USA)]. Khabarovsk, Izdatel’stvo Dal’nevostochnogo gosudarstvennogo meditsinskogo universiteta. 388 p.
Samsonenko, T. A. (2015). Stanovlenie i razvitie sel’skoi sistemy zdravookhraneniya v SSSR v 1930-kh gg. [The Formation and Development of the Rural Health System in the USSR in the 1930s]. In Vlast’. No. 5, pp. 146–151.
Smirnov, E. I. (1947). Ocherednye zadachi Ministerstva zdravookhraneniya SSSR. Doklad na sobranii rabotnikov zdravookhraneniya. Moskva. 21 maya 1947 g. Dlya sluzhebnogo pol’zovaniya [Current Tasks of the Ministry of Health of the USSR. Report at the Meeting of Healthcare Workers. Moscow. 21 May 1947. For Official Use]. Moscow, Medgiz. 56 p.
Stochik, A. M. (1988). Sel’skoe zdravookhranenie v pervoi polovine 20-kh gg. [Rural Health Care in the First Half of the 1920s]. In Sovetskoe zdravookhranenie. No. 8, pp. 60–64. No. 9, pp. 65–71.
Tragediya sovetskoi derevni. Kollektivizatsiya i raskulachivanie. Dokumenty i materially v 5 t. [The Tragedy of the Soviet Village. Collectivization and Dekulakization. Documents and Materials. 5 Vols.]. (2004). Moscow, ROSSPEN. Vol. 5. 1937–1939. Book 1. 1937. 648 p.
Tretii plenum Tsentral’noi sel’skoi komissii Narkomzdrava [The Third Plenum of the Central Rural Commission of the People’s Commissariat for Health]. (1935). Voronezh, Voronezhskoe oblastnoe knigoizdatel’stvo. 86 p.
TsGAIPD SPb [Central State Archive of Historical and Political Documents of St Petersburg]. Stock 24. List 2v. Dos. 1654.
Vishnevsky, A. V. (Ed.). (2006). Demograficheskaya modernizatsiya Rossii. 1900–2000 [The Demographic Modernisation of Russia. 1900–2000]. Moscow, Novoe izdatel’stvo. 608 p.
XVI Vserossiiskii s”ezd Sovetov. 15–23 yanvarya 1935 g., Moskva. Stenograficheskii otchet. Byulleteni No. 1–17. Postanovleniya [XVI All-Russian Congress of the Soviets. 15–23 January 1935, Moscow. Verbatim Transcripts. Bulletins No. 1–17. Decrees]. Moscow, Vserossiiskii tsentral’nyi ispolnitel’nyi komitet. 708 p.
Zatravkin, S. N., Vishlenkova, E. A. (2020). A Ghost Textbook on the History of Medicine: A Case Study of the Legacy of a Stalinist Scholarly Canon. In Europ. Education. Vol. 52. No. 3, pp. 257–270. DOI 10.1080/10564934.2020.1769483.
Zatravkin, S. N., Vishlenkova, E. A. (2020). Vosstanovlenie ili sozdanie? Poslevoennaya reforma sovetskogo zdravookhraneniya [Restoration or Creation? The Postwar Reform of Soviet Healthcare]. In Problemy sotsial’noi gigieny, zdravookhraneniya i istorii meditsiny. No. 5, pp. 1011–1016. DOI 10.32687/0869-866X-2020-28-5-1011-1016.
Zatravkin, S. N., Vishlenkova, E. A. (2022). Medikamenty i revolyutsiya: lekarstvennoe obespechenie sovetskikh lyudei v 1920-e gody [Medicaments and Revolution: Medical Supply of the Soviet People in the 1920s]. In Rossiiskaya istoriya. No. 2, pp. 156–165.
Zatravkin, S., Vishlenkova, E., Sherstneva, E. (2020). “Korennoi perelom”: dovoennaya reforma sovetskogo zdravookhraneniya [“A Radical Turn”: The Reform of the Soviet System of Public Healthcare]. In Quaestio Rossica. Vol. 8. No. 2, pp. 652–666. DOI 10.15826/qr.2020.2.486.