On Rural Health in the USSR, Or On the Quality of Medical History





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.

Author Biographies

Sergei Zatravkin

Dr. Hab. (Medicine), Professor, National Research Institute of Public Health, Chief Researcher, HSE University.

1 bldg., 12, Vorontsovo Pole Str., 105064, Moscow, Russia.

20, Myasnitskaya Str., 101000, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-2930-1873


Elena Vishlenkova

Dr. Hab. (History), Professor, HSE University.

20, Myasnitskaya Str., 101000, Moscow, Russia.

ORCID 0000-0002-9471-0091



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How to Cite

Zatravkin, S., & Vishlenkova, E. (2022). On Rural Health in the USSR, Or On the Quality of Medical History. Quaestio Rossica, 10(2), 646–656. https://doi.org/10.15826/qr.2022.2.693



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