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Public Health in the Soviet Union (Claire Shaw)

Following the Russian revolutions of 1917, the nascent Soviet state engaged in an unprecedented attempt to bring all areas of public health under its control. Their goal, in the words of Trotsky, was to ‘create a higher social biologic type, or, if you please, a superman’. Drawing on a range of secondary literature, alongside a selection of primary sources in translation, this seminar will examine the development of early Soviet medicine, in which the bodies of Soviet citizens were conceived as sites of utopian social transformation. We will consider the shaping of new institutions of Soviet medical practice, and how notions of medical expertise shifted across the revolutionary divide. We will pay particular attention to how the blurring of the boundary between public and private, inherent in the ideology of socialism, impacted on the development of medicine, and consider how ordinary citizens responded to this expansion of the political into their lives and bodies. We will also seek to situate this seemingly ‘totalitarian’ impulse to control citizens’ bodies within pan-European developments in public health and welfare reform.

Required Readings

Primary source material will be provided in advance of the seminar.

• Tricia Starks, The Body Soviet: Propaganda, Hygiene and the Revolutionary State (University of Wisconsin Press, 2009), Chapter 2 (although the whole book is excellent and worth reading).

• David Hoffmann, Cultivating the Masses: Modern State Practices and Soviet Socialism, 1914-1939 (Cornell University Press, 2011), 70-124. e-book
• Kenneth M. Pinnow, ‘Cutting and Counting: Forensic Medicine as a Science of Society in Early Bolshevik Russia’, in David L. Hoffmann and Yanni Kotsonis (eds), Russian Modernity: Politics, Knowledge, Practices (Palgrave Macmillan, 2000), 115-137. e-book
• Susan Gross Solomon, ‘Social Hygiene in Soviet Medical Education’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, vol. 45, no. 4 (1990), 607-643. e-journal

Further Reading

• Daniel Beer, Renovating Russia: The Human Sciences and the Fate of Liberal Modernity, 1880-1930 (Cornell University Press, 2008). e-book

• Frances Lee Bernstein, The Dictatorship of Sex: Lifestyle Advice for the Soviet Masses (Northern Illinois University Press, 2011).

• Frances L. Bernstein, Christopher Burton and Dan Healey (eds), Soviet Medicine: Culture, Practice and Science (Northern Illinois University Press, 2010).

• Andy Byford, ‘Imperial Normativities and the Sciences of the Child: The Politics of Development in the USSR, 1920s-1930s’, Ab Imperio, 2/2016, 71-124. e-journal

• Mark G. Field, Soviet Socialized Medicine: An Introduction (Free Press, 1967).

• Susan Grant (ed.), Russian and Soviet Health Care from an International Perspective: Comparing Professions, Practice and Gender, 1880-1960 (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017). e-book

• David Hoffmann, Stalinist Values: The Cultural Norms of Soviet Modernity, 1917-1941 (Cornell University Press, 2003).

• Lilya Kaganovsky, How the Soviet Man was Unmade: Cultural Fantasy and Male Subjectivity under Stalin (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2008). e-book

• Christina Kaier and Eric Naiman, Everyday Life in Early Soviet Russia: Taking the Revolution Inside (Indiana University Press, 2006). e-book

• Ethan Pollock, Stalin and the Soviet Science Wars (Princeton University Press, 2006). e-book

• Susan Gross Solomon and John Hutchinson (eds), Health and Society in Revolutionary Russia (Indiana University Press, 1990).

• Benjamin Zajicek, ‘Soviet Madness: Nervousness, Mild Schizophrenia, and the Professional Jurisdiction of Psychiatry in the USSR, 1918-1936’, Ab Imperio 4/2014, 71-124. e-journal