The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire
until World War I, as compared with other European countries and the USA: similarities and discrepancies

by Alexander Kotok, M.D.
On-line version of the Ph.D. thesis improved and enlarged
due to a special grant of the Pierre Schmidt foundation.

2.2.4 Other Russian Homeopathic Societies

Dr Evgraph Diukov (1865-c1933)

I shall attempt to put together a condensed report on other Russian homeopathic societies because of the modest character of their activity and the poor records they provided about themselves. I may also assert that the influence of the non-St. Petersburg homeopathic societies was rather weak. Even based upon the rare reports the societies issued, we can see that the number of patients received in the clinics at the societies was insignificant. Also the number of brochures, pamphlets, etc. issued by the societies was extremely poor. In fact, Dr. Evgraph Diukov (1865 — no earlier 1933) was absolutely right when he wrote in "Vestnik gomeopaticheskoi meditsiny":

Only St. Petersburg represents a happy exception. In other places of Russia the situation with homeopathy has always fluctuated: sometimes it bursts into blaze, sometimes it dies down absolutely. It derives from an absence of order and system in our activity. All we do is in the Russian slipshod way, anyhow, pell-mell […]. We have neither systematic character nor unity in our activity62.

This "Russian slipshod way" did not allow Russian homeopaths to establish a firm ground for homeopathy in Russia. All these societies, with the exception of St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy, had no more than 200 members (usually less than 100), they managed extremely poor finances (several thousands of rubles), employed 1-2 physicians and issued either brochures or reports on their activity in extraordinary cases only. Thus, after the societies were discontinued under the Bolsheviks, homeopathy vanished absolutely from many provincial Russian towns until the period of Gorbachev's "perestroika".

As to the ties between societies, I infer that these connections were rather weak. I have found no evidence of correspondence between societies, any mutual participation of members of some societies in the meetings of others (except for the St. Petersburg societies).

An account of the general situation of the homeopathic societies may be found in a report made in 1913:

There are several dozens of homeopathic societies in Russia, including [...] 2 societies [...] and 5 homeopathic pharmacies with dispensaries attached, a homeopathic hospital (at Litseiskaia Street, 6) and a sanatorium [...] - in St. Petersburg. There are 1 society and 2 pharmacies in Moscow, 1 society and 2 pharmacies in Warsaw, 1 society and 2 pharmacies in Odessa. [...]. There are homeopathic societies of the followers of homeopathy and homeopathic pharmacies in cities like Vilna, Kiev, Khar'kov, Riga, Ekaterinoslav, Rostov-on-Don, Samara, Saratov, Lodz, Perm and more63.

I could add to this list of societies some others. Nevertheless, I have to mention again that information on their activities is extremely poor, almost absent.

2.2.4 (i) The St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic Physicians

I left my discussion of this society in 1881, when I analyzed the new Society of the Followers of Homeopathy which was then formed. In fact, there is very little information about the activity of the former Society until WWI which may be added, as the Society rarely provided any reports in homeopathic periodicals. Nevertheless, I may speculate that this activity had a rather modest character, comparable with that of Ukrainian homeopathic societies. So, during the period 1885—86, 2069 patients were received in the dispensary at the Society, whilst in 1886—87, 3911 patients visited. The budget of the Society was also small, some 4000 rubles64.

Changes in the financial policy of the Society started with changes in Society's staff. Drs. Evgeny Gabrilovich (1835—1918) and Lev Brazol became members of the Society in the middle 1880s, and Dr. Nicholas Gabrilovich, a son of Evgeny Gabrilovich, in 1892, while old members of the Society were gradually leaving the scene. At the beginning of the 1892, aged Fedor Flemming passed his pharmacy to his son, homeopathic doctor Anatoly Flemming. In the same 1892, the Society, in first due to efforts of Lev Brazol, finally reached its financial independence from Flemming's pharmacy, while opening its own drugstore at Nevsky Avenue. The pharmacy proved itself very soon. In 1894, the pharmacy brought to the Society 5,158 rubles of the income65, yet as soon as in 1895, the annual income of the pharmacy counted 12.043 rubles and had been grown since then from year to year, providing the lion's share of the common Society's income66. The Society was so satisfied with the results of pharmacy's activity that decided to issue in 1896 a brochure "First Aid" supposed to be delivered free as attached to a popular journal "Niva" (Cornfield) and to other periodicals. For this aim the Society, which only few years earlier had had the money turnover of some 4,000 rubles, assigned as much as 8,000 rubles!67

On September 14, 1895, the Society opened a dispensary with 10 beds, where during 1895—97, 83 patients received treatment68. Unfortunately, this project was not successful. Although the dispensary enjoyed a large public confidence and popularity, so the people stood in queue to be hospitalized in the dispensary, the keeping of it was too expensive. The first 3,5 months of its existence brought the loss of 580 rubles69, while the further losses of the Society had been increased steadily. After 5 years long existence the dispensary was closed.

From 1889 to 1917, the Society was headed by Dr. Lev Brazol, who was also a member of the Board of the St. Petersburg Charitable Society of the Followers of Homeopathy as well as the Chief Physician to the Alexander II Homeopathic Hospital at that society from 1911 to 1917. This fact enables me to conclude that since the late 1890s, the relationships between the two societies were at least normal. Moreover, after the war began, the two societies united their efforts and opened a small military hospital (lazaret) for 40 beds. A free out-patient reception area at the Alexander II hospital was also opened by the two societies.

It should be added here that this Society was the only Russian homeopathic society which survived after the Bolshevik revolution and the Civil war. It had been reconstructed due to Nicholas Gabrilovich's efforts in 1923 in the capacity of the Leningrad Society of Homeopathic Doctors (Leningradskoe Obshchestvo vrachei-gomeopatov or LOVG) and was discontinued, like other societies of homeopaths in the USSR, in the late 1930s.

2.2.4 (ii) Moscow Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Dr. Ivan Goldenberg (1810—1888) is considered to be the pioneer of homeopathic treatment in Moscow. He arrived in Russia in 1833 and, after having been thoroughly examined at the St. Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy, was allowed to practice in Russia as a physician. A brief information on homeopathic treatment provided in some Moscow hospitals, may be found in the section "Homeopathic hospitals" in this chapter.

An excellent source on the social background of the founders of the Society can be found in an allopathic periodical. Informing its readers about the opening of a new homeopathic society in Moscow, "Vrach" wrote:

It is a very characteristic fact that among the 91 persons who signed a letter requesting the opening of the society there are several generals, 1 archpriest, 2 priests, 1 deacon, 5 homeopathic physicians, 1 owner of a homeopathic pharmacy, 1 prince, the vice-chairman of the Moscow district court, a forensic investigator, actors, directors [...] and almost all of the professors and teachers of the Philharmonic Society, a composer [...], a violinist [...], several representatives of the rich merchant class [...] etc. There is nobody who is known in the field of science!70

General Nicholas FEDOROVSKY (1837—ca.1918)

It was General Nicholas Fedorovsky (1837—ca. 1918) who initiated the opening of the Society, who was elected the chairman of common meetings of the Society for the three years. The Society was opened on December 29, 1894.At the head of the Society was Dr. Nicholas Bojanus, a son of Carl Bojanus. During the first year, the number of members grew up to 16671.

One of the members of the Society was Dr. Ivan Mishin (1853—?). In 1893, he opened a small private homeopathic out- and in-patient (for two beds) clinic of obvious charitable character. The sources of financing of the clinic could not be documented with certainty. It existed during several years. There were 2543 patients who made 3138 visits during 11 months of 1895 (from January 1 to December 1), 1196 of them were free72. It is also known on Dr. Mishin that during WWI he opened a small military hospital for 12-15 beds in his estate in the town of Livny of the Orlov province. The expenses of managing the hospital were divided between Dr. Mishin and the city authorities, while medicines were sent free from the homeopathic pharmacy of Vagner in Moscow.

In general, the activity of the Society seems to be poorly documented. The Society did not publish annual reports, except of that of 1913, limiting itself to short information published in homeopathic periodicals. So, in 1898, there were 2257 visits made to the dispensary at the Society, in 1899 - 3043 visits, in 1900 - 3987 visits. It was mentioned in a homeopathic periodical, that the financial position of the Society had not improved for it did not have its own pharmacy73.

There were 7 doctors who received 10894 patients in 1909, and 11691 patients in 1910, in the dispensary of the Society in 191174. The only detailed report of 1913 provides us with some additional data. Dr. Dmitry Sokolov (1872—1932), the future founder of the All-Russian Society of Homeopathic Physicians (Vserossiyskoe Obshchestvo vrachei-gomeopatov or VOVG) in 1925, who had headed the Moscow Society of the Followers of Homeopathy during several years, refused further managing the Society for the lack of time. Instead, Dr. K. Weis, who later also became a member of the All-Russian Society of the Followers of Homeopathy, was elected. The dispensary of the Society had 9201 paying and 836 free visits, while in 1913 there were 9148 paying and 851 free ones. In 1912, the Society finally succeeded in opening a small in-patient facility. Nevertheless, the payment was certainly high (7 rubles per day in a separate room and 4 rubles per day in a common room) and the Society finished 1913 with a deficit of 2065 rubles. It was mentioned at the annual meeting for 1913, that this price is too high for the families of poor material well being, whilst well-to-do patients prefer to be treated at their homes. Thus, only especially benevolent results of the treatment provided in the clinic, may allow the inflow of patients. Also the proposal of a landed lady A. Il'ina, passed to the Society through Dr. Vasily Dunkel' (1865—ca.1930s), was discussed. Il'ina proposed to grant the land and the timber in her estate in the Ardatov district of the Novgorod province in order to build a homeopathic hospital – all these on the condition that a doctor who will manage the hospital, will provide homeopathic treatment free of charge. The proposal was rejected by the members of the Society as there were no "free" homeopathic doctors in the Society75. It is known that during WWI a small military hospital for 20 beds was run by the Society. Homeopathic medicines for it were provided free by three Moscow homeopathic pharmacies. Six doctors (A. Andrianov, A. Vasil'eva-Garnak, V. Dunkel', P. Muhin, V. Strup and E. Epple) were employed76.

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Copyright © Alexander Kotok 2001
Mise en page, illustrations Copyright © Sylvain Cazalet 2001