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 (iii) The Odessa Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Since the middle of the 19th century Odessa became one of the largest industrial and commercial centers of Ukraine in part and the Russian Empire in whole, in first due to its seaside location. Certainly, such a large city should have proposed rather benevolent conditions to homeopathic practitioners. In reality, homeopathy most probably came to Odessa relatively late, in the 1860s either with Dr. Nicholas Raevsky (1811—1889) or with Dr. Lantsky who moved to Odessa from Khar'kov in 1862. While Dr. Lantsky's biography is unknown, Dr. Raevsky gained popularity as the author of the pamphlet "Self-help, or Treatment of diphtheria with homeopathic medicines, without assistance of doctors and expensive pharmacies" published in 1886 and written, in spite of the seriousness of the topic, in brilliant Russian, with humor and irony77.

Julius Levi's pharmacy in the end of the 19<sup>th</sup> century In this building the pharmacy of Julius Levi was located (photo of 2000 by Alexander Kotok)

In 1863, pharmacist G. Tsorn opened a homeopathic department at his pharmacy78, yet the first "pure" homeopathic pharmacy was opened on October 13, 1887 by Julius Levi in the center of the city, at the corner of Deribasovskaia and Pushkinskaia Streets. Julius Levi was a pharmacist, who had worked and had been trained for 9 years in the Central St. Petersburg Homeopathic pharmacy under Fedor Flemming, before he undertook opening his own pharmacy in Odessa. I guess that he was the person who initiated the establishing of a homeopathic society in the city.

"Odessky listok" (Odessa Leaflet) reported:

On October 2 [1890], His excellency the governor of the town of Odessa rear-admiral P. A. Zeleny received Regulations of the currently forming "Society for spreading homeopathy", in order to get it delivered to the Minister of Interior. The Society aims at spreading correct information on homeopathy among the wide public by means of books, lectures etc., and opening dispensaries and hospitals, as soon as the means will allow that79.

Grigory Marazli (1831—1908) from The Odessa Museum of the Wax Figures, photo by A. Kotok Dr Carl BOJANUS Sr. (1818—1897)

Certainly, antihomeopathic "Vrach" could not ignore this initiative supported by high-ranking persons:

In Odessa the Society of the Followers of Homeopathy has been founded. The city Mayor G. Marazli said that he is going to build a dispensary on his own account. [...]. G. Marazli made many good things for Odessa. We deeply regret seeing him in the capacity of a denier of science...80

Together with this prominent Odessa figure, member of many charitable societies and the Mayor of Odessa from 1890 to 1896, philanthropist Grigory Marazli (1831—1908), there were Archbishop Nikanor (1826—1890), Generals Nicholas Teplov, Carl Strandman, Nicholas Fedorovsky, Nicholas Rostovtsev and Christofor Roop (the latter had been the last governor-general of Odessa from 1883 to 1889, until the abolishment of the post), the Consul General of Greece Ivan Vuchina (1833—1902), Prof. Valerian Ligin (1848—1905), Drs. Lev Brazol, Carl Bojanus Sr. and Carl Bojanus Jr. (1861—ca.1928), officials of different ranks, etc. The Society was opened officially on April 7, 1891. The councilor of State Ivan Barkovsky was appointed as chairman. Dr. Carl Bojanus Jr. was elected Secretary, whilst the post of Trustee was given to Julius Levi.

Dr Ivan LUTSENKO (1863—1919)

Nevertheless, during the following 5 years very little was made to reach the goals promulgated in the Regulations. Julius Levi enjoyed a steadily growing income in the capacity of the only and full-right owner of the homeopathic pharmacy in Odessa, whilst the Society was dying from lack of finances (only the modest sum of 1000 rubles was collected during 5 years) and any activity. In 1895, a group of dissatisfied members of the Society, headed by Drs. Ivan Lutsenko (1863—1919)81 and Mikhail Rzhanitsyn (1858 — no earlier 1907), appealed to the members of the Society demanding to reorganize decidedly the Society's activity. They proposed opening a homeopathic dispensary and a homeopathic pharmacy in order to finance it. This idea faced strong resistance of the conservative majority which insisted that this plan would bring harm both to the Society's finances and to Julius Levi personally.

In his speech at the meeting on January 27, 1896 Nicholas Fedorovsky said that financial means would be found after the Society would decide to open a new public dispensary and pharmacy. Taking as an example the Central homeopathic pharmacy of Fedor Flemming in St. Petersburg, whose activity grew significantly just after two public pharmacies had been opened, Fedorovsky insisted that the opening of a new pharmacy would not bring any harm to the private pharmacy of Levi. He also stressed that he had a conversation with one of the founders of the Society, the current Mayor of the city, Prof. Ligin concerning the need to establish a dispensary for the poorest inhabitants. Prof. Ligin told him with confidence that as soon as the honorary member of the Society G. Marazli will become convinced that the dispensary has a firm ground for its further existence, he would not refuse to provide the dispensary with substantial finances. Thus, based upon the previous proposal of Drs. Lutsenko and Rzhanitsyn, the meeting had to elect a committee which would deal with the final version of the project of dispensary and pharmacy as well as to appoint a group of members headed by Dr. Lutsenko, which would have the right to ask G. Marazli for supporting the establishment of dispensary and pharmacy.

Dr Carl BOJANUS Jr. (1861—c.1928)

Although being quite reasonable and valid, the project was not accepted by the meeting supposedly for the fear to ruin Levi's pharmacy on the one hand, and lack of finances to carry out such revolutionary measures on the other hand. Moreover, nobody belonging to a group in opposition was elected to be a member of the Board of the Society82.

Several months later, in his report at the special meeting held on March 1, 1896 Dr. Lutsenko made the last effort to convince the members of the Society that the time had come and changes had to be done. He stressed that during five years of its existence, the Society had done nothing to promote homeopathy in Odessa. As a result of this inertia, some members found it hard to belong to a dead deal and left the Society. The only solution to justify its further existence, in Lutsenko's view, was to open as soon as possible a dispensary and pharmacy in order to secure financial stability. When analyzing in detail the activity of the three St. Petersburg pharmacies, belonging to three different bodies – the private one of Fedor Flemming, the one of the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy and the one of the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic Physicians – he demonstrated convincingly that, in fact, every opening of a new homeopathic pharmacy stimulated activity of the "old" ones and brought them nothing but additional income. Therefore, Levi and his adherents should not be afraid from establishing a new pharmacy. Furthermore, Lutsenko showed in figures that the opening of new homeopathic facilities would not require significant financial support as the expected income provided by a new pharmacy would soon cover all expenditures, including loans. The Society would not be obliged with any financial responsibility as even private investors and donators would be found by Lutsenko himself. Last but not least – Lutsenko viewed all these initiatives as an important step to meet the main aim, i.e. to establish a homeopathic hospital in Odessa83.

After this proposal was rejected as well, the split in the Society became unavoidable. Lutsenko and his closest adherents left the Society and established the Odessa Hahnemannian Society, whose Regulations were approved two years later by the Minister of Interior (on June 8, 1898). When trying to assess the dual character of a new society, supposed to answer the needs of patients and doctors, it was stressed in §1 of the Regulations that "the founding of the society [...] pursued two objects: a) charitable b) scientific-practical"84.

Levi's pharmacy. The view from inside

After the split had happened, the Odessa Society of the Followers of Homeopathy counted in 1897, 74 members – 40 full, 24 founders and 9 honorary85. It is important to mention that the most prestigious persons did not leave the Society. When feeling nevertheless that the danger of a complete breakdown of the Society became real, Julius Levi changed his policy. He made an attempt both to revive the Society and to fight the competition with Lutsenko and Co, while proposing to open a dispensary at the Society, and obliging to finance the dispensary's activity (renting premises, heating, servant staff, free of charge medicines) for three years. This proposal was accepted and the dispensary was opened on May 3, 1897. The payment for a visit was 30 kopeck, while poor sick could get physician's advice and medicines free of charge. Yet this project was not especially successful. Although in 1897, as much as 2032 patients were received, so the Society had to ask Dr. Carl Bojanus Jr. to join previously appointed as dispensary's physicians Drs. Arthur Stegemann and Friedrich Jurgenson86, the following years did not show a significant increase of the number of patients which would be able to justify Levi's expenses. In 1898, 2567 patients visited the dispensary, while in 1899, 2536 patients came87. The expenditures of Julius Levi were as following: 1897 – 1547, 1898 – 1239, and 1899 – 830 rubles88. Although a decrease of the number of visitors occurred in 1899, this might be seen as merely casual because of the temporary outflow of the workers (the main contingent of the patients) from Odessa in that year, whilst the expenditures demonstrated clear tendency to be cut down from year to year, Julius Levi apparently recognized his own idea to be unsuccessful. It seems that the Society also failed to raise any funds for which Julius Levi most probably expected having agreed to finance the dispensary's activity. In any event, since 1901 onwards, we find no mention of the activity of the Odessa Society of the Followers of Homeopathy.

2.2.4 (iv) The Odessa Hahnemannian Society

New city hospital - Odessa

At the time when the Odessa Society of the Followers of Homeopathy was trying to find its direction under Julius Levi, the new society placed the work on a broad footing. In its first year the new-born society had already 149 members. In 1899, the Hahnemannian Society established a dispensary and a pharmacy; the opening of the latter was supported by private loans obtained by Lutsenko as he had promised. The number of visits in 1899, made to the dispensary at Khersonskaia Str., 52 was so significant (1811 visits)89 that the Board of the Society had to employ as much as three doctors: Ivan Lutsenko, Dmitry Okinchits and Nicholas Skariatin (Dr. Rzhanitsyn left Odessa for Tiflis). Yet in 1900, Dr. Okinchits fell ill and soon died, Dr. Skariatin left Odessa, whilst Dr. Lutsenko could not give up completely his private practice. As all the homeopathic physicians of Odessa refused to take a part in the Society's activity, the Board published announcements in which homeopathic doctors were invited to settle down in Odessa and work at the Hahnemannian Society. Although only two replies were received, one of those applied, Dr. Nicholas Rudinsky, arrived at Odessa in August, 1901. Additionally, the Society opened in October 1900, a Chemical-Bacteriological Laboratory. In fact, the very first years of real activity proved to be successful. It turned out that Dr. Lutsenko was absolutely right in his assumption that the pharmacy would cover soon all the expenditures. Indeed, the Society's pharmacy headed until 1904 by pharmacist David Leibenson not only paid off all the loans but became the main financial provider and supporter of the Society during all the following years. From 1899 to 1903, the pharmacy sold medicines for 23882 rubles and books for 816 rubles90. In 1904, the pharmacy was lent to pharmacist Vladislav Korotkevich who was obliged to pay 1650 rubles in the first year and 1700 rubles in the two following years to the Society, while all the incomes would be his own. Yet the incomes expected did not prove real. According to Korotkevich's requests, the Society allowed him to pay only 1200 rubles in the first year instead of 1650, but Korotkevich was unable to pay even this sum. He paid only 900 rubles and asked the Board both for writing off the debt of 300 rubles and reducing the sum of the constant payment in the following years. The 1904 financial year the Society finished with a deficit of 380 rubles91.

The delivering of lectures within the Medical Section of the Society, which included medical staff (doctors, dentists, veterinarians, pharmacists and their assistants) on different topics, usually related to homeopathy as a theory and to possibilities of homeopathic treatment of various diseases, was a quite important part of the Society's activity. Here the remarkable working ability of Dr. Lutsenko has to be stressed especially. 59 of the 69 lectures delivered at the Society from 1898 to 1903, were made by Dr. Lutsenko. Many of his lectures were published by the Society as pamphlets, like "Measles and their homeopathic treatment" (1899), "Diphtheria and its homeopathic treatment", "Hemorrhoids and their homeopathic treatment", "Scarlet fever and its homeopathic treatment" (1900), "What should we do? Before the planned meeting of the followers of homeopathy" (1901), "The role of high temperature in diseases and whether it should be lowered" (1902), "Typhus" (1903). At the beginning of the 1900s, Lutsenko started delivering lectures on homeopathy also in the Odessa spiritual seminary. To the best of my knowledge, this was the only experience of an officially approved teaching of homeopathy in a Russian spiritual institution. It is extremely important to stress that the Society supported the translation (by Dr. Lutsenko) and the issuing of Farrington's important work "Pharmacology" from 1906 to 1910 in several installments, 840 pages in the whole. This was the largest translation into Russian of foreign works on the subject of homeopathy ever done until… the 1990s! This translation was republished in 1936 and 1992, as one compact issue.

Nonetheless, all efforts of enlarging the activity were unsuccessful, in first because of financial difficulties. The second dispensary, opened by the Society in November 1901 at Stepovaia Str., 48 where Dr. Rudinsky was appointed as head, had to be closed soon, after 5 months, as only 122 visits were made92. One of the possible reasons was poor knowledge of the local inhabitants of the dispensary's existence, but the Society had no money neither to advertise it nor to wait till the information would spread among the wide public. The economical crisis spread all over the Russian Empire since 1902, and decreased the number both of the members of the Society and that of those who turned to the dispensary. The Society had to decrease the reward of Dr. Lutsenko to 300 rubles yearly in 1903. Dr. Rudinsky, who was left without any reward at all, refused to work in the dispensary. Another unsuccessful project of the Society was connected with the publishing of a homeopathic journal. Dr. Evgraph Diukov of Khar'kov, who had published "Vestnik gomeopaticheskoi meditsiny" in 1900—1902, proposed to the Odessa Hahnemannian Society to continue issuing the journal. Although the Society had no experience in such affairs, it agreed. The issuing continued for two years and brought nothing but significant costs. I suppose that the Society stopped its activity between 1905 and 1908 because of social and financial instability, as I found no reports on these years. Additionally, it seems that also the relationships of the Society with the city authorities were not excellent in the late 1900s. When in autumn 1909, during the epidemic of cholera, the Board of the Society turned to the Mayor of the city asking him to put into disposal of the Society the only single room in a city hospital in order to treat there with homeopathic medicines as well as an auditorium to hold a lecture on cholera, this inquiry was rejected. At the same autumn Dr. Lutsenko was going to deliver a lecture on homeopathy in the educational society "Prosvita" ("Enlightenment" in Ukrainian), but this proposal was rejected as well on the base of the opinion of the Medical Inspector93.

The Emblem of the Levi's pharmacy

The last pre-WWI reports of the Society which were published in homeopathic periodicals and not as separate issues, testify that the number of its members was decreasing sharply, whilst the number of patients remained almost the same. Most probably that the Society stopped its activity after Dr. Lutsenko was called up to military service in 1914.

The contemporary Odessa Medical Index of 191494 listed the homeopathic pharmacy of Julius Levi, the Odessa Hahnemannian Society and its dispensary at Khersonskaia Str., 52 as well as practicing homeopaths Drs. Lutsenko, Carl Bojanus Jr., Rudinsky, Stegemann and Jurgenson. This was the last pre-WWI information on homeopathy in Odessa I was able to obtain.


Table of the activity of the Odessa Hahnemannian Society95
Year Members Visits made
Paid
Visits made
Free
Patients received
1898 149      
1899   1437 374  
1900 156 1660 717 836
1901 176 1563 415 753
1902 180 1262 465 688
1903 161 872 456 540
1904 126 1144 239 514
1909   1106 110 578
1910   1229 91 596
1911   1063 122  
1912 59 1231 210 660
1913 62 1281 122 703
1914 44      

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