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 (v) The Khar'kov Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

The city of Khar'kov, like Odessa, had been a large industrial Ukrainian city since the 1860—70s. The first mention of a homeopathic doctor practicing in Khar'kov can be found in 1862. "Zhurnal gomeopaticheskogo lecheniia" informed its readers that Dr. Lantsky left Khar'kov for Odessa, whilst Dr. Inozemtsev arrived at Khar'kov to fill the gap96. Unfortunately, I have neither biographical data on these physicians nor information on how long Dr. Inozemtsev practiced there.

The Khar'kov Society of the Followers of Homeopathy was officially established on October 27, 1891. It was an idea of the prominent zemstvo and public figure of the Khar'kov province Alexey Teliatnikov (1830—1906), the founder and permanent Chairman of the Society until his death. He became interested in homeopathy after having been treated successfully with homeopathy for eczema by General Nicholas Fedorovsky in the late 1880s. In order to encourage the further development of homeopathy in Khar'kov and to support the Society, Dr. Lev Brazol delivered a lecture on homeopathy on October 18, 1891 in the auditorium of the Khar'kov City Duma. Brazol passed the income of 80 rubles to the Society.

A very amusing and, at the same time, very characteristic story occurred after the Society had been opened. The lay Society suddenly found itself involved into a difficult relationship to allopaths. When informing its readers on the opening of the Society, the Ukrainian newspaper "Yuzhny krai" (The Southern Land) mentioned that two professors of the Khar'kov University and a doctor were founders of the Society. Naturally, "Vrach" could not leave this "shameful" information without attention. Manassein declared that although this is doubtless a reporter's mistake, the Khar'kov professors have to react, as "disdainful silence only is not sufficient"97. Probably, the editor of "Vrach" Manassein was not the only person who considered that participating in the founding of a homeopathic society demanded to be "rebutted". Indeed, "Yuzhny krai" of March 24, published the following letter of Prof. K. Kuchin:

It was mentioned in an issue of "Yuzhny krai" that I am counted among the members of a homeopathic society in Khar'kov. There is here some misunderstanding. I wish neither to be a founder of the society nor to take part in its activity if the society would be created98.

Thus, even the first meeting of the Society had to deal with this strange "allopathic story". The chairman Teliatnikov and the trustee Lefevre were charged with writing a reply to Prof. Kuchin and publishing it in a newspaper. The letter was indeed published in the "Yuzhny krai" of October, 30. It was stressed in the letter that Prof. Kuchin was asked to sign the Regulations of the Society after it had come to the knowledge of the founders that Kuchin had interest in homeopathy and received homeopathic books in German as well as medicines to treat himself according to recommendations of Dr. Lev Brazol. Prof. Kuchin willingly signed the Regulations in the presence of witnesses. Thus, it is not clear on what "misunderstanding" spoke Prof. Kuchin. But the epidemic of "rebuttals" continued. The young physician V. Avdakov, who had also imprudently signed the Regulations, sent a letter of justification to the same "Yuzhny krai", in which he insisted that he found himself "occasionally" among the followers of homeopathy, but used these occasions to convince, while attending the reception of patients of some doctor, that homeopathy is powerless. "In any event, — wrote Avdakov, — I have had nothing to do with homeopathy"99. These examples clearly testify on the atmosphere in which Russian followers of homeopathy were establishing their societies and were trying to attract doctors to the activity of these new-born societies. Nevertheless, another professor of the Khar'kov University, the pharmacologist S. Ryndovsky (until his death in 1900), and the obstetrician Yasinsky, remained among the members of the Society, despite all allopathic attacks.

There were 126 members of the Society in 1893100.

From the very beginning the Society was looking for a physician to hire. In 1894, Dr. Evgraph Diukov of the Poltava province was invited on the conditions he would receive 600 rubles in the first year and 300 rubles in the second one. In the same year, pharmacist Romanovsky opened in Khar'kov the first homeopathic pharmacy in the city, at Rybnaia square, 32 but soon he died. The new owner of the pharmacy, pharmacist Fidelis Nosal'sky (?—1900) established tight connections with the Society and even provided it with a room in the pharmacy which served as a dispensary to receive patients.

During 3 last months of 1895, 156 patients made 237 visits. It was also in 1895, that the society turned to the City Duma asking for financial support. It was certainly predictable that this inquiry faced the strong opposition of the deputies representing allopathic medicine. At the meeting of the Duma held in November, 1895 Prof. O. Butkevich of the Khar'kov University stigmatized homeopathy as a prejudice analogous to hypnotism and magic treatment. Another deputy, Dr. Sochava said that homeopathy is harmful – first, because it recommends to treat according to the principle "fight fire with fire" recognized by modern science to be absolute delusion; secondly, it can poison its patients on the one hand, and drag out diseases on the other hand, when giving to the patients laughable doses of medicines101. Nevertheless, the meeting approved the support of 200 rubles for the homeopathic society. Since 1895, the local press joined anti-homeopathic propaganda in the city. It was stressed at the annual meeting of the society in 1896, that newspapers publish willingly anti-homeopathic papers, when it is almost impossible to publish anything protecting homeopathy102.

Alexey Teliatnikov (1830—1906)

Alexey Teliatnikov succeeded to raise funds from the Khar'kov Land and Trade banks. The Land bank donated 225 rubles in 1896—1901, whilst the Trade bank supported the society with 80 rubles in 1897—1900. Furthermore, Teliatnikov obtained two sums of 100 rubles assigned by the Khar'kov zemstvo authority in 1899 and by the Kupiansk zemstvo in 1899—1900.

Although being important from the point of view of social prestige, these donations by no means could be compared with the large and massive support provided by the State for allopathic facilities. It was stressed with bitterness in the report of the Board that

The credit of homeopathy is not sufficiently high in the public opinion to allow the society to get the means needed to provide the sick with homeopathy's assistance. When the government, public institutions and private persons hurry up to support any allopathic facility without any doubt about the usefulness of those facilities and the reasonability to support them, the affair of homeopathy is still in the stage of a tolerable evil. Even those poor donations we have received are accompanied with the regret concerning the waste of money, deserving more clever use103.

The Khar'kov City Duma supported the society with 100 rubles in 1896—98, with 200 rubles in 1899, and with 300 rubles in 1900. Certainly, this support and its size depended upon the structure of the Duma, mainly on its head, the Mayor of the city. When in 1898 one of the deputies, an allopathic physician, protested against supporting the homeopathic society, he met with objections of two professors, who were deputies of the Duma. While finishing the discussion, the Mayor Golenishchev-Kutuzov stated:

We can discuss this problem exclusively from the point of view that the homeopathic society serves the interests of some part of the inhabitants who find it more comfortable to turn to the help of homeopathy, freeing us partially from delivering medical support to the population104.

Though finally the meeting decided not only to assign the 200 rubles requested, but even added 100 rubles to the budget, the society could not fool itself with this success:

The presence of allopaths among the members of the Duma makes it highly possible that this question can be arisen repeatedly and proves again and again the need to manage our own pharmacy as the source of means to reach the main aim of the Society, i.e. to open a hospital105.

It is not hard to guess that abandoning the support of the Duma in 1901 onwards, was connected with "repeatedly arisen question"…

Similarly to the case of the Odessa Hahnemannian Society, the opening of a pharmacy improved sharply the financial affairs of the Society. During three years all the Society's debts were paid.

Together with managing day-to-day affairs of the society, the board carried on the propaganda of homeopathy, especially in the light of the growing efforts of discreditating homeopathy by the local allopathic establishment. The Society issued the pamphlets "What homeopathy is" (1895, the second edition in 1899), "For and against homeopathy. The report to the Khar'kov city authorities on the activity of the dispensary of the Khar'kov Society of the Followers of Homeopathy during 1895—97" (1898), "Homeopathy as a problem of zemstvo-public medicine", "What electro-homeopathy is" (1899) — all written by Dr. Diukov.

The end of the Society was rather unexpected. In 1904, Dr. Diukov suddenly left Khar'kov for the city of Khorol in the Poltava province, where he practiced privately, issued "Vestnik gomeopaticheskoi meditsiny" in 1909—1913, and even became the Mayor of the city before WWI. He got back to Khar'kov only after the Bolshevik revolution. Lacking a doctor, the society lost interest for any further existence, whilst 74 years old Alexey Teliatnikov fell seriously ill and died two years later. After him, died the society as well. I am not aware whether there were other homeopathic doctors at the same time, but guess they was none. Dr. Piotrovsky left Khar'kov in the early 1900s for Rostov-on-Don. In 1908—1910, in Khar'kov practiced Dr. Fedor Vysokov who died in 1910. After his death Khar'kov remained for several years without homeopathic physicians. "The Khar'kov Index" of 1914 mentions only the homeopathic pharmacy at Nikolaevsky square, 25110 managed by pharmacist Strubchevsky, whilst another city index of 1915 informs its readers (additionally to that pharmacy) on the homeopathic doctor Nadezhda Shul'gina111.

Table of the activity of the Khar'kov Society of the Followers of Homeopathy112
Year Members Visits made Patients received
1894 126    
1895 88 237 156
1896 72 928 513
1897 62 1872 754
1898 73 2209 816
1899 59 2476 953
1900 41 2340 1050
1901 63 2750 1062
1902 67 3251 2110
1903 71   2475

2.2.4 (vi) Kiev Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

In fact, as in any other large city, there was demand for homeopathic treatment in Kiev also before the opening a homeopathic society. The main problem, as everywhere all over the Russian Empire, was the lack of homeopathic physicians. So, in 1884, a reader of "Gomeopatichesky vestnik" who signed his letter "One of the Kiev inhabitants", wrote that three months ago the establishing homeopathic pharmacy in the city had been officially permitted, but nevertheless the pharmacy was not opened yet for the lack of a homeopathic doctor113.

The Kiev Society of the Followers of Homeopathy was the first Russian non-St. Petersburgian homeopathic society. It was established in 1889. Its founder and permanent chairman had been Colonel, later General, Nicholas Fedorovsky. He became a convinced adherent of homeopathy after he had treated himself from severe migraine and some people, including doctors, from different diseases (gastritis, rheumatism) in Kiev. Like it was in the case of all Russian homeopathic societies, the main problems of the Kiev society were raising funds and hiring doctors to practice homeopathy.

At the 4th Meeting of the Society which was held on January 3, 1893, there were 58 members. Those participating at the meeting pointed out that financial means of the Society are very poor and this blocks further activity of the Society for the spread of homeopathy. Indeed, the Society earned in 1892 only 212 rubles from membership dues and 45 rubles from 146 patients who visited the dispensary at the Society, whilst 120 poor patients visited the clinic and received homeopathic medicines free of charge114.

It is known, that Drs. V. Muravov (?—1901) and Ivan Nadezhdin (1823—?) were employed by the Society. Most probably, Dr. Nadezhdin also died either in 1900 or in 1901, as from 1901 to 1906 the Society stopped its activity because of the absence of physicians and renewed it again in 1906115, when Dr. Mikhail Rzhanitsyn, who had left Tiflis for Kiev some years earlier, joined the Society. In 1909, he left Kiev for the city of Uman.

Prof. Iosif Baranetsky (1843—1905)

The Kiev homeopathic society merits mention in the context of its social structure. Two professors from the Kiev University, Iosif Baranetsky (1843—1905), a member of the St. Petersburg Academy of Science, from the department of Botany and N. F. Samohvalov from the faculty of jurisprudence, were members of the Society. The participation of the teaching staff, especially of the higher ranks, from the universities, in the activity of homeopathic societies was a rather rare event. Although the fact of such a participation did not directly threaten one's academic career, nevertheless, this demanded a civil courage of some extent, as all the supporters of homeopathy were labeled and marginalized as "defenders of quackery and ignorance" in "scientific" periodicals. Iosif Baranetsky lost two his children for diphtheria, but succeeded to save two other after having learned homeopathy. Another example is of interest. It was characteristic to general situation with support of homeopathy in Russia, that when a certain Dr. Kurchinsky was defending his MD dissertation in the Kiev University and putting a proposition that all medical faculties should submit a request to the Highest Name asking to prohibit homeopathy, this idea met strong opposition of Profs. Baranetsky and Samohvalov, the members of the Kiev Society of the Followers of Homeopathy. At the same time, a medical Prof. T. declared (and nobody of medical staff objected to that) that he shares this idea completely; nevertheless, as the ignorant in medicine St. Petersburg aristocracy strongly patronizes homeopathy, in Prof. T. opinion it would better not to discuss this problem at all, but let to time solve that116. Unfortunately, I was not able to find any other data on this society. It has not been known to me whether the Society existed until WWI.

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