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 (vii) Warsaw Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Dr Stefan KUCHINSKY (1832—1893)

A homeopathic out-patient clinic was established in Warsaw by Dr. Stefan Kuchinsky in 1869. At the beginning, three doctors (Kuchinsky, Mazurkevich and Vieniavsky) practiced there. For a year, also Dr. Grigorovich joined them. In 1871, Dr. Grigorovich died, and Dr. Mazurkevich left Warsaw for Liublin. In 1887, Dr. Vieniavsky (born 1817, Liublin, graduated from the Moscow University, studied homeopathy in Vienna, Paris and Leipzig) died. In 1887, 417 patients made 1,475 visits117.

Dr Iosif DRZHEVETSKY (1860—1907)

The first person who proposed to found a Polish homeopathic society was Polish by his origin, Stanislav Kerbedz, who had rendered earlier significant services to the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy and had been one of its honorary member118. Nevertheless, the actual founder of the society was Dr. Iosif Drzhevetsky (1860—1907)119, who also was the editor of "Lekarz Homeopata" (Homeopathic Physician) published in 1901—1907. Dr. Drzhevetsky had graduated from the Warsaw University in 1885, and studied later homeopathy in Paris and London. He had tight connections with London homeopaths and visited London every year. He was killed because of his possible intervention in some Masonic affairs120.

The Society was inaugurated on April 20, 1892121.

There were 81 members in 1895 (3 honorary, 20 founders and 58 full members). The dispensary of the Society was visited by 1,192 patients and by 4,185 patients in 1895. The pharmacy earned a pure income of 153 rubles in 1894 (during 5 months of work) and 1,280 in 1895122.

It was mentioned at the 9th meeting of the Society (probably in 1901 or 1902) that 5,038 patients visited the dispensary at the Society; 1,010 of them received treatment, including medicines, free of charge123.

There were 128 members of the Society in 1908: 22 founders, 6 honorary and 100 full members124.

In 1912, the Society earned 1,129 rubles124.

2.2.4 (viii) Vilna Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Arthur Dolinsky (1831—1909)

The homeopathic society in Vilna (now Vilnus, the capital of Lita) was opened on October 31, 1894 by the initiative of a member of both the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy and the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic Physicians, Arthur Dolinsky (1831—1909), who was associated with the physicians Nicholas Ashurkov (1824—1895), Ksavery Pavlovich (1858?—1904) and Constantine Shvykovsky (?—1897). Arthur Dolinsky was the chairman of the Society till his death125.

At its opening, the Society counted 93 members and managed a capital of 273 rubles only, whilst a year later there were 143 members and managed a capital of 800 rubles.

The dispensary and the pharmacy of the Society were opened on June 6, 1898.

There were three physicians in 1901, working in the dispensary at the Society.

It was mentioned in the letter to "Vrach-gomeopat" signed by "One of the members" that

The poor development of Hahnemann's doctrine in our city is explained by the apathy and lack of information of wide public on one hand, and by the hostile attitude toward homeopathy of the local medical authority which does not allow issuing homeopathic brochures, on the other hand. There is insignificant medical [homeopathic] power [in our city]. We have two pharmacies and only one physician in the city with 200,000 inhabitants126.

As it was common for almost al Russian homeopathic societies, it seems that main problem of the Vilna Homeopathic Society was connected with the lack of homeopathic physicians. It was stressed in 1913, that there are two homeopathic pharmacies and 250,000 inhabitants in Vilna, let alone densely populated areas of Kovno, Grodno and Minsk (where is also a homeopathic pharmacy located), but only one homeopathic doctor presents127.

The last report available of the Society covered the Society's activity during 1914. The summary capital of the Society was then 5500 rubles128.

Table of the activity of the Vilna Society of the Followers of Homeopathy129
Year Members Visits made
Visits made
Patients received
1894 93      
1895 143      
1899   1101 502 892
1900   1450 495  
1901       2566
1908 122     1816
1914     557 2157

2.2.4 (ix) Poltava Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

The first thought of establishing a homeopathic society was arisen at the meeting of the graduates of the Poltava Petrian Military school who were celebrating the 50-years jubilee of the school in 1892. Naturally, Nicholas Fedorovsky participated actively in the founding of the society. Nevertheless, it was mentioned that the virtual founder of the Society was the Head of the Poltava Gendarme Department G. Reck (?—1894)130. The Society was opened on April 30, 1893. There were the Rector of the Poltava spiritual seminary archpriest Ioann Picheta, the city Mayor V. Tregubov, the wife of the city Governor Ekaterina Tatishcheva and the head of the district nobility Sergey Brazol, a brother of Dr. Lev Brazol among 89 members of the Society131. G. Reck headed the Society until his death. Since 1894 onward, the Society was headed by Sergey Brazol.

In 1894, the Society invited a homeopathic doctor, E. Diukov, who had worked during almost a year but left the city for Khar'kov. In 1896 Dr. N. Prozin of Penza proposed his services to the Society for a reward of 600 rubles in year. After having discussed this proposal, the common meeting of the Society held on April 12, 1896 decided to invite either Dr. Prozin or any other physician who would agree to work for a reward of 300 rubles. In the absence of homeopathic doctors the Society had to limit itself to free distribution of homeopathic medicines132.

It seems that Dr. Prozin was not satisfied with the conditions proposed as he never renewed negotiations with the Society any more. In 1897, Dr. Vladislav Piotrovsky who had practiced then in Khar'kov, informed the Society that he was ready to visit Poltava twice or four times a month. At its meeting held on October 10, 1897 the Society decided to enter negotiations with Dr. Piotrovsky concerning the reward133.

It is hard to say, whether these negotiations were successful or not. In any event, in 1900 Dr. Piotrovsky left Khar'kov for far away location, namely the city of Rostov-on-Don.

The last mention of the Poltava Society of the Followers of Homeopathy I found in a homeopathic periodical of 1902. The Society reported on its 53 members and 621 rubles of the capital. Most probably, approximately in the same time the Society discontinued for the lack of finances and lost of interest of the majority of the members in its further activity134.

2.2.4 (x) Tiflis Homeopathic Society

In 1861, Dr. Ferdinand Kirsten, whose biographical date is unknown to me, wrote that homeopathy had firmly rooted in the German colonies in the Transcaucasion areas. In his opinion, the fact that a German is the head of the colonies, could support that rooting. According to the allowance given by the Prince-Governor, Dr. Kirsten opened a dispensary in Tiflis (now Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia) and received 54 patients during a period from January 1, to April 1, 1860. After he fell ill, he left the dispensary to get treatment. Unfortunately, I have not been aware whether he continued his activity in Tiflis135.

Opened on January 4, 1898. Dr. Zeman, who several years before had been in conflict with the members of the Caucasus medical society and had to leave it136, was appointed as its temporary Secretary; later he was replaced by Dr. Rzhanitsyn137.

In that or next year a dispensary of the Society was opened.

It seems that the Society did not exist long. In 1900, Dr. Zeman refused to receive patients in the dispensary and left the Society without providing any explanations. As to Dr. Rzhanitsyn, he stated that the reception 3 times a week in the dispensary does not achieve the goal, whilst he cannot receive every day. Another members of the Society, Dr. Teliafius, said he is ready to receive patients. Then Rzhanitsyn declared that this is impossible as Dr. Teliafius does not possess a diploma of homeopathic doctor (??)138. Some months later after having said this very strange assertion, Dr. Rzanitsyn left Tiflis for Kiev.

Since then we find no mention of the homeopathic society in Tiflis in homeopathic periodicals. Nevertheless, on February 1909, the Regulations of a dispensary at the Society were approved by the authorities and later they were issued as a brochure139. I have no idea who worked out these Regulations and turned for their approval. In 1914, Tiflis was mentioned by the editor of "Gomeopaticheskoe obozgenie" Lev Frenkel' in the line of those cities where there were homeopathic pharmacies, but there were no doctors140.

2.2.4 (xi) Kamenetsk-Podol'sk Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Its founder was I. Chetverikov, whose biographical data are unknown to me. The founding of the Society was supported actively by Dr. S. Evtushevsky (1859—1914), who converted to homeopathy in 1901, after having been treated from severe asthma with homeopathic medicines sent him by Dr. Pavel Solov'ev141. The first meeting held on January 19, 1913. It was decided to raise funds and to open a homeopathic pharmacy and a dispensary, from where the poor sick could have obtain free medical support as well as homeopathic medicines. It was also decided that as there is no a doctor-homeopath, also a feldsher-homeopath might have been invited. The proposal to deliver free lectures on homeopathy aiming at further popularization of homeopathy in the city, was risen as well142.

2.2.4 (xii) Semipalatinsk Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

The only fact I am aware of concerning this society is that for a long time a local Bishop, Kiprian, headed the society.

2.2.4 (xiii) Yalta Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Opened in November 1899, counting then 52 founders143. It is known that the society looked unsuccessfully for several years for a physician to employ at the society144. No other information is available.

2.2.4 (xiv) Stavropol' Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Opened probably in 1900, 70 members145. No other information is available.

2.2.4. (xv) Christ-Loving Society of Self-Help in Diseases

Opened on April 16, 1900 in St. Petersburg. For more detailed information on this Society see the chapter "Homeopathy and the Clergy".

2.2.4 (xvi) Feodosiia Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Opened in 1899 or 1900, 55 members146. No other information is available.

2.2.4 (xvii) Perm Society of the Followers of Homeopathy.

The constitutive meeting was held on July 6, 1914. There were 67 members147. No other data on this Society are available.

2.2.4 (xviii) Chernigov Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

Opened on July 11, 1891 by initiative of Nicholas Fedorovsky. The protocol of the opening of the Society was published in 1892148. During the following three years the society was seeking for a homeopathic doctor and/or raising funds, to secure its existence, but without success149. No other data are available.

2.2.4 (xix) Ekaterinoslav Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

The existence of this society was several times mentioned in homeopathic periodicals. Unfortunately, neither date of the opening nor any other information are available.

2.2.4 (xx) Minsk Society of the Followers of Homeopathy

The Society was supposed to be created in 1894. "Vrach" referred to "Minsky Listok" (Minsk Gazette) of December 2, 1894. This newspaper informed its readers that "The Regulations of the Minsk Charitable Society of the Followers of Homeopathy were submitted to the Minister of Interior to be approved". I guess that the Minister had no reasons to object. Nevertheless, neither reports on activity nor any other mentions of this society were produced later150.

2.2.5 Summary

Thus, some 20-25 homeopathic societies existed in pre-WWI Russia. Except for the St. Petersburgian Societies, especially the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy, their activity was of little significance. The number of patients received in the dispensaries at the societies hardly represented even a part of one percent of the whole number of the patients turning to physicians in the cities where the societies were located. I suppose that many societies, which provided no report on their activity, like those of Tiflis, Yalta, Feodosiia, etc. were not able to start a normal self-supporting activity: collecting money, attracting wealthy persons, hiring physicians, etc. I stress that one of the main problems for the existence of the homeopathic societies was the lack of homeopathic doctors. Without officially graduated practitioners, the existence of a society lost its meaning, as it could neither propagandize homeopathy nor offer homeopathic treatment. Thus, the lack of institutions capable of educating future homeopathic practitioners, badly influenced not only the number of those doctors practicing homeopathy and, consequently, the prestige of the homeopathic profession, but also the activity of the societies, which had intended to make homeopathy accessible for everyone.

As to the social structure of the societies, we find many clergymen and representatives of the higher military staff. One should remember that the military staff of higher ranks in pre-revolutionary Russia originated in the nobility. Those generals and colonels, who were the members of homeopathic societies, were usually brilliantly educated persons with wide connections in Russian aristocratic circles and at court. As I point out in the chapter "Homeopathy and clergy", the "black" Orthodox clergy participated actively in the day-to-day life of the societies, finding in the societies a benevolent feedback to its sincere charitable trends. Also the large representation of railway engineers at the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy in the 1880—1890s, as well as the transfer of money for the building of Alexander II Hospital (see later) should not be regarded as merely occasional. The profession of railway engineer had been one of the most attractive and promising professions in the Russian Empire in the second part of the 19th and in the beginning of the 20th centuries, and the railway engineers were correctly viewed as the most educated representatives of the Russian intelligentsia.

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