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.

2.4 Homeopathic Pharmacies

A travel homeopathic kit with a short reference guide. Such kits were widely spread in Russia and were sold by all Russian homeopathic pharmacies

As regards ownership, there were two kinds of homeopathic pharmacies in pre-WWI Russia: those owned by private persons or associations (like was the case in Riga, during the period 1834 to 1899)204 and those owned by homeopathic societies. The latter kind first appeared in 1881, with the establishment of the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy. Until that time all the pharmacies dealing with preparation and storage of homeopathic medicines were exclusively independent commercial institutions.

In fact, a number of homeopathic pharmacies of both kinds secured the financial stability of the societies by issuing and delivering homeopathic literature and making advertisements on homeopathic treatment. Being charitable, homeopathic societies could exist, i.e., hire physicians, take rooms on lease, etc., only due to the activity of the pharmacies. On the other hand, the pharmacies doubtless wished the societies to be influential and to enlarge their homeopathic services. Both societies and pharmacies were financially dependent each upon the other, but financial support provided by the pharmacies was pretty often a question of life or death for societies. Pharmacies could in principle earn their bread by providing with homeopathic medicines, kits and literature, privately practicing doctors and a wide public. Yet this inequality was not a matter of any serious contradiction between the two main providers of homeopathy in Russia, i.e., societies and pharmacies. I know no example where the owner of a pharmacy was not at the same time a member of the local homeopathic society. Nevertheless, homeopathic societies, while keeping fine relations with the private pharmacies, tried to achieve their financial and consequently "political" independence as soon as possible, by opening their own pharmacies. Therefore, in the large cities where there were a sufficient number of physicians and of influential laymen participating in the activity of the society, two and more homeopathic pharmacies often existed. On the contrary, in the cities where the position of the society was weak or it was absent at all, there was only one private pharmacy.

2.4.1 Homeopathic pharmacies in Russia — an outlined history

When the homeopathic fashion first emerged in St. Petersburg, homeopathic drugs were first prepared in the pharmacy of Pfeffer by pharmacist Fedor Bachmann. After it was allowed to open homeopathic pharmacies in Moscow and St. Petersburg according to the State Council decision of September 26, 1833, Fedor Bachmann turned to the authorities asking to grant him the right to open a pharmacy. This request was supported actively by the St. Petersburg homeopaths. On August 23, 1834 the "Central homeopathic pharmacy" was opened. Fedor Bachmann owned the pharmacy until 1869, when the facility was bought by his collaborator Fedor Flemming. Fedor Flemming was taught pharmaceutics by a brother of Fedor Bachmann in Kazan. In 1835, Flemming went to Germany and was treated successfully from the disease he had been suffering from for a long time, by homeopath Dr. George Gross (1794—1847) in Jütenborg. Flemming became interested in homeopathy and was taught by Dr. Gross the basic preparation of homeopathic medicines. Flemming later moved to Leipzig and made there acquaintance with veterinarian Dr. Johann Lux (1776—1849); the latter taught him to prepare isopathic drugs as well. After having arrived in St. Petersburg in 1836, Flemming worked in different regular pharmacies during 8 years. In 1844, he was invited by Fedor Bachmann to be the Director of the pharmacy205.


In fact, the Central homeopathic pharmacy in St. Petersburg was much more than just a pharmacy. Till late in the 19th century, it was the center of issuing and distributing homeopathic writings, including three homeopathic periodicals ("Zhurnal gomeopaticheskogo lecheniia" in 1861—64, "Zhurnal St. Peterburgskogo Obshchestva vrachei-gomeopatov" in 1872—76, "Gomeopatichesky vestnik" in 1883—90) and such major manuals as "Homeopathic pharmacology" of Vasily Deriker in 4 volumes, many domestic homeopathic manuals by Jahr and Müller, etc. Apart from this, it was a place of meeting where people exchanged information. Nevertheless, as I noted in the section "Homeopathic societies", the overidentification of Flemming's pharmacy with the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic physicians harmed the Society. I suppose that it was Fedor Flemming who stood behind the refusal of the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic Physicians to be united with their lay counterparts. Because of this "hard patronage" of Flemming, the physicians' society could not get any financial profit from its own activity. Thus, it was impossible to open even the smallest homeopathic hospital. Only when in 1892, the Society established its own pharmacy and could get rid of this financial dependence from Flemming and his pharmacy, it became possible to collect some money for the society itself and to open a hospital. Also in Moscow, where the activity of the local charitable homeopathic society was virtually dependent upon the local private pharmacy, the society could not contrive any income and enlarge its activity. Nevertheless, with all these shortcomings, the services that Fedor Flemming rendered to homeopathy in part and to St. Petersburg pharmaceutical business in general, were more than just considerable. Yet this could hardly temper the hostility of such a harsh opponent of homeopathy as the editor of "Vrach" V. Manassein:

'Pharmatsevtichesky zhurnal' [Pharmaceutic Journal] of December 11, reports that the St. Petersburg Pharmaceutic Society congratulated Mr. Flemming on his jubilee. It is very characteristic that a whole society which considers itself scientific, found it adequate to greet the owner of a homeopathic pharmacy206.

In the 1830s, the following pharmacies were opened: in Riga (November 1833), St. Petersburg (1834), Moscow (1835), and Kiev (1838). Further, the homeopathic pharmacy in Vilna was opened in 1857 by pharmacist Seidler, when Dr. Evstaphy Vrublewsky (?—1891) started practicing homeopathy in the city. In 1877, a pharmacy was opened in Warsaw by pharmacist Alfons Frantsky. In 1894, a second pharmacy was established in Warsaw at Novy Svet St., 46 by the Warsaw Society of the Followers of Homeopathy.

In Odessa the pharmacy was opened in 1888 by pharmacist Julius Levy, who had worked 9 years before in a St. Petersburg homeopathic pharmacy. The second homeopathic pharmacy was opened in Kiev at Proreznaia St. in 1888, by pharmacist Vladislav Lepkovsky. In Viatka the pharmacy was opened by the pharmacists A. Mattes and K. Zarianov on July 26, 1898.

The conflicts that developed in Odessa (see the section "The Odessa Society of the Followers of Homeopathy" in this chapter) and in Khar'kov, let alone the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic Physicians, between the local homeopathic society or a group of its members and the owner of the local homeopathic pharmacy was characteristic to understand the problematic nature of the relationship "society-pharmacy" in Russia. So, the homeopathic pharmacy was opened in Khar'kov in the end of 1894. The founder was pharmacist Romanovsky, who died soon after that. The new owner of the pharmacy, pharmacist Fidelis Nosal'sky managed the matters in such a way that

[...] Either the Society should have to place its activity under the wishes and tyranny of the pharmacist or it would have to stop its activity at all [...]. Since the chief weapon of the pharmacist [...] was the pharmacy, the single of this kind [homeopathic] in the city, with the help of which the pharmacist could paralyze the activity of the physician and, consequently, the activity of the society [...] the society decided to open its own pharmacy207.

The new pharmacy was opened, whilst pharmacist Nosalsky was expelled from the Society at the meeting held on March 14, 1899 for his behavior and the misappropriation of the money of the Society208. Yet the troubles of the society did not end with the opening of the new pharmacy. Newly invited pharmacist S. Kovalev "did not believe" in homeopathy, most probably sincerely seeing it to be a kind of placebo. After having been advised and later requested to prepare and to deliver homeopathic drugs according to homeopathic pharmacopoeia, he was finally fired from the pharmacy. Then Kovalev sent a letter to the periodical "Pharmacevtichesky vestnik" (Pharmaceutical Gazette) in which he appealed to his pharmaceutical colleagues... "not to injure their own dignity and that of scientific medicine and of pharmacy, by going to work in homeopathic pharmacies"!209 Replying to this letter, the physician of the Khar'kov Society, Dr. Diukov had to remind the pharmacist that only several months before he had found it not contradicting his own dignity to enter the pharmacy210. An additional obstacle to further increasing the pharmacy's income was Diukov's ban against selling the so-called electro-homeopathic drugs of Mattei, which had been sold, together with manuals of the "electro-homeopathic" kind, almost by all homeopathic pharmacies in Russia211.

While not having an exact number of homeopathic pharmacies in Russia during different periods of time, I may evaluate their number to 16-20 in the 1890s, up to 30 by the temporary borderline of my study. All of them were located almost exclusively in the large cities. The fastest grow in number was in the closing years of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. So, by 1896 there were 16 homeopathic pharmacies in the Russian Empire212. Only 4 years later, in 1900 there were already 32 homeopathic pharmacies and 6 homeopathic departments at allopathic drugstores213. In the years 1900—1914 the number of homeopathic pharmacies remained almost the same: 31 pharmacies in 1909214 and in 1911215, according to homeopathic periodicals. Official reports slightly decreased the number. The Medical Department found 28 homeopathic pharmacies in 1910 (homeopaths later on noted that in reality there were 29: 1 pharmacy in Kiev was not counted); among them there were 5 pharmacies in St. Petersburg, 3 pharmacies were in the Lifland province, 2 pharmacies in Moscow, Odessa, Warsaw and Vilna, 1 pharmacy in Kiev (see the remark above), Grodno, Saratov, Tiflis, Minsk, Khar'kov, Volyn', Ekaterinoslav, Kazan', Viatka, Petrokovo, Kurland (a part of contemporary Western Latvia). Generally speaking, homeopathic pharmacies represented 0,6% of all pharmacies in Russia216. In 1915, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Viatka added each city a homeopathic pharmacy, when the only pharmacy in Ekaterinoslav closed for the absence of homeopathic physician. When reporting on these changes, the editor of "Gomeopaticheskoe obozrenie" Dr. Lev Frenkel' pointed out that there were nevertheless some cities, like Kazan', Khar'kov, Tiflis, Berdichev, Kishinev etc., where homeopathic pharmacies existed and worked successfully even in the absence of homeopathic doctors217. Yet it was doubtless true that the main limiting factor for the further opening and for the development of homeopathic pharmacies was just the lack of homeopathic doctors.

If the number of homeopathic doctors would have been higher and societies had been more active in such large cities like Tiflis, Vilno and Kiev, the number of homeopathic pharmacies there could also have been more significant.

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