The history of homeopathy in the Russian Empire
until World War I, as compared with other European countries and the USA: similarities and
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.
2.4.2 Allopathic counterattack
In 1908—09, observing that homeopathy in Russia was not going to disappear as was
predicted by regular medicine in the 19th century, but, on the contrary, the number of
homeopathic societies and pharmacies had been growing, the medical administration attempted to
fight this phenomenon in another way. It was decided to attack the economic basis of the
homeopathic system, i.e., homeopathic pharmacies. In fact, the first official storm clouds appeared
in the Russian homeopathic sky at the very beginning of the century, in the late 1890s,
approximately in 1897, when a special committee for reviewing the Medical and Pharmaceutical
Regulations was established at the Medical Council. Most probably, they were also planning some
changes in the manner of the sale of homeopathic medicines in pharmacies. It is known that Dr.
Anatoly Flemming and pharmacist E. Focht were required to provide the committee with their
recommendations218. Further, another committee to deal exclusively with homeopathic
pharmaceutical affairs, was established in 1904. Apparently, the war with Japan and the shock of
the First Russian revolution postponed its conclusions.
In 1909, the appropriate moment came.
At the last [...] meeting of the Medical Council, the deliberation on the report
submitted by the special committee on the project of New Pharmaceutical Regulations [...]
continued. The discussion of the section dealing with the rules of selling homeopathic medicines
was brought to a close. The Council decided that homeopathic pharmacies should be closed, whilst
the sale of homeopathic medicines should be transferred to normal pharmacies219.
The reaction of homeopathic societies and periodicals may be defined as panic. Never before had
allopaths dared to express so openly their desire to destroy homeopathy.
Their motivation was the following:
The Medical Council has recognized that homeopathy does not represent a
well-founded science even in its technical aspects. No special training of pharmacists is needed to
prepare homeopathic medicines. [...]. Free sale of homeopathic medicines, even considering that
there is no harm for health because of the minimal quantity of drastic substances contained in
them, nevertheless brings harm to public health by offering useless medical support.
Many homeopathic pharmacies are owned by homeopathic physicians [...]. This, in
absence of a certain tariff for homeopathic medicines, creates a situation which violating the law
and medical ethics.
As for customers, the sale of homeopathic medicines in normal pharmacies would
inevitably lead to the cheapening of this kind of medicines [...]220.
It goes without saying that if this decision would have been approved by the Duma,
homeopaths would have remained without properly and qualitatively prepared homeopathic medicines.
But the most important point is that the financial basis enabling the existence of many homeopathic
societies would have been destroyed completely. This was a real threat. On December 29, 1909, the
chairman of the St. Petersburg Society of Homeopathic Physicians, Dr. Lev Brazol, called a meeting
of St. Petersburg's homeopathic physicians and pharmacists in order to work out
counter-proposals. The meeting appointed a committee composed of Drs. L. Brazol, N. Gabrilovich, V.
Ripke, A. Rogachevsky, G. Sidorenko and pharmacists B. Borel, D. Leont'ev, K. Solov'ev, A.
Stsitnik, I. Stempleling and P. Shchedrin. On the next day, December 30, this committee held its
first session. Pharmacist Leont'ev proposed a project which was accepted with amendments by
Borel, Rogachevsky and Brazol. On January 12, 1911, there was a general meeting in which all
homeopathic doctors and pharmacists of St. Petersburg participated. Also the members of the
Inspection committee and the Ladies charitable committee of the St. Petersburg Society of
Homeopathic Physicians, the chairman and the secretary of the St. Petersburg Society of the
Followers of Homeopathy attended at the meeting. The project and amendments made previously as well
as at this meeting, were approved unanimously. On January 15, Dr. Brazol passed "The project
of the rules of the sale of homeopathic medicines" to whom also "The reasonable
remarks" and the memorandum were attached, to the chairman of the Medical Council G. Rein and
the Chief Medical Inspector L. Malinovsky221. It seems that the memorandum had no influence. Although it was
explaned to the Medical Council by lawers that closing homeopathic pharmacies contradicts the right
of private property and cannot be performed in any way, high-ranking allopaths merely changed the
tactics. They declared that homeopathic pharmacies should obey in their day-to-day activity not to
some special law but to "instructions" of the Minister of Interior222. The Committee of the
Ministers, with exception of the Minister of Trade and Industry who objected against the project,
decided on July 12, 1911 that no amendments are to be introduced into the project supposed to put
homeopathic pharmacies under "instructions". Hence, the regulation by the law of selling
homeopathic medicines should be thus replaced with the instructions proposed by allopaths223.
Dr. Diukov, commenting on this project, entitled his editorial "A project for the demolition of homeopathy
It is very funny indeed: there is the conviction of the harm of homeopathy on the
one hand, and the idea of cheapening homeopathic medicines on the other hand! [...] In order to
make homeopathic medicines work effectively, one has to prepare and store them in the right way. It
is impossible to prepare them without knowledge of homeopathic pharmacopoeia; there have been a lot
of different putrid and pungent miasmas in allopathic pharmacies [...] which spoiled homeopathic
medicines. Thus, in order to preserve the correct preparation and delivering of homeopathic
medicines, allopathic pharmacies should establish entirely isolated [homeopathic] sections within
them [...]. Only in Kiev and Rostov-on-Don are homeopathic pharmacies owned by physicians, but even
there, according to the law, the pharmacies are managed by pharmacists. [...]224.
The lay supporters of homeopathy did not keep silent either. Prince Vladimir Meshchersky
(1839—1914), an honorary member of the St. Petersburg Society of the Followers of Homeopathy,
dedicated to the project an editorial in the conservative periodical "Grazhdanin" (The
Citizen) issued by himself:
While most pharmacies are small for official medicine, one wishes to squeeze into
them also homeopathy, [...], which requires years of special study by pharmacists [...]. The
privileges of the pharmacists are placed higher then the interests of the society. The interests of
society, of those who are being treated with homeopathy, are violated by the proposed abolishment
of homeopathic pharmacies [...].
I am not a homeopath, but I am a Russian citizen valuing freedom as the air we
breathe. I am horrified by the fact [of the proposed abolishment of homeopathy], seeing in it such
a malignity which has never before been possible in Russia. The Medical Council wishes today to
destroy homeopathic pharmacies to please several Jewish pharmacists-allopaths [...]225.
Several among the owners of homeopathic pharmacies (especially, of course, in the Pale of
Settlement) were Jews: Julius Levi and David Leibenson in Odessa, Shapirovich in Berdichev, Shraga
in Kamenets-Podol'sk, Slavit in Shavli of the Kovno province. Pharmacy, be it allopathic or
homeopathic, as a business, has traditionally been considered in Russia as an occupation of the
Germans and Jews. This point was thus irrelevant to the matter. Why did "Vestnik
gomeopaticheskoi meditsiny" decide to refer to such an especially reactionary journal like
"Grazhdanin"? It saddens me to recognize that although the editor of "Vestnik",
Diukov, did not allow himself to look like an open anti-Semite, sometimes he willingly cited
anti-Jewish expressions from the general press. Evgraph Diukov traditionally occupied a position at
the extremely right wing on the Russian political map. In his book "K 300-letiu doma
Romanovyh" (Commemorating the 300 Anniversary of Romanov's House) he wrote as the Mayor of
the city of Khorol, he appeared as an extreme conservative, a monarchist, a xenophobe, and a strong
opponent of any political reforms. "The Orthodoxy, the tsarist autocracy and the Russian
nationality are the guarantees of the existence of the Russian State", asserted
Although Diukov was an exception from the Russian homeopathic community by his rightist views, I
have to mention here that, generally, a conservative-right direction in the activity of Russian
homeopathic societies was caused by their social structure, composed of high-ranking officials,
landlords, clergymen, etc.
The last bulwark before the virtual abolishment of homeopathy was the State Duma which should
have discussed this proposal. Homeopaths called upon the wide public and to their foreign
colleagues and to supporters in the Duma in order to stop the threat. When it became known to Dr.
Brazol that a Duma committee was collecting information from foreign countries on the organization
of homeopathic pharmacies and the laws that regulated their activity, he turned to the French
Homeopathic Society asking it to provide him with the information needed. At the meeting held on
October 9, 1912, the Society charged pharmacists Peuvrier and Escalle with preparing a detailed
The Semipalatinsk Society of the Followers of Homeopathy proposed through the member of the State
Duma M. Chelyshev, that the decision of the Medical Council be rejected by the Duma228. But this was not
sufficient. The First All-Russian Meeting of the Followers of Homeopathy, which had been planned to
be held ten years before and postponed because of the war, was now held in St. Petersburg on
October 21–23, 1913. It was motivated especially by the intention of the medical authorities
to close homeopathic pharmacies and to transfer the sale of homeopathic medicines to allopathic
drugstores. The homeopathic periodicals did not try to hide this obvious reason:
The Meeting was caused not only by our old wish to join together, but, first of
all, by the changes expected. [...]. Till now the supervision over homeopathic treatment had been
defined according to the Appendix to the Article 25, vol. XIII, of 1905. The project of the new
Pharmaceutical Regulations submitted by the Ministry to the State Duma has proposed to abolish the
legislative guarantees for homeopathy and change them with instructive orders [...] of the Medical
Council, which has been traditionally hostile toward homeopathy...229
One will find it obvious that the first lecture delivered at the Meeting was by its Chairman
Dr. Lev Brazol, and was dedicated to
the project of the new Pharmaceutical Regulations. The Meeting decided to ask the State Duma to
reject the proposal of the Medical Council. Those attend at the Meeting wanted that the above
mentioned alternative project that was worked out at the common meeting of St. Petersburg's
homeopathic doctors and pharmacists-homeopaths held on January 15, 1910, to be discussed in the
Duma. Unfortunately, I failed to find details of that project.
The two following papers, read at the Meeting, were by lawyer Osetsky, "Law and
Homeopathy" and "About the official Russian Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia" by Dr. Ivan
Lutsenko, which dealt with the same subject. All this testifies to what extent homeopaths were
alarmed with the threat.
As a result of the reports delivered at the Meeting, the Committee of the State
Duma dealing with a project of the new Pharmaceutical Regulations, turned to the Ministry of
Interior requiring to provide with the project. It goes without saying that allopaths, who had
expected to solve the "problem" of delivering homeopathic medicines within the frameworks
of their mother Ministry of Interior, were not glad with that intervention. Finally, some project
of the Regulations was submitted to the Duma230.
I have no information whether the State Duma discussed this or that project and what results
there were. In any case, homeopathic pharmacies continued to exist until the Bolshevik revolution,
and they prepared and sold medicines uninterruptedly.
Copyright © Alexander Kotok 2001
Mise en page, illustrations Copyright © Sylvain Cazalet 2001