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.

2.5 Homeopathic Periodicals

Gomeopaticheskii listok

It is interesting to bring here as one of the examples of the hostility of regular practitioners toward homeopathy that no homeopathic periodical was mentioned in the large paper of Dr. Dmitry Zhbankov (1853—1932), "Data on the history of Russian medical journalism"231. When starting his paper, Zhbankov stressed that "I have viewed over probably all the medical newspapers and journals ever issued in Russia"232. Nevertheless, while he found 82 periodicals, he failed to mention at least 3 main homeopathic journals. The reasons of why the homeopathic press was not reflected in the paper are clear and evident.

The subject of homeopathy first appeared in a periodical's title in the late 1860, in the journal called "Vrachebnaiia gazeta, gomeopatichesky listok i vestnik vodolecheniia i gimnastiki izdavaemaia doktorom B. Grzhimailo i V. Shebiakinym" (Medical Newspaper, Homeopathic Gazette and Herald of Waterhealing and Gymnastics issued by Dr. B. Grzhymailo and V. Shebiakin). The real attitude of the publishers toward homeopathy and those practice it, was formulated in the editorial to the 1st number of the journal:

We notify those readers who, probably, are waiting of alluring stories how one grain per day has treated an old severe disease, or how several drops of a homeopathic remedy have returned eye-sight to the blind, gift of speech to the dumb, etc., that they should not take our journal in hand for they will not find anything similar there. They should turn for that to one of the numerous homeopathic domestic manuals, which have been published early in Moscow, and in St. Petersburg. In these editions of commercial homeopathy relying only on the gullibility of the public, one may find a reliable remedy for any incurable disease […]. One may think that homeopathy reached the border of its perfection and it [homeopathy] has nothing else to seek, whilst things are different. Everything in homeopathy, as in a recently established method […], have to be put under question. None of its principles can be viewed as a reliable and a strictly proved truth.

We say […] that only doctors, and scientific doctors at that, are able to honestly establish and develop those principles in medicine, which were proposed by homeopathy and to eradicate those absurdities which slipped into homeopathy because of some visionaries. As to the other public, non-physicians, they may enjoy the conclusions of doctors, the fruits of their scientific observations…233

Thus, it is rather understandable that based on such "highly scientific" lines, i.e. when proposing for the public at large only "conclusions" of doctors on the one hand, and rejecting the intervention of not "sufficiently" scientific doctors on other hand, the periodical could not secure its existence. Moreover, even when experiencing difficulties with subscriptions and delivering of the journal, the editors were not prepared to change their direction. When asked about the "Journal of Homeopathic Treatment", the editors replied:

This journal is dedicated exclusively to homeopathy and does not touch other medical methods. Thus, it is destined for those readers that think homeopathy is able to treat all diseases in the world234.

Zhurnal gomeopaticheskogo lecheniia

In fact, of that dull periodical it may be said in justice that boredom was the main principle of the editorial politics. The homeopathic part of the journal was mainly filled with small observations of German homeopaths without any analysis, general conclusions and recommendations. It is hardly imaginable why the editors considered such a strange attitude to be "scientific". The periodical held out in 1860—61, but after some issues under another title in 1862, it ceased.

The first Russian periodical dealing exclusively with the subject of homeopathy appeared in 1861. It was "Zhurnal gomeopaticheskogo lecheniia" (Journal of Homeopathic Treatment) which was supported by the owner of the Central Homeopathic pharmacy in St. Petersburg, Fedor Flemming. Dr. Bogdan Herring was considered as its editor, but in fact the journal was edited by Vasily Deriker. The journal was issued for a period of 3 years and was discontinued in 1863. According to Bojanus, "The small number of subscribers could not secure the periodical, and the yearly growing deficit could no more be borne by Flemming"235. When speaking on the reasons that led the periodical to be discontinued, Bojanus remarks:

[They were] absolutely clear. It [the journal] was a special scientific edition that supposed the readers to be scientifically prepared to some extent. In reality they were not. [...] The spread of homeopathy in our society has been caused by the successful treatment, and as to homeopathy as a science, the wide public has had no concern for it. Consequently, the journal could only satisfy very few people...236

The second attempt of issuing a homeopathic periodical on a regular basis was also made with the support of Fedor Flemming. I mentioned this periodical, "Zhurnal St. Peterburgskogo Obshchestva vrachei-gomeopatov" in the section "Homeopathic societies". The journal was issued from 1872 to 1876 and was discontinued for the same reason as its predecessor. It did not have a sufficient number of subscribers. Deriker, who edited the second Russian homeopathic periodical as well, made the same error. The new journal was also supposed to be a scientific edition, intended for "scientific reading" by doctors. The establishment of the Society did not change the main tendency of homeopathy in Russia, this is to say, to be mainly domestic medicine and to be practiced by laypeople. Consequently, the journal did not gain the needed popularity to allow it to continue its existence.


The third Russian homeopathic periodical, headed and edited that time by Fedor Flemming himself from 1883 to 1886, was "Gomeopatichesky vestnik" (Homeopathic Herald). This periodical had a more happy fate, not only because the number of those able to read scientific or half-scientific matters had grown, but also because Flemming did not repeat the errors of the previous journals. Although intended to be read by a rather educated public, including physicians, the new journal intended to embrace an incomparably wider community of readers than the editions of the 1860—70s. Many reports from the provinces, useful advice for lay practitioners, letters of laypeople treating with homeopathy, etc. were welcomed. This character was left unchanged when, from 1887 to 1890, the journal was edited by Dr. Lev Brazol. I have to recognize that during that period the journal was of the most interest. Brazol succeeded in combining both theoretical and practical matters, supposed to be read by professional and lay practitioners.

Since 1891 and till its discontinuation in 1914, the journal was issued under the title "Vrach-gomeopat" (Homeopathic Doctor). In 1891—92, the journal was edited by Dr. Dmitry Genik (1861—1902). Since 1893 onwards, Dr. Anatoly Flemming, a son of Fedor Flemming, was the editor. "Vrach-gomeopat" had been issued in a quite amusing symbiosis: its editor Flemming lent a homeopathic pharmacy of his father to… the owner of the journal Boris Borel. All the periodicals mentioned above were issued in St. Petersburg.

Gomeopaticheskoe obozrenie

Ukrainian homeopaths had their own journal. Since 1900, and till 1913, the journal entitled "Vestnik gomeopaticheskoi meditsiny" (Homeopathic Medicine's Herald) was issued in different Ukrainian cities (Khar'kov, Odessa and Khorol). I may define its character as "for the Russian homeopathic community in the largest sense of the word". In 1900—1902, and in 1909—1913 the journal was edited by Dr. Evgraph Diukov, whilst in 1903—1904 Dr. Ivan Lutsenko occupied the post of the editor (in 1905—1908 the periodical was not issued). When the journal was edited by Dr. Lutsenko, it was issued as a periodical of the Odessa Hahnemannian Society. I guess that lacking a firm financial ground, the journal was especially sensitive to the shocks that were happening in Russian society during pre-WWI period. Speaking of this journal under Diukov editing, I have to say that, as distinct from other Russian homeopathic periodicals which were glad to bless any kind of homeopathy, even complex remedies propagandized by Dr. Lev Frenkel, Diukov's "Vestnik" stuck to what he defined as true homeopathy, mainly based upon Hahnemannian principles. Diukov was the first who translated and published in his periodical Clarke's and Nash's works.

The last journal mentioned, "Gomeopaticheskoe obozrenie" (Homeopathic Review) was issued in 1914—1915 by Dr. Lev Frenkel. The aims of the new periodical were defined in the editorial "Concerning the program of the journal":

Till now, the situation of homeopathy in Russia explains that a homeopathic journal ought to be as popular as possible in order to secure its existence. We have too few homeopathic doctors to represent a sufficient contingent of subscribers. [...]237.

Frenkel did not publish many translations of foreign authors or highly theoretical articles. Mainly he limited publications to short reports, exchanging views, observations, etc. By November 1914, the journal had some 450 subscribers238. In N 17 of 1915, he informed the readers of the journal that "the issuing of the journal is being ceased till the end of the war"239. Thus, during the whole period under study, 5 homeopathic journals were published in Russia. The first ("Zhurnal gomeopaticheskogo lecheniia") and second ("Zhurnal St. Peterburgskogo Obshchestva vrachei-gomeopatov") journals were short-lived (2 and 4 years respectively); the last journal ("Gomeopaticheskoe obozrenie") as well (2 years). "Gomeopatichesky vestnik", later on renamed "Vrach-gomeopat", was issued during 25 years. The Ukrainian "Vestnik gomeopaticheskoi meditsiny" was issued for 14 years with a pause of 4 years in 1905—1908. To this account may be added a homeopathic journal in Polish, issued in 1901—1907 under Dr. Iosif Drzhevetsky, and mentioned above in the section dealing with the Warsaw homeopathic society.

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