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.
1.5.2 Contra homeopathy: anti-homeopathic publications
One should mention that because of the modest number of homeopathic doctors, homeopathy did not
represent a serious threat for the Russian regular profession and, subsequently, did not require
any serious measures to be mobilized. Under "serious measures" I understand first the
massive issuing of anti-homeopathic literature. Russia was obviously not a rich soil for a large
number of such anti-homeopathic books, brochures, pamphlets, etc. Nevertheless, it is interesting
to follow anti-homeopathic publications in order to see how Russian regular profession reacted to
different periods of the popularity of homeopathy in Russian society.
The only Russian anti-homeopathic writing issued as a book during the almost 50 year long
presence of homeopathy in Russia was published in 1840 by Dr. Semen Vol'sky (1782—1849),
the chairman of the St. Petersburg Society of Russian physicians, a member of the Medical Council
and physician-in-ordinary at His Majesty's Court. This was the book "About Hahnemann and
Homeopathy. A Pragmatic Writing". Vol'sky did not try to learn even the most basic
propositions of homeopathic theory before he started his critics. The editor of the popular
periodical "Biblioteka dlia chteniia" ("Library for Reading") Ossip Senkovsky112, although not being involved in medicine, justly stigmatized this writing
as a dull compilation.
What does 'a pragmatic writing' want from homeopathy? [...] [The author]
cannot judge homeopathy in a scientific manner [as] he is not familiar with homeopathy at all. He
did not study homeopathy; he has not been familiar with the present situation of homeopathy. [...].
There is nothing more ridiculous, more superficial and more baseless than the critical analysis of
homeopathy presented in this writing113.
Vol'sky's book was also ridiculed by Bojanus114. Several years ago the Russian
journal "Problemy sotsial'noi gigieny i istoriia meditsiny" (Problems of Social
Hygiene and the History of Medicine) published a paper in which the book of Vol'sky was
[...] A trustworthy source on the spread of homeopathy in Russia, a polemic on the
essence [of homeopathy], information about the life and activity of a misled doctor, who tried to
rebuild contemporary medicine based on the principles of similarity and small doses115.
This sentence is rather important to demonstrate that even now Russian medical-historical
science has apparently not recognized homeopathy to be a subject deserving a serious study.
Till late in the 19th century the unsuccessful attempt of Semen Vol'sky remained
the only anti-homeopathic publication. The first Russian anti-homeopathic publication of the last
quarter of the 19th century was the brochure by Carl Ernst Bock (1809—1874), an
anatomist at Leipzig University. In 1854—55, he wrote several anti-homeopathic articles in
the liberal periodical "Gartenlaube". In 1855 he issued the pamphlet "Die
Homöopathie, ein Gewebe von Täuschungen, Unwissenschaft and Unwahrheiten"116. This brochure
was translated into Russian and issued by Carl Klosse, whose biographical data is unknown to me, in
1875 under the title "Homeopathy exposed in the interests of public health"117. Till 1907, this
brochure was republished 5 times (1883, 1904, 1905, 1907 — two editions). These were rather
primitive critics meant for the unpretentious reader. Bock stressed that Hahnemann is a quack and
homeopathy is a fraud. The law of similars does not exist; the success of homeopathy has to be
ascribed to the natural process of recovering exclusively - all these without any reference.
The 1890s show the growing anxiety of the regular profession toward homeopathy and its steadily
developing influence throughout Russian society - an anxiety, mixed with a keen hostility, which
later encouraged the decision of the 9th Meeting of the Pirogov Society concerning
homeopathy (see below). The most appropriate scheme adopted by Russian allopaths was a public
lecture delivered by some physician or professor and later published as a brochure.
In 1891, Dr. George Karrick issued his lecture delivered in 1890 followed by stormy debates with
the homeopaths who were present at the lecture, as a book entitled "Homeopathy as a hobby and
doctrine"118. The biographical data of Dr. Karrick are unknown to me. Nevertheless, he
seemingly was an Englishman - both because of his name and because of the fact that he had worked
during 20 years at the British Embassy in St. Petersburg119. Here and further I omit
describing details of the critics; for these anti-homeopathic writings the main common points are
the following: homeopathic medicines cannot be effective; Hahnemann's experiments (provings)
are falsifications; the statistics concerning the superiority of homeopathy over allopathy are also
falsifications or misinterpretations; Hahnemann's ideas, especially regarding dynamisation and
miasmas, have been rejected even by his followers (the latter argument was partly true).
Also in 1891, Prof. Dmitry Rodzaevsky (1857—1894) of the Kiev
University published his lecture "Homeopathy as a medical-philosophical system in the past and
in the present. A critical-historical essay"120. In 1892, was published in Khar'kov a lecture
entitled "Homeopathy, its origins and present situation", delivered by Prof. Isaak Orshansky (1851—ca.1893) in the same city121. In the same year and in the same
city, Prof. Rodzaevsky already known to us, published his pamphlet "The significance of
oligodynamic phenomena for the animal organism"122. I suppose that this Khar'kov-located
anti-homeopathic activity followed the opening of a homeopathic society in that city in 1891. In
the work of that society took part the Khar'kov University professor for Obstetrics and
Gynecology Pavel Yasinsky (1839—?) and Dr. Grigory
Ryndovsky (1814—1898), who formerly delivered lectures on pharmacology at the same
In 1893, Dr. A. Lozinsky published his pamphlet "Homeopathy according to the teaching of
its authorities"123, which was highly appreciated by "Vrach":
[...] The brochure [...] was written so clearly and convincingly that the common
sense of every homeopath, if the latter is not a fanatic [...], will demonstrate him where the
truth is. [...]. Almost the whole book was written in a quiet and even tone, [...]; with cold blood
and even with some sympathy to these unhappy delusioned people, did [Lozinsky] break the arguments
of homeopaths [...]124.
Despite such a high appreciation, no new argument against homeopathy, no original view of it,
were invented by Lozinsky. Having begun with the assertion that Hahnemann was wrong in his
evaluation of Peruvian bark's effect and, thus, homeopathy is nothing more but a chain of
consecutive erroneous conclusions, he concluded with the denial of even most evident cases of
recoveries as a result of homeopathic treatment.
Also in 1893, Dr. Karrick published his objections to the critics of homeopaths on his lecture,
which had appeared in 1891 (see above), in a pamphlet under the same title125.
In 1895, Dr. A. Lozinsky issued his brochure "Against homeopathy. A collection of polemic
papers"126. From the "Introduction" we learn that since 1893, he failed to
deliver his anti-homeopathic lectures at the meetings of different Russian medical societies. I
guess this failure may be explained by the fact that at the beginning of the 1890s the regular
profession, relying on its most structured level (societies) did not yet recognize the homeopathic
In 1897, Dr. I. Matskevich published his pamphlet "The Role of Homeopathy in the
19th century. Critics of Homeopathy as an Unscientific Method"127. This writing recalls the
book by Vol'sky by the number of unfounded statements. Matskevich, for instance, ascribed to
Hahnemann the statement that no medical education is needed to treat with homeopathy (p. 8), etc.
It is true that critics of such a primitive kind were nevertheless rare for Russian allopathy. As
an opposite example can be viewed a charitable lecture delivered by Dr. Avraham Finkelstein
(1836—1905), published in 1896 as a brochure with the title "On homeopathy. A public
lecture delivered on March 19, 1892 by a substitute to the Chairman (now Chairman) of the Society
of Odessa physicians, A. M. Finkelstein for the good of those who have suffered from the bad
harvest"128. After having described medicine and philosophy contemporary to Hahnemann, the essence of homeopathy, its
principles, etc., Dr. Finkelstein highly appreciated Hahnemann's services rendered by him to
medicine in general and especially to pharmacology and diagnostic. Of course, Dr. Finkelstein,
being an allopath, mentioned that Hahnemann's approach paved the way to the expectative method
"playing so important a role in medicine of the present days"129. But his attitude was by far
cleverer than the primitive invectives of his Russian contemporary allopathic colleagues, and was
similar to that adopted by the regular profession in the USA and Britain in the late
Demonstratively, after the Nizhnedevitsk zemstvo failed to employ a homeopath and the 9th Meeting of the Pirogov Society
condemned homeopathy, the publication of anti-homeopathic writings ceased. The Russian regular
profession felt that homeopaths had exhausted their reserves and should not be viewed as a serious
opponent any more.
One should stress that the weekly "Vrach" (The Physician), edited by the St.
Petersburg Medico-Surgical Academy Professor (from 1875 to 1892) Viacheslav
Manassein (1841—1901), played an especially important role in the anti-homeopathic
propaganda during the period from the periodical's appearance in 1881 to its cessation in 1901.
This was due to the fact that "Vrach" enjoyed a great popularity among Russian doctors.
The weekly publication 'The Physician' became the most widely read and
influential medical publication in pre-Revolutionary Russia [...]. Founded and edited by Professor
V. A. Manassein [...] 'The Physician' projected its editor's social commitment and
became the voice, the conscience, and the backbone of the Russian medical profession [...]. At
least one third of the profession subscribed to 'The Physician', and most felt its
influence. In an age of rapid scientific progress and increasing medical specialization, it
provided useful material for the general practitioner, extensive articles on medical therapy for
common illnesses, information on scientific advances and their practical application, and reviews
of foreign and Russian medical books130.
No other medical periodical of that time can be compared with "Vrach" in popularity or
circulation. For example, when analyzing various contemporary medical journals supposed to be read
by the wide zemstvo doctor's community, like "Zemsky vrach" (Zemstvo Physician)
issued in Chernigov in 1888—1894, "Zemskaia meditsina" (Zemstvo Medicine) issued in
Moscow in 1885—1888, "Meditsinskaia beseda" (Medical Discourse) issued in Voronezh
in 1887—1906, Frieden testifies that "these are rich sources for the study of zemstvo
medicine but had a small circulation and a limited impact on the profession in general" as
compared with "Vrach"131.
From the very beginning "Vrach" adopted an especially irreconcilable position toward
homeopathy, homeopathic doctors and supporters of homeopathy. Many examples of this keen hostility
will be demonstrated in my study. The personal enmity of Manassein toward homeopathy was so great,
that in 1887, when he was the head of the "Committee for Support of Students of the St.
Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy in Need", he rejected the money offered by the St. Petersburg homeopath Dr. Lev Brazol (1854—1927) and proposed to the Committee, an amount he had
earned from delivering a lecture. When Dr. Brazol reported this event to the general press and
Manassein was then strongly condemned by the main St. Petersburg general periodicals for his
intolerance and for sacrifying the interests of the students to his personal ambitions, he stressed
It is painful to see our general press arguing that students should have been
allowed to receive the money which were paid for the denial of science, to the studying of which
the students dedicate their best years and capacities...132
Homeopaths of course recognized the great negative impact of "Vrach" on the profession
as regards to homeopathy:
If Russian allopathic doctors have been permeated with [...] a bias toward
homeopathy and homeopathic doctors, this is [...] almost exclusively owing to 'Vrach',
which during 20 years has steadily convinced Russian doctors that homeopathy is 'a
quackery', 'a propagation of ignorance', 'a denial of science', etc133.
Briefly summarizing this section, I would like to stress that the 1890s were the only period
when Russian regular profession undertook some means of propaganda against homeopathy, including
1.5.3 Hiding information on homeopathy
The most demonstrative example of the anxiety and hostility of Russian regular profession toward
homeopathy, nevertheless, was connected neither with anti-homeopathic publications nor with the
expulsion of homeopaths from allopathic societies. The Russian medical administration hid
information on homeopathy from abroad which the Russian medical establishment did not approve. It
goes without saying that no critical paper on homeopathy could appear on the pages of Russian
allopathic press, if this paper would have contained the lightest recognition of the merits of
homeopathy or homeopaths. On the contrary, Russian homeopaths repeatedly pointed out that the
allopathic medical administration put censorial obstacles to the republishing of some especially
popular homeopathic manuals, like those of Deriker and Solov'ev. Furthermore, the highest
Russian medical authorities, represented by Prof. Victor Pashutin
(1845—1901)134, decided first "to edit" foreign publications and to translate
them into Russian. This was the fate of "Bibliothek der gesamten medizinischen
Wissenschaften" issued by Prof. Drasche in Vienna (1894). The article on homeopathy written in the original
by neurologist Dr. Arthur Sperling who had worked with weak electric current and had thus
become interested in homeopathy135, was removed by the Russian editors; instead of that, the
"right" anti-homeopathic article of the Russian author Dr. Wagner was inserted. The
We are deviating from the rule to keep strictly to the German original. Our
justification of this decision is that the author of the article in the German original, who,
probably, sympathizes with homeopathy, failed to stick to objectivity, when trying to attach [to
homeopathy] the character of a scientific doctrine136.
This hiding of information on homeopathy, together with the attempts of the Russian medical
establishment to persuade the Russian medical reader that homeopathy is nothing more than "an
unscientific wizardry", which was being held in contempt abroad as it was in Russia, played a
negative role for the further development of homeopathy in Russia.
1.5.4 The Ban on Consultations with Homeopaths
As we have seen, the crude attacks on homeopathy, warmed up by the hostility of the chief
Russian medical periodicals as well as of the leading professors toward homeopathy, were no less
virulent than a direct ban, as will be demonstrated in the following case.
The editor of "Vrach-gomeopat", Dr. Anatoly Flemming (1868 — no earlier 1927),
informed in No 1, 1900137 that he treated jointly with several allopathic doctors a sick woman;
after the allopathic treatment had been recognized by all doctors as unsuccessful, Dr. Flemming
proposed some homeopathic medicines. They worked, and the patient recovered in two days. Dr.
Flemming reported no names, but only initials: Prof. P., Prof. M., a Senior Doctor of the hospital
neurologist M., and Dr. S. This was sufficient for the editorial board of the monthly "Russky
meditsinsky vestnik" (Russian Medical Herald) to demand from those who possibly participated
in consultations with a homeopath, to name themselves. Otherwise, "Vestnik" warned, these
names would be found according to the "Russian Medical List" (Rossiysky meditsinsky
spisok) and then published138. One should understand that nothing official would have been undertaken
against "betrayers". Nevertheless, it was important to hold them up to shame. As there
was no reply, a month later "Russky meditsinsky vestnik" continued its investigation and
found possible names: Profs. F. Pasternatsky, L. Popov, I. Merzheevsky, O.
Mochutkovsky and Dr. E. Moritz. When publishing this list and commenting on it,
We are deeply convinced that in reality none of these highly respected colleagues
could have consulted with a homeopath. Thus, Flemming morally had to name the true persons;
otherwise, he would have been associated in the slander139.
Flemming thus sent a letter to "Vrach", stressing that all he had said was the truth;
as to the "true names", he left the suspected to defend themselves before
"Vrach", if they found it necessary. The remark of "Vrach" was demonstrative:
"They have to justify themselves, not before us [i.e., before "Vrach"], but before
all our colleagues valuing the dignity of the profession they have the honor to belong
To the best of my knowledge, nothing came from this investigation. I am not sure that the
editors of "Vestnik" and "Vrach" were indeed interested in the ascertainment of
the truth and in a further scandal connected with it. It was incomparably more important to show
that in such a case, no regular doctor, would he be a Senior doctor to a hospital or a professor,
may stay aloof of "public condemnation" from the side of his colleagues in the
Copyright © Alexander Kotok 2001
Mise en page, illustrations Copyright © Sylvain Cazalet 2001