DOI: 10.17720/2409-5834.v4.2.2017.04d

Pavel E. Ratmanov
Murav’eva-Amurskogo St., 35, Khabarovsk, Russia, 680000

The aim of the paper is to analyze and interpret satirical pictures in Harbin newspaper Novaya zhizn’ about an epidemic of pneumonic plague in 1910–1911 in Harbin. We have found 22 drawings relating to plague: independent satirical drawings and combinations of several pictures. In the first months of the epidemic, the newspaper mocked the way of life of the Chinese people, traditional Chinese medicine and the Chinese administration. Novaya zhizn’s satire was directed primarily not to the prevention and control of plague, but was aimed to reveal the culprits in the epidemic. In January 1911, in caricatures about the plague there appeared senior officials of the administration of the Chinese Eastern Railway (CER). Novaya zhizn’ portrayed a local railway officer, not a doctor sent from the European part of Russia, as the hero who overcame the plague. Later V.M. Bogutskiy, P.B. Havkin and other Russian doctors, who fought with the plague, became heroes of satirical drawings in Harbin newspaper. The targets for criticism were the bureaucratic nature of the fight against the epidemic, the long fruitless meetings, the ineffectiveness of medical measures in the treatment of pulmonary plague and vaccine prevention. The newspaper Novaya zhizn’ also printed picture on memory of plague victims among the medical staff. Two drawings were devoted to Mukden antiplague Conference (April 1911), one of which shows the “cunning” and “insidious” Chinese. The participants of those events and the later commentators overlooked the unprecedented rise of the national movement in China in this historical period. For this country, it was extremely important to maintain domination over Manchuria and its sovereignty from threats (imaginary or real) from Japan and Russia. The epidemic of pneumonic plague in Manchuria in 1910–1911 occurred at a crucial time for Chinese history – on the eve of the Xinhai Revolution. Any historical epoch has its own refraction in everyday life, and the details of everyday life convey the spirit of the times. The drawings in the Harbin newspaper on plague and the doctors who fought against it show the attitude of a part of society towards the epidemic and medicine.

Keywords: plague, an epidemic, China, the social history of medicine, D.K. Zabolotny, periodicals, Manchuria

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