History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

Foreign medical personnel and formations in the Russian army during World War I

doi: 10.3897/hmj.5.3.32482

Igor V. Karpenko, Maria S. Sergeeva, Viktor G. Belych

Using materials from the archives of the Russian Red Cross Society (RRCS) and the official Vedomosti Krasnogo Kresta (Red Cross Gazette) periodical for 1914–1917, it is shown that international charity activity provided important assistance in the work of the RRCS in providing medical assistance to the wounded and sick Russian soldiers. The support received by the RRCS from the international community was not limited to monetary donations and the supply of medicines and medical equipment: the provision of medical personnel was no less important. An analysis of foreign experts’ contribution to the organization of the medical and sanitary service of the Russian army allows us to conclude that the desire to provide all possible assistance in the treatment of Russian soldiers was inherent in both individual specialists and whole medical detachments. The foreigners worked in the local RRCS medical and sanitary institutions; citizens from allied and neutral states took part in courses and joined the Russian sisters of mercy communities. The work of foreign medical units in the Russian army was examined by studying the example of the activities of the Anglo-Russian hospital and the infirmary of the Japanese Red Cross in Petrograd, the American hospital in Kiev, the mobile hospital of the Dutch Reformed Church and the Danish and Bulgarian sanitary detachments. A conclusion is drawn that they were subject to double subordination – from international benefactors and the RRCS. Decisions concerning the organization, selection of personnel and payment of salaries, medical support and activities of these formations were regulated by foreign founders, RRCS took them under its patronage in Russia and provided the necessary work conditions, i.e. provided for all their financial needs. A Russian leader was appointed in all foreign medical formations and the staff was complemented with local personnel – doctors, nurses, orderlies, and others.

Keywords Russian Red Cross Society, International Relief, Sisters of Mercy, Anglo-Russian Hospital, American Hospital, Japanese Red Cross Infirmary, Dutch Mobile Infirmary, Danish Sanitary Detachment, Slavic Charity Association


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