History of Medicine


An Open Access Journal

Zemstvo District Surgeons and Their Role in the Development of Russian Medicine

P.M. Bogopolsky, Doctor of Medical Sciences, Senior Researcher

at the Department of Scientific Programs and Staff Training

Academic B.V. Petrovsky Russian Scientific Center of Surgery, Moscow (Russian Federation)

In Russia in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, along with the university (clinical) surgery, zemstvo district (rural) surgery began to play to a major role in the development of medical science. State reform of medical higher education in the 1840s–1860s was an important prerequisite for this development – it eliminated an acute shortage of Russian scientific and medical staff, thereby ensuring a significant expansion of medical research and the emergence of a new and original form of national health care in the form of the zemstvo district medicine and the zemstvo district surgery. The basic principles of zemstvo district medicine – that it be preventative, free and available, with an in-patient precinct system – were fully formed at the beginning of the 20th century. After the October Revolution (1917), these principles were embraced and successfully developed by Soviet medicine, but on a centralized state basis. Many zemstvo district surgeons established themselves as outstanding practitioners and talented scientists. A large number of professors and doctors of medicine who played a big role in the development of domestic surgery began their careers as a zemstvo district doctors. Their success in developing new surgical methods for the treatment of various diseases was highly significant and their presentations at medical congresses and publications in the press were very valuable. This is why a study of the defining attributes of zemstvo district surgery in Russia and the achievements of zemstvo district surgeons is essential for a proper understanding of the development of domestic medicine and surgery in the 20th century.

Keywords: surgery in Russia in the late 19th to early 20th centuries, history of medicine, zemstvo district surgery, contribution to the development of medical science

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Published in Vol. 2. №2, 2015


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