Nursing and the Public Health Legacies of the Russian Revolution

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Abstract

ABSTRACT

The centenary of the October Revolution in 1917 provides a timely opportunity to assess the legacies of that event. I examine the role of the revolution in public health with a focus on nursing, assessing the Imperial Russian health care system, the development of Soviet nursing, and current plans for nursing and public health care in Putin’s Russia. Analyzing nursing shows that there was a great deal of continuity in terms of medical personnel and ideas on how public health care service in Russia should operate. Nursing illuminates some of the complexities of Soviet health care and ideology, particularly the state’s desire to create a socialist form of nursing in theory, despite the strong links with the prerevolutionary past in the form of personnel. This situation changed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when the new Russian state attempted to sever connections with the past, this time with the Soviet past. But as I show, making a clean break with the past is a difficult and often fraught process.

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