Soviet Healthcare Conference
4th June 2014
I was in Dublin at the end of last week for a conference on Soviet healthcare in comparative perspective, with a particular focus on the issues of ‘professionalization, gender and care’. Although I have done a good deal of work in the area of Soviet women’s history, this has only ever touched tangentially on the field of Soviet medicine, in which huge numbers of women were employed. The papers on Soviet health care discussed the development of Soviet nursing in the 1930s, factory medicine during World War Two, the creation of the Academy of Medical Sciences after the war, the provision of medicine in the gulag, women doctors in the late Stalin period and the use of public health issues in cultural diplomacy in the 1920s. There were also papers on the training of Irish women in the medical profession in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, refugee nurses in Great Britain, and nursing and decolonisation in Malaya after the war. I was the discussant on a panel focusing on ‘women and welfare’. There was a good deal of discussion on the central themes of the conference, which touched on the commonalities in medicine across temporal, geographic and cultural divides.
I also had an opportunity to see a little bit of Dublin for the first time and can highly recommend it as a place to visit if you haven’t been there already. Out of the various places I visited, I’ll just note the apparent controversy surrounding plans to expand the Irish Jewish Museum, which was unfortunately closed at the time I was able to walk by. The museum is located in an area of the city with Victorian terrace houses on narrow streets, once known as ‘Little Jerusalem’. Although local residents have been very supportive of the museum since it opened on the site of the original 1870s Synagogue in 1985, they fear that the planned expansion could be very disruptive in terms of traffic flow through the community. This is history and heritage on the doorstep!
Oh, and if you’re going to Dublin, a visit to the Chester Beatty library is a must for anyone interested in the history of the ‘book’ and in sacred and religious texts from around the globe. This is a truly magnificent collection, and entrance to see it is free!