• Old Photos: Soviet Medicine

    The World’s Most Socialized Medicine.

    With paramedics, polyclinics and plastic bone banks everybody gets free care in the USSR.

    In the 1919 when the newly launched Soviet Union was threatened by a plague of louse-borne typhus, Vladimir Illyich Lenin bluntly warned his countrymen: “Either the lice defeat socialism or socialism defeats the lice.” The USSR survived the lice and in the half century since has built to most massive system of the national health care ever known, still based on Lenin’s logical, if unsentimental premise: Russia needs her workers, and a sick worker cannot work.

    From birth do death the Soviet citizen is followed by a dossier of his health history. He may get production line preventive treatment without leaving his post at school, factory, farm or office. If he is sick but can walk, he goes to a polyclinic, one of thousands of free, all-purpose infirmaries. At least in the cities there are doctors aplenty. Of the world’s 2.5 million physicians, 500,000 – or one in five – are Russians. (The U.S. by comparison has 309,000 M.D.s, for a population 85% as large. Another half million trained medical assistants called feldshers supplement the doctors, particularly in the vast, thinly settled rural outlands.

    The system has flaws. To achieve quantity, the quality of treatment often suffers. Hospital sanitation is spotty at best. Anesthetics and modern equipment are often unavailable and most advanced drugs have to be imported. Dentistry is painfully old-fashioned. Medical education considered as a whole, is not up to U.S. standards (I would argue with that. M.V). But the Soviet goal is a lifetime health care for everyone, and any enterprise that ambitious is bound to have failings.

    Life Magazine, January 23, 1970

    For some real-life hospital photos check out my earlier post.

    The role of women in the Soviet Medicine - 70% of all doctors are female -is glorified in posters like this one outside of free clinic. ©Time Inc.Bill Ray.
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  • Holocaust Remembrance Day: Odessa Jewish Ghetto

    Continuing from my previous post about the orders issued by the Romanian Authority in Odessa regarding the treatment of the Jewish population and the creation of a Jewish Ghetto.
    The source is in the National Archives of Ukraine, translation mine.

    Order number 2 from November 15, 1941 by the Commander of the Odessa Garrison General N. Gineraru directing all persons of Jewish origin to declare possession of precious objects, gems and metals to the city police by 12pm on November 19th.

    “Odessa newspaper .- November 17, 1941 – № 28. – P. 2.

    I, Gen. Nikolai Gineraru, Commander of the Garrison of Odessa, on the basis of the Supreme Decree №1798 of 21 June 1941 and § 486 of the Code of Military Justice, in the interest of the Army, in order to protect the country, maintain order and public safety

    ORDER :

    § 1. All persons of Jewish origin living in Odessa are mandated by 12pm on Nov. 19, 1941 to declare all their precious things, stones and metals (platinum, gold, silver) -in any form: jewelry, coins, household items, etc. The Jews living in the areas of Odessa, Ovidiopol, Ochakiv and Berezovsky regions are required to submit their declarations within 48 hours after the publication of this order. Statements in duplicate must be submitted to the City Police (in rural communities to the local authority). One copy of the application remains with the Police, the other – stamped by the city police or rural authority – is returned to the applicant.

    § 2. Those guilty of violating this order will be punished by death.

    § 3. This order is to be published in Romanian, German and Russian languages in Odessa, Ovidiopol, Ochakiv, Berezovka and enters in force in Odessa on November 16 of this year, and in Odessa, Ovidiopol, Ochakiv, Berezovsky regions, on the date of publication.

    Establishing the facts of violation of this order is the duty of all officers, military, judiciary and civil police, as well as all military personnel with an official mandate for policing services. Violators will be escorted with the protocol and found property, to the court-martial of the Odessa Military Command (Kanatnaya Street., № 27)

    Commander of the Odessa General N. GINERARU.

    Military prosecutor Colonel BYLUTSA-Dumitrescu

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  • Our Answer To China

    Since the beginning of the school year my kid has spent a large part of her spare time participating in the First Robotics team. At first I was skeptical, since  I generally despise all after-school activities, clubs, girl- and boy-scouts and youth sports. But gradually, seeing my kid’s enthusiasm and her inexplicable desire to stay in school for 14 hours on some days, I thought that there may be something to this and it couldn’t be any worse than cheerleading. My work schedule and general laziness kept me from stopping by and checking on the progress of the robot the kids were building, but I had a chance to see an almost ready robot few days before it was shipped to Chicago for the upcoming regional completion.

    This was one of the many times when I felt ancient. I thought about my technology-free childhood while staring in amazement at what the kids have built. I am pretty sure the first space station was launched with less processing power than this robot uses to shoot basketballs and drive around the obstacles, and that power is controlled by a group of 15-18- year old kids with joysticks. Many different skills are needed on the team  – from production, to electric design, to programming, to creative and technical writing, to safety, graphic design, team management and fundraising. Instructors and mentors practice hands-off  approach and let the kids take complete control.

    These are the kids who will be this country’s answer to China and others who are rapidly moving ahead in the science and engineering fields. These are the kids who will take this country to the future, not you soccer and baseball-playing children, not competitive swimmers, and definitely not your cheerleaders, unless they are also doing this. Few people  remain baseball players into their adult life and even fewer find employment as cheerleaders. And while these activities are not without a benefit (whatever it is), they are completely irrelevant to the long-term future of this country, its position on the world technology stage, its prosperity and self-respect.

    I had a chance to visit a First Robotics Regional which was conducted in Kansas City over the weekend. Several things there impressed me and managed to wipe out most of my usual cynicism. The sheer number of participants who traveled from 9 states to take part in the Regionals was beyond anything I expected going in. Most of the kids didn’t look like the characters from the the Revenge of The Nerds. The level of excitement rivaled any sport event. The level of creativity, both visual and technical was impressive. There was a large number of handicapped kids and not fake ones like they have on Glee. There were probably equal numbers of girls and boys. There were plenty of involved parents, mentoring, helping and cheering.

    This wasn’t the first time my kid picked something the impressed me over my reservations and general whining. What I saw in the Arena made me feel good about the future.

    Next year I might even write a fundraising letter or two.

    Now for the visual part of this post. First, a short video to give you an idea of what the teams are trying to accomplish.

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  • Old Soviet Movies:The Circus (1936)

    Although The Circus (Tsirk) was made in 1936 it was still shown on TV in the 1970’s and 80’s and the songs took on the life of their own with “My Country is So Vast” (Shiroka Strana Moya Rodnaya) becoming the Soviet equivalent of  “God Bless America”.

    The movie is beautifully done propaganda piece for the Soviet Society where there is no place for racism and hatred and everyone wears white. It stars the most popular actress of that time Lyubov Orlova whose looks and voice dominated the best Soviet movies of the 30’s and 40’s.

    Below are some clips I cut and lightly subtitled; some of the scenes are actually in understandable English, the others are musical numbers where no translation is needed; some scenes can be understood without words: in 1930’s actors still knew how to display emotions on their faces from their years in the silent movies.

    The movie starts with an angry  mob scene, someplace in the racist US of A, where a bunch of screaming people sans torches and pitchforks are chasing Marion Dixon, a mother of an interracial child who happened to be a circus performer.

    The billboard-covered walls contrast with the Soviet general lack of advertisement.

    On the train Marion meets Franz Von Kneishiz, who will become her manager. The story moves to the Moscow Circus where Marion performs her death-defying stunt – “Flight to the Moon”. The music playing in the beginning of the clip is a de facto anthem of the Soviet Circus. I still remember the circus being this grand and amazing.

    During the act the Director of the Circus asks his actor -a military hero – Martynov to recreate and improve this act. His partner is to be the Director’s daughter whose fiance also appears carrying flowers. Martynov throws the bouquet to Ms. Dixon. Love is in the air.

    Evil capitalist Von Kneishiz threatens Marion Dixon to tell everyone about her black baby. While she is crying over Martynov’s photos, he comes into the room to pick up his suitcase. The scene ends with the war of stares between him and Von Kneishiz.

    Von Kneishiz hints that he would like the contract extended, instead the director shows him the new replacement act.

    Stunt fails and Marion runs downstairs concerned for Martynov. Seeing her interest Von Kneishiz tries to make an announcement about her baby.

    Von Kneishiz begs Marion to leave, she refuses. She says that Martynov loves her, but Von Kneishiz screams that no one will love her with her black baby. When he leaves, she sings a lullaby to her baby in Russian but with an “american” accent.

    Notice the black maid. This movie probably employed the whole black population of Moscow. The baby was played by James Lloydovich Patterson who lived in the USSR, served in the Soviet Navy, but later emigrated back to the USA.

    Von Kneishiz tries to leave Moscow with Marion, but she is being helped by her Soviet friends. Instead she partners with Martynov for a now successful “Flight to the Stratosphere”.

    Von Kneishiz finally gets a chance to tell everyone about the black baby. To his dismay no one cares. Instead the circus patrons, each one of a different nationality takes turns singing a lullaby in there own language. One of the singers is a world-famous Jewish actor Solomon Mikhoels who sings in Yiddish. My Dad always pointed out this scene because this was probably the only Yiddish on film which wasn’t censored. Mikhoels was assassinated on Stalin’s orders after the WWII but in this movie he illustrates the supposed internationalism of the Soviet people.

    The Circus director tells Marion that the Soviet people love all children – white, black, green, pink with stripes. Marion starts singing “My Country is So Vast”. The scene moves to the Red Square where the Circus performers lead the demonstration singing, marching and carrying portraits of the Soviet leaders.

    This movie was immensely popular throughout the Soviet times. As any propaganda movie it wasn’t very truthful, there was a lot of national hatred, antisemitism and conflicts in the USSR; many of them manifested themselves only after the break-up of the Soviet Union, but it didn’t mean that on a personal level many different nationalities didn’t live happily side-by-side. People of different nationalities shared apartments, served in the military, worked in the camps. In these situation nationality took second seat to the necessities of hard life.

    I am not a movie critic (but I once had a beer with a real-life professor of cinematography), so I will not comment on the technical aspects or the influences present in this movie. The characters and the musical numbers from this movie are an important part of the Golden Fund of the Soviet culture and you just had a chance to enjoy a small peek at it.

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  • Chernobyl 25

    TIME cover 05-12-1986.© Time Inc.

    My previous post about Chernobyl.

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