How Minsk acquired medical status in 19th century: first pharmacies and hospitals


How Minsk acquired medical status in 19th century: first pharmacies and hospitals

In the medieval Minsk, as in all European cities, barbers were chief physicians. Besides haircuts they made bloodletting, gave medicines out, rendered assistance at home and on the streets. In 1635, barber shops were the first kind of health care organization.

A chain of epidemics required skilled personnel. Only in 1799, when Minsk belonged to the Russian Empire, a public care hospital for 25 beds was opened at the site of the modern circus. In 1835, it was moved to the female Basilian monastery on Troitskaya hill (Trinity Hill). That was not surprising, because monks have always been good doctors.

In an anti-Uniate drive in the city, the monastery disappeared from the map of Minsk. Today few people pay attention to this abandoned old-timer. But it was on Troitskaya Hill where the oldest metropolitan hospital was situated.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
Once it was a municipal hospital. That monastery was located in the most distant green building of the 17th century. Then, in the 1930s-1940s, two more buildings were constructed: brown and grey.

The Municipal Hospital was popular among people. It all began with the department for mentally ill patients, a therapy and an almshouse. Later, an outpatient clinic and a surgery were created. The first X-ray and a disinfection chamber were brought there, a bacteriological laboratory was opened, a pharmacy operated, and there were carried out complex operations in all directions.

Up to 1903, people had to pay for treatment and not everyone could afford it. Thus a month in the hospital cost around 11 rubles in 1897.

The hospital keeps the memory of a prominent revolutionist – Camilla Dunin-Martsinkevich, the daughter of the well-known classic writer.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
In 1861 Camilla Dunin-Martsinkevich was imprisoned. She toured Russia with piano concerts and sometimes performed revolutionary songs. She was taken to the almshouse to be declare she is mentally ill. But there was held the first Minsk people’s rally in her defense. People who knew Camilla, loved her, picketed the almshouse and eventually Camilla was released.

A few years ago, the Second Clinical Hospital moved to a new building. Nowadays the old building on Yanka Kupala Street in the middle of the bustling city seems mystical.

Second Clinical Hospital

The medical tour continues on Blagoveshchenskaya Street, present-day Avtodorovskaya. Minsk residents perfectly know this place thanks to a red-brick water tower near the second ring road. Complex cornices, 1.5m high walls and a unique brickwork.

The tower appeared in Minsk back in 1910, and provided the railway station and hospital with water.

The hospital was built specially for railway workers near the Brest railway station in 1914. Auxiliary single-storey houses near the water tower and the hospital constitute a single complex. Today they are completely abandoned. But the hospital courtyard with unique vases looks no less attractive. Here you forget about time and discover completely different Minsk.

Old water tower

Railway workers hospital

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
In 1866, in the Russian Empire, a law was issued according to which large enterprises were obliged to establish their outpatient clinics. The Belarusian Railway was one of such institutions. Nowadays it also has railway hospital No. 11.

Medicine was more categorical in the 19th century. People were treated not according to age, but nationality and occupation. The army, as well as in our time, had its private hospital. In 1830, after the uprising against the Russian Empire, 200,000 Russian troops were sent there to control the Minsk province. They were deployed between the Governor's garden and the modern State Linguistic University.

In the center of the quarter, in 1840, the authorities decided to build a military hospital. Thus a wonderful ensemble in the classical style appeared, which over time will become a military hospital. It is hard to believe that about 200 beds for patients once stood behind these columns. This is one of the few buildings that have preserved the pure shape to the present day. After the recent restoration, the Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus is headquartered here.

Military hospital

Investigative Committee of the Republic of Belarus

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
The next block, from Ulyanovskaya Street towards the subway station "Proletarskaya", was a place where troops got help, the 2,000 soldiers could hav fun there. This was Minsk’s red-light district.
The present-day Pervomayskaya Street was previously called Vyaselaya (Cheerful) because of cheerful ladies who lived there

The ladies of easy virtue had a special supervision and their own medicine. Syphilis was a fatal disease at that time. Only in 1890, there were over 1,100 of sexually transmitted diseases.

A hospital for prostitutes with a pharmacy was opened at the initiative of count Karol Czapski in Minsk in 1898. The enterprising head established the first maternity hospital in his house on Zakharyevskaya Street.

Tuberculosis became a social disaster in Minsk. In order to raise funds for medical treatment, townspeople began to hold the annual charity "Day of the White Flower". You could buy chamomile, jasmine for only a few cents and thus help patients.

Cholera broke out in 1909. Hundreds of citizens needed protection of immunity. Thus, in 1913 the long-awaited infectious diseases hospital was opened on Nikolaevskaya Street. Medical services were provided in 12 comfortable brick houses with steam compartment, ventilation, disinfection chamber, and a novelty – a mechanical laundry, which would greatly facilitate the life of nurses. Three buildings were allocated for patients. Today, City Clinical Hospital for Infectious Diseases is located in this historical ensemble.

The prerevolutionary one-storey houses, wide windows, stairs of the 1930s and postwar stucco work. One can study the architecture of Minsk in the charming building of the Third Clinical Hospital. A real medical block. "Troika" is the oldest hospital in the city, which has preserved up till now.

Third Clinical Hospital

It all began with a two-storey house only for 65 persons on that time Gubernatorskaya (Governor) Street in the distant 1828. It was a Jewish hospital, funded by a charity and Jewish Mutual Aid Society.

Gradually new buildings appeared. The famous Minsk merchant Polyak built a wooden maternity ward in memory of his wife who died in childbirth.

Over time, two-storey hospitals for infectious diseases were established. X-ray, its own pharmacy and dispensary appeared. By 1903, there were created the first private ophthalmic hospitals and "Troika" had the best ophthalmology department.

Alexandra Volodina, historian, tour guide:
This hospital was named after professor Klumov, who was forced to work for Germans. As researchers say, he gave them little by little not drugs but poison.
As a chief physician, he had access to medicines and passed them to partisans. By the end of the war, his wife was sent to the gas chamber. He decided to be with her. Although he had an opportunity to leave for Germany and work there.

The first ambulance car was brought from Vienna to Minsk by the Red Cross Sisters of Mercy in May 1912. Since that time, visits to the sick began. But only wealthy residents of Minsk could afford such a visit.

Chronicle of the Red Cross originated a century ago. In 1903, the governor Trubetskoi founded the sisters of mercy community at the site of the State Control Committee at 1 Karl Marx Street. The basics of health care were taught there. Graduates would become nurses at the time of World War I, and would help patients with cholera and smallpox.

The first city pharmacy in Minsk was opened in 1792 at the initiative of Stanislaw August Poniatowski. In comparison with the Middle Ages, the choice of medicines was enormous. By the way, opium and snake meat were a universal remedy then. It was considered that such a combination could cure any ailment.

Thus, Minsk gradually acquired its medical status and began struggle against terrible epidemics in the 19th- early 20th century. Our capital was the eighth best city in the Russian Empire in terms of doctors’ salaries.

The specialized newspaper "Minsk medical news" was published here. Minsk also operated a chemical laboratory, with the most talented doctors of that time working in the present-day Belarus capital.