The Health of Population and Social Stratification in N.A. Semashko’s Publicistic Writing (1918–1928)

Yakovenko V.A.


The life of Nikolai Alexandrovich Semashko is quite well studied in historiography. However, the researchers have not paid much attention to the fact that Semashko participated in the works pertaining to the stratification of population in the Soviet Russia. The present article analyzes the approach of the first People's Commissar of Public Health to the issues of social stratification, covering the period from 1918 to 1928. The paper draws on brochures and articles by Semashko. In his works, Semashko identified such categories of population as communists, Red Army soldiers, proletarians, workers, peasants, white-collars, the disabled, children, youth, students, laborers, nepmans, speculators and parasites. In doing so, he built upon both medical and party discourses as well as the sources on social hygiene and other branches of medicine. One may also notice his frequent recourse to the party vocabulary and references to V.I. Lenin. As a result, Semashko’s works present a rich mixture of political and medicinal approaches. Interesting are such hybrid notions devised by him as «a proletarian disease» and «the Soviet wear on». Semashko’s theory was quite different from the views maintained by his party comrades. There were three criteria for his division of population into social groups, namely, «a biopolitical care» for various population groups, which were seen as a resource and object of a medical control; their representation as rightful subjects; admittance of social groups to medicinal public goods.


Soviet Medicine; N.A. Semashko; Social Stratification; biopolitics; social hygiene; sanitary enlightenment.

DOI: 10.31249/rsm/2020.03.12

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