The Spring 2017 issue of the Bulletin of the History of Medicine is now online. Included in this issue are two articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. The articles explore the 1950 ban on lobotomy in the Soviet Union and the fall of Freud in Cuban psychiatry in the latter half of the twentieth century. Full titles, authors, and abstracts below.
“Banning the Soviet Lobotomy: Psychiatry, Ethics, and Professional Politics during Late Stalinism,” by Benjamin Zajicek. The abstract reads,
This article examines how lobotomy came to be banned in the Soviet Union in 1950. The author finds that Soviet psychiatrists viewed lobotomy as a treatment of “last resort,” and justified its use on the grounds that it helped make patients more manageable in hospitals and allowed some to return to work. Lobotomy was challenged by psychiatrists who saw mental illness as a “whole body” process and believed that injuries caused by lobotomy were therefore more significant than changes to behavior. Between 1947 and 1949, these theoretical and ethical debates within Soviet psychiatry became politicized. Psychiatrists competing for institutional control attacked their rivals’ ideas using slogans drawn from Communist Party ideological campaigns. Party authorities intervened in psychiatry in 1949 and 1950, persecuting Jewish psychiatrists and demanding adherence to Ivan Pavlov’s theories. Psychiatrists’ existing conflict over lobotomy was adopted as part of the party’s own campaign against harmful Western influence in Soviet society.
“Revolutionizing Cuban Psychiatry: The Freud Wars, 1955–1970,” by Jennifer Lynn Lambe. The abstract reads,
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This article traces the battle over Freud within Cuban psychiatry from its pre-1959 origins through the “disappearance” of Freud by the early 1970s. It devotes particular attention to the visit of two Soviet psychiatrists to Cuba in the early 1960s as part of a broader campaign to promote Pavlov. The decade-long controversy over Freud responded to both theoretical and political concerns. If for some Freud represented political conservatism and theoretical mystification, Pavlov held out the promise of a dialectical materialist future. Meanwhile, other psychiatrists clung to psychodynamic perspectives, or at least the possibility of heterogeneity. The Freudians would end up on the losing side of this battle, with many departing Cuba over the course of the 1960s. But banishing Freud did not necessarily make for stalwart Pavlovians—or vanguard revolutionaries. Psychiatry would find itself relegated to a handmaiden position in the work of revolutionary mental engineering, with the government itself occupying the vanguard.