Creating the New Soviet Man: The Case of Neurasthenia

AHP readers may be interested in a new piece in Social History of Medicine: “Creating the New Soviet Man: The Case of Neurasthenia,” by Anastasia Beliaeva. Abstract:

The article focuses on two different ways of constructing and understanding neurasthenia: one in the context of Russian medicine in the late-nineteenth to early-twentieth centuries, and the other in Soviet medicine after the communist revolution in 1917. The author examines the assumptions about human nature made in these two contexts and how they were bound to connect to the existing political context and agenda. The author explores how human nature was understood by the Russian and Soviet doctors at that time, and consequentially, their views on the harmful causes that led a healthy person to neurasthenia. Through the lens of the changing shifts in understanding neurasthenia, the author analyses the transformation that occurred in understanding human nature in general in the 1920–30s which led to the idea of the creation of the New Soviet Man, and also demonstrates the difference between the ‘former’ man and the ‘new’ man. The development of neurasthenia as a culturally bound construct reveals how medicine and politics are intertwined.

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young is a professor at Quest University Canada. A critical feminist psychologist and historian of psychology, she is committed to critical pedagogy and public engagement with feminist psychology and the history of the discipline.