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Soviet Psychiatry and Drug Addiction in Central Asia: The Construction of ‘Narcomania’

  • Alisher Latypov
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Part of the Mental Health in Historical Perspective book series (MHHP)

Abstract

Until recently, the majority of historical studies on the history of medicine in the Soviet Union have been focused on the Russian heartland and its metropolitan centres. In the words of Bernstein, Burton and Healey, these works aimed to explore the ‘internal colonization’ of ‘Slavic peoples’ by the highly interventionist Soviet regime and its drive to transform society. But the USSR encompassed a far larger area than that occupied by majority ethnic Russians, including territories in Central Asia which had a predominantly Islamic population with substantially different intellectual and medical traditions from that of the Russian Soviet elite. For revolutionary Soviet doctors, the Central Asian periphery manifested itself as a host of ‘backwardness’ and ‘primitive’ cultures and traditions. They made a primary contribution to the spread of diseases and blocked the way to a ‘bright’ and ‘healthy’ future. From the early years of Bolshevik rule, eradication of this entire ‘uncivilized’ way of life was seen as the most appropriate remedy. This chapter shows how this relationship between the Soviet ‘centre’ and the Asian ‘periphery’ played out in terms of psychiatric discourses on addiction and opium use, with the construction of the disease category of ‘narcomania’ — a synonym for drug addiction — as a regional problem, which in turn operated as a cypher for the broader cultural Sovietization project in the region.

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Notes

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