The Work of Civilian and Military Pathologists

  • Vadim Chirsky
Part of the Studies in Russian and East European History and Society book series (SREEHS)


The siege of Leningrad ranks in the history of mankind as a monstrous experiment in human survival under conditions of starvation, cold, bombing and shelling. The medical workers of the city gave great assistance to Leningrad’s citizens in overcoming these difficulties, and in the treatment and prevention of disease. Pathologists worked with other kinds of doctors in Leningrad under siege. An outsider, unaware of the problems that had to be tackled, might find it strange and unnecessary in those very difficult times, when there were vast numbers of sick and wounded people and acute shortages of all essentials, that anyone should be carrying out autopsies, dissecting the bodies of dead people. At the same time, it is impossible to overestimate the significance and importance of the work of anatomical pathologists during the siege. The course of many diseases, some of them serious, had been affected by malnutrition, both quantitative and qualitative, excessive cooling of the body, weariness and mental trauma. There was a risk that doctors might make many more errors of diagnosis. Under these conditions the main tasks of pathologists were to: (1) establish the ways in which the course of various diseases had been affected by nutritional dystrophy; (2) analyse the causes of death of patients; and (3) detect and analyse shortcomings in treatment. The success with which Leningrad pathologists tackled these tasks considerably helped to improve diagnosis and treatment, thus contributing to saving many thousands of lives.


Hepatitis Steam Transportation Pneumonia Tuberculosis 


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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 2005

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  • Vadim Chirsky

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