How the Soviets never stopped worrying & didn’t learnt to love the bomb. part I

I was  born behind the Iron Curtain just before it fell down. Which meant that I grew up in the ruins of a rather curious medical situation

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I was utterly perplexed why on Earth the powers-that-be in the USSR were so  obsessed  with the health of their citizens. – on a level that’d give Chris Traegar { * Parks & Rec} a run for his wallet.


When i was 3-5, i had the fortune of catching the last glimpse of the lavish convalescent system that Communist govt set up:    We went to a magical therapeutic place in the Caucasus mountains..  It was a Mineral Water resort. Yes, u heard right:

A whole  place where people simply set around drinking mineral water springing our the ground . Or they drank for a bit, & went on picturesque mountain walks  to places like The Temple of Airs: a ruin which had winds from every direction hitting with unearthly, gentle energy. It was like a glimpse of being in heaven

Sounds amazing, right? Well, it was actually nothing out of reach to ur average Soviet citizen with a minor gut ailment> in which case they could get significant time off work (we’re talking months here) go off & guzzle min. water…for free….

And the water was magic: _ it was the only thing that made develop a sense of hunger with my twisted gall bladder. I think the clean mountain air helped too.

but wait! there’s more!

When my Mamma ( in her 20s) encountered a concussion  – they didn’t scan her head & send her off to rest.


Wanna guess what they did?

She was placed on bed rest in a convalescent hospital, where she was spoon-fed without lifting her head for. 1 . month.

I kid u not here , dear readers.  and this wasn’t the only time where such spurious medical care was heaped on her. For she went on to display heart arythmia. At which point she was also given significant time off  from her studies, in order to do daily , specially tailored exercise + moral support..> to get thru the exercise. This treatment worked such wonders, that she never had any heart problem again.

When I was a wee kiddie in the 90s in this post Soviet space> there were no Dr waits. >U simply walked into a clinic , went in search of the specialist ( there were no GPs) > they’d see u right away,,,for as long as u needed.,,,for free ( and almost all Drs were women!)

On the way there we walked past a hydro-therapy center. A decade ago , Russia still had the highest proportion of med. professionals per head of pop.  in the world. And they were still women


Every (post) Soviet – was hyper-aware of her  health @ all times.they pulled out thermometer anytime someone coughed, were panicky about droughts; but did insist on fresh air; treated basic colds as very serious business requiring herbal inhalation ; knew the lethal level of temp etc.etc. They also considered  medical textbooks to be light bedtime reading & even had a joke about those who read them soo much that they found every symptom in themselves!!;/)

U know that bizarre Russian custom of drinking vodka+jumping in an ice hole?it’s actually an extreme version of physio technique, where u gradually take colder showers over some time, to improve blood circulation. People jumping in those holes have trained for a long period via showering.

This medical_herbal_physio web extended a tentacle into every area of life:

#Kids were sent off on theraupetic sporting camps

#people undertook tai-chi -type morning exercises in their apartment block yards, or did them individually ( there was a monkey bar in our flat)                                                                  #girls got excused from PE on their period, and were told not to overextend themselves. Weirder still> this was NOT done in a sexist manner

#if u couldn’t make it to a clinic> Drs did home visits. They too – were all female & rather sympathetic & not paternalistic.

#Patients were not treated as dummies & told that things were “in their head”. In fact , the role of the Dr was only to advise.  Their authority wasn’t even req. to acquire most meds> chemists provided them over the counter.

#Surgery didn’t have Western -length waiting lists. In fact, I ‘m not certain that i had any.

#Invasive medicine was treated as the last resort.  Most of the focus was on preventative, gently theraupetic kind, non-chemical kind; and folksy meds was taken seriously. Remarkably – there was a Wise Woman in my town – the kind the witchhunts took care of in the west a long, long time ago,

#There was an acute focus on Gut: 1stly: – with diet , which blended seamlessly with Eastern Euro staples, eg. Kvas + fermented kraut + kefir.

2ndly: with enemas, tea + aforementioned spring- water sanitariums, where u could get to go every year with a chronic ailment.

#People were given tiny plots of country land- to grow their own produce.

There was a tonne of other physio practices: mudbaths, drinking with food, hypnosis.


At 1 point the govt got so gutsy>> that they dared to PROHIBIT ALCOHOL!!! in Russia!!!!

This was in the 80s, aaaaaaaaand it went just about as well as it did in the Prohibition…..> so it was quickly terminated














2 thoughts on “How the Soviets never stopped worrying & didn’t learnt to love the bomb. part I

  1. Wow that sounds amazing. We went to this dingy looking place because we were poor and I always saw doctors as cold, uncaring old men who shuffled you in and out as quickly as possible and then gave medicine that would always make me sicker. My mom would always rush me to the doctor for everything and then when I would take the medicine I would feel so much worse. As soon as I got old enough to understand that I would just get better on my own and taking medicine didn’t help and actually made things worse, I started refusing to go.

    Liked by 3 people

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