Homeopathy in Russia Today
by Dana Ullman, MPH
The famous Russian author, Feodor Dostowevsky, wrote "The Brothers Karamozov," and in this great book he gives a short, sweet mention of homeopathy. In an argument between the two brothers, one of the brothers asked the other if he didn't have just a little faith in him, for as he said, "homeopathic doses are perhaps the strongest."
Homeopathy has had a long tradition within Russia. Even though it was not officially recognized during the Communist regime, it was tolerated. And perhaps in part because it did not receive governmental sanction, the Russian people developed a trust in homeopathy. Due to the fact that homeopathic physicians worked outside of governmental medicine, homeopathy was a part of Russia's "new economy. " People had to pay for homeopathic care, rather than receive it for free.
Homeopathy is still the minority practice. I was told that there are approximately one million medical doctors in Russia and its surrounding republics, with 15,000 medical doctors who use homeopathic medicines regularly, and about 3,000 medical doctors who specialize in classical homeopathy.
One of the homeopathic pediatricians who drove me to see various sites in Moscow was the homeopath to the mayor of Moscow's family. Another conference attendee was a homeopath and cardiologist who had a patient who she described as "the most dangerous man in Russia" (former KGB who is a leader in the present Russian "Mafia"). One of the ways that I learned about homeopathy's small but impressive stature in Russia was by this observation that homeopathy was attracting people in this country who had position and power.
If you have had the pleasure of attending any international homeopathic conference in Europe, you will inevitably have noticed many Russian homeopaths in attendance. Even though few of them speak English, they always brought a translator or two with them. Despite the extremely low salaries that Russian doctors receive ($200-$300 per month is extremely common!), Russian homeopaths are so committed to learning high quality classical homeopathy; they travel in droves to attend conferences. Over 100 Russian doctors are presently completing a four-year training program with George Vithoulkas in Alonossos, Greece.
This is impressive commitment. I was intrigued to learn that homeopathic physicians tend to earn slightly more than conventional physicians because patients who go to homeopaths pay out of pocket rather than receive a salary from the government. What a pleasure it was to hear that there is at least one place in the world where homeopaths earn a better living than conventional doctors!
In late September 2001, I flew to Moscow to be one of the keynote speakers at a conference of classical homeopaths. I left on September 26th, and although I had some trepidation for traveling at this time, my curiosity about Russia was much greater than my fears My host was Alexander Ostrovsky MD, a Russian physician and homeopath whose homeopathic manufacturing company makes hand-succussed remedies. His company has also published a couple of books in Russian, including Hahnemann's Materia Medica Pura and his Chronic Diseases.
I was one of about 20 speakers to make a presentation during this two-day conference. Most talks at the conference only lasted 20 minutes, and 90% of the speakers read from their written papers. It is important to note that everyone in attendance was a medical doctor, and the vast majority of them were specialists of one sort or another, including pediatricians, psychiatrists, cardiologists, opthamologists, neurologists, pathologists, otolarynologists, amongst others.
The topics included a wide variety of subjects, including Usage of Opium in Liver Encephalopathy, Homeopathy in Otolaryngology, Carcinosen, The Treatment of Bronchitis with Asthmatic Components with Ignatia, and Virtual Dreams and Homeopathic Symptoms. They asked me to speak for 60 minutes twice (heck, if I fly halfway around the world, I can't do that for only 20 minutes of air time!). Needless to say, I gave a more dramatic presentation than they normally get.
Before my first talk, I passed around some high quality American chocolate as a little gift from America. This was a great way to get the audience on my side, though I didn't need to use any tricks. My first talk focused on the Doctrine of Signatures and was entitled "Understand Nature to Learn Materia Medica."
The question and answer period that followed continued 30 minutes beyond my time limit, but nothing that I could do could stop the dialogue, all of which was excited and extremely supportive of using the clear indications of the signatures of our medicines in daily practice (Note: I made it clear that you should not use the signatures concept to theorize about a medicine, but one should instead learn and consider using only precise and confirmed features of a substance.)
My second talk reviewed the most modern understanding of homeopathy in the light of scientific perspectives. I introduced a new word, "nanopharmacy, " which I described as the field of medicine and pharmacy that investigates extreme microdose effects in health and medicine. This talk also reviewed the most recent clinical studies in homeopathy.
The audience appreciated this body of information greatly since very little high quality research has been translated into Russian. It was interesting to learn that seemingly about one-third of the audience were passionate about the teachings of George Vithoulkas, approximately another third were equally passionate about the teachings of Rajan Sankaran, and another third followed the teaching of the physiological school of homeopathy from the Popov family of doctors in Kiev, although there was no obvious animosity between the three camps.
One of the ways that I got a sense of the status of homeopathy in Russia was by reviewing which books are now available in Russian. Up until just five years ago, there were very few homeopathic books in Russian. Just recently, books by Nash, Allen, and Farrington have been, but Kent's Materia Medica has only been available for two years, and Clarke's three-volume materia medica was just published, as was Hahnemann's Materia Medica Pura. Books by Didier Grandgeorge (a French classical homeopath) and Catherine Coulter have been available for around five years. Books by Vithoulkas, Sankaran, Vermeulen, Scholten, and Morrison have only just become available in the past year or two, and these authors already have become the most appreciated.
It is interesting to note that some homeopaths use homeopathic software that has been translated into Russian, including RADAR and CARA, as well as one program that was developed in Russia called Rainbow. There was not a single self-care book published in Russia, at least not yet, though the Russian publisher in attendance at the conference will probably change this. The reason for this lack of books in self-care results from an ingrained old premise that I learned from the former head of TASS whom I met 15 years ago.
After he told me that he and his wife prefer homeopathy to conventional medicine, I told him that I had written a book that is the most popular self-care homeopathic book in the U.S. He replied with directness and confidence, "Self-care in Russia is not necessary because health care is free."
Communism may have been a good idea ("to each according to their need"), but clearly it didn't work. And their reliance upon the government to do even those simple things that people can and should take into their own hands helped lead to the demise of communism.
Because it seems that Russians do not have as many distractions that we Americans tend to have, Russian homeopaths are very dedicated to learning as much about homeopathy as they can. Not very many Americans presently know the names of the leading Russian homeopaths, but this may change in the near future.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention an important quality that I continually experienced when dealing with Russian homeopaths. Every one of them was remarkably generous with their time, experience, and expertise. Several homeopaths insisted upon showing me around their country, and despite the many tragedies that have beset these people over many centuries, they have survived and persisted, and they maintain a powerful pride in their country.
I look forward to an ongoing dialogue and sharing of information and experience with homeopaths throughout the world. With the present crisis of terrorism and bioterrorism at hand, good quality homeopathic care is needed more than ever.
Dana Ullman, MPH has written 8 books on homeopathy. His newest book, ESSENTIAL HOMEOPATHY, was published in January, 2002. His books have been translated into eight languages.
In the past 10 years, he has lectured in Slovenia, France, Italy, Greece, Netherlands, England, Colombia, Chile, and Mexico. His website, Homeopathic Educational Services has over 100 articles, some of which include information about his experiences in these countries. This site is also a leading source of homeopathic books, tapes, medicines, medicine kits, and correspondence courses.