The idea of “backwardness” often plagues historical writing on Russia. In Russia in the Time of Cholera: Disease under Romanovs and Soviets
(Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), Dr. John P. Davis
counteracts this “backwardness” paradigm, arguing that from the early 19th to the early 20th centuries, Russian medical researchers—along with their counterparts in France and Germany—were at the forefront of the struggle against cholera. Davis’ birds-eye view of this hundred-year period illustrates that the conditions allowing cholera to flourish were the same set of conditions that helped create the collapse of the tsarist regime during the First World War. Credit for elimination of cholera must go to the Bolsheviks, both for implementing tsarist-era medical theory, and especially for making war on cholera in a organized, systematic manner that the old regime was variously unable or unwilling to achieve.
Aaron Weinacht is Professor of History at the University of Montana Western, in Dillon, MT. He teaches courses on Russian and Soviet History, World History, and Philosophy of History. His research interests include the sociological theorist Philip Rieff and the influence of Russian nihilism on American libertarianism.