Curative Nature: Medical Foundations of Soviet Nature Protection, 1917-1941

Johanna Conterio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In 1922, there were thirty-five state health resorts in the Soviet Union. This article introduces the historic role of health resorts as sites of nature conservation in the Soviet Union, comparable to national parks and nature reserves (zapovedniki), and highlights the role of physicians and medical ideas in the formulation and promotion of conservation policies in the Soviet Union. It analyzes conservation laws and regulations that covered health resorts, prohibiting a range of activities throughout their territories to protect natural healing resources such as mineral waters, muds, and beaches. In the 1930s, Soviet health resorts became influential centers of conservation when the science of ecology lost state support and ecological study centers in the nature reserves were dismantled. The idea that the natural environment should be protected to serve human health gained influence with official patrons in the Soviet state because physicians explicitly aligned the health resorts with the anthropocentric ideology of the state and its goal of industrialization, opening up health resort medicine to the industrial workforce. Health and nature's curative ideas also formed the foundation for nature protection during Stalinism. State patronage of health resort conservation increased in the Stalinist period, culminating in 1940, when the reach of conservation was extended to local health resorts. The article concludes with an examination of conservation work in the Sochi health resort.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)23-49
Number of pages27
JournalSlavic Review: Interdisciplinary quarterly of Russian, Eurasian, and East European Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Health resorts
  • Soviet Union
  • National parks
  • Nature conservation
  • Conservation laws


Dive into the research topics of 'Curative Nature: Medical Foundations of Soviet Nature Protection, 1917-1941'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this