Red Humanitarianism: The Soviet Red Cross and Public Health, 1953-1991


  • Dr Siobhán Hearne

    University of Manchester, United Kingdom

Project summary

The decades between the death of Stalin in 1953 and the collapse of the USSR in 1991 were marked by successive public health crises. Severe population depletion, staggering rates of industrial pollution, and chronic underfunding of healthcare facilities resulted in an upsurge in infectious diseases, rising rates of maternal/infant mortality, declining life expectancy and stagnant population growth. My project will be the first to assess how the Soviet Red Cross responded to healthcare crises that were exacerbated by government policy whilst also remaining dependent on state approval and resources. Using archival research and oral history, I will explore the meaning, scope, and motivations behind medical volunteerism in a society where citizen participation was deemed compulsory, and sometimes even necessary, to supplement state healthcare services. In doing so, I will assess how this 'red humanitarianism' was used to address successive public health and humanitarian crises during the Cold War era.