Traumatised Minds: Neurosis and Hysteria in Soviet Medicine and Culture, 1917-1953

Year of award: 2023


  • Dr Anna Toropova

    University of Warwick, UK

Project summary

This project investigates medical and cultural approaches to psychological trauma in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1953. Scholars have often assumed that the suppression of psychoanalysis in the USSR during the 1930s forced conformity to a Pavlovian model that severely neglected the mental realm and silenced the question of traumatised consciousness. Yet Soviet specialists continued to explore the link between trauma and neurosis, experimenting with a variety of methods of psychotherapeutic treatment and probing the factors that determined individuals? susceptibility to psychological traumatisation. Examining a diverse body of research and practice?from the use of hypnosis to retrieve repressed traumatic memories to attempts to ?experimentalise? the traumatised mind?the project aims to reveal a unique tradition of understanding trauma which was neither ?Freudian? nor straightforwardly ?Pavlovian?. The wider cultural resonance of medical framings of traumatic neurosis will be explored through attention to artistic, literary, and cinematic engagements with the topic of trauma. The project?s analysis of the scientific, medical and cultural elaboration of traumatised consciousness across the Soviet sphere will illuminate the unique traditions and contexts that may still linger in post-Soviet societies dealing with trauma in the present.