Soviet treasure: 20th century documents found during Yauzskaya hospital repairs

Soviet treasure: 20th century documents found during Yauzskaya hospital repairs
30 archival documents have been unearthed during the repair work on the historical interior of Building 1.There are local trade union committee meeting minutes and applications for the reinstatement of former Medsantrud union members.

More than 30 archival documents from the health workers trade union, Medsantrud, have been discovered during the repair work at the Davydovsky City Hospital, also known as the Yauzskaya hospital. The papers are dated 1926 and 1946.

The artifacts were found during the restoration of a brick wall at Building 1 (Building 1 at 11/6 Yauzskaya Street). Most of the documents are 1946 applications for the reinstatement of Medsantrud members written by medical workers after their demobilisation from the Red Army – a routine procedure in the post-war years.

“We can truly say that a documentary treasure has been unearthed. It is valuable because the documents give an idea of how doctors lived and worked in those years, some amazing facts. Among the most interesting finds are the papers of Maria Afrikantova, from the hospital’s department No.5. They found her 1926 membership card, which has the rules for using the document as well as stamps confirming her payment of membership fees. But her application for the reinstatement of her trade union membership is of particular value. It was written in 1946 and contains a brief autobiography of the doctor,” said Alexei Yemelyanov, head of the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage.

The document says Maria Afrikantova was born in 1902. She worked as a nurse, while taking a part-time course at the 1st Moscow Medical Institute (now Sechenov First Moscow State Medical University) and earned her degree in 1935. On the second day of the war, she was mobilised into the Red Army, where she commanded a surgical and dressing platoon of a medical battalion. From 1943 to 1945, she served as the head of a mobile field surgical hospital.

Maria Afrikantova was awarded the Order of the Red Star, as well as the Orders of the Patriotic War, first and second class. The 1946 document also states she was not married, but had two orphans dependent on her. Their parents had died during the siege of Leningrad.

The newly found artifacts also contain handwritten minutes of the local trade union committee meetings. These are also dated 1946. The papers reveal the agenda of one of the meetings – the plan of cultural work for the quarter:

 “- organise a lecture for hospital staff on the international situation,

- newspaper readings in men’s dormitories,

- organise a lecture for nurses about the international situation,

- regularly organise new film shows,

- collective outings to theatres and the Tretyakov Gallery,

- involve young people in physical fitness activities,

- reopen the local amateur acting club.”

As Aleksei Yemelyanov noted, the documents are very well preserved, probably because they were not exposed to direct sunlight or moisture, nor extreme changes in temperature. The paper has yellowed with age, but the ink is bright enough to read the entire text on most of them.

The artifacts have been sent to restoration experts. They will restore and study the newly found documents in detail. After that, they will most likely be given to the hospital museum.

This is not the first discovery of archival material during the hospital’s repairs. For example, last summer, late 19th century handwritten documents were found in the attic of one of the buildings.

Restoration of Yauzskaya hospital historical premises

Major restoration work of seven buildings, the fence and the front entrance gates at the Yauzskaya hospital began in 2018. The project was developed in 2017–2018. After passing through an inspection carried out by historians and cultural experts and approved by the Moscow Department of Cultural Heritage taking into account the historical uniqueness of the buildings, along with the need to adapt them to the modern needs of the medical facility, the job finally got underway.

The hospital buildings are currently being worked on – there are 15 structures on the hospital grounds; some of them are cultural heritage sites.

Any repair or restoration work on them has to be approved, supervised and strictly controlled by the Department of Cultural Heritage. None of the buildings can be taken down, and their historical exterior cannot be changed in any form.

The project involved reinforcing the supporting structures of the buildings, repairing their roofs, changing the roofing and drainage systems, and recreating their dormer windows and chimneys. The facades are being cleaned up and stripped of old paint as well as plaster and any cracks are being patched up. The brickwork is being repaired, and the white stone base is being done up. After this the walls will again be plastered and then repainted.

The interior stucco decor will be restored, the remaining stoves and Monier vaults renovated, and the Mettlach tile flooring will be redone.

There are two architectural landmarks on the hospital grounds. The first is the Batashev Manor complex (a federal cultural heritage site). It includes several buildings: two lateral wings of the 18th-19th centuries (Buildings 3 and 10), the manor house built in the late 18th - early 19th centuries (Building 1), and a utility yard structure dating from the 18th century (Building 9).

The second landmark is the Yauzskaya city hospital complex (a regional cultural heritage site). It includes the fence and front entrance gates built at the end of the 18th century, a utility yard structure from the 18th century (Building 19), a service building of the late 18th century (Building 11), a garden pavilion (gatehouse) built in the late 1800s (Building 8), and an outpatient facility (Building 2).

The latter was built in 1909 following plans drawn up by the architect Illarion Ivanov-Schitz in a neoclassical style. This architectural style was popular in the last third of the 19th – early 20th century and included features reminiscent of ancient and Renaissance art, as well as of the classicism that had prevailed earlier.

The hospital today

Yauzskaya is one of the oldest clinics in Moscow, with a rich history. In the 1870s, the Batashev estate complex was bought by the Board of Trustees of public charity institutions in Moscow that opened a hospital for labourers there. After the 1917 revolution, the medical facility was renamed the Medsantrud Hospital and was assigned to serve the State Political Administration of the NKVD (Interior Ministry).

In the 1930s, the hospital was a research centre for the surgical and therapeutic clinics of Moscow’s medical institutes, where prominent professors including Ippolit Davydovsky and Boris Kogan worked. In 1943, the Medsantrud Hospital was the first Soviet medical facility to use penicillin.

Today, Davydovsky City Hospital is a versatile clinic with 485 beds. More than 70 percent hospitalisations are urgent. It also serves as a research and trial centre for logistics and application of the most recent medical technologies for the development of the heart attack and stroke networks in Moscow. It helps patients with acute myocardial infarction and acute cerebrovascular disorder, and unique operations for heart rhythm disturbances are performed there.

Фото: Пресс-служба Мэра и Правительства Москвы. Денис Гришкин

It also has a centre for personalised medicine, where doctors individually select medicine for seriously ill patients. They perform multiple operations on the same patient, including for patients over the age of 80. One intervention removes several pathologies, for example, on organs of the chest or abdominal cavities and atherosclerosis of the coronary arteries at the same time.