“A salutary place”: The Main Archive tells the story of the Golitsyn Hospital

“A salutary place”: The Main Archive tells the story of the Golitsyn Hospital
Maxim Denisov,
One of the oldest charities is part of Nikolai Pirogov City Clinical Hospital No.1.

The legendary Golitsyn Hospital opened on 3 August (22 July Old Style) 1802, the third hospital in Moscow and the first to be built by a private benefactor. Its history is a graphic example of how people belonging to different age brackets and social classes could engage in selfless charitable giving, show compassion for other people and love for their homeland. 

The idea to organise the first hospital for the poor was conceived by Prince Dmitry Golitsyin (1721–1793), who had been the Representative of the Russian Throne to the Habsburg Court for more than 30 years. In his will he requested that a “humanitarian institution useful to our Fatherland” be built in memory of his wife, Yekaterina Golitsyn, known for her kindness and sensitivity, as well as her contribution to the progress of obstetrics in Russia. The money endowment for the construction projects included his entire fortune.  

Prince Dmitry Golitsyn. Portrait by François-Hubert Drouet. 1762

On 6 March 1794, Empress Catherine II approved the plan for the hospital, with the construction work getting under way in1796. Prince Dmitry’s cousin, Alexander Golitsynn, was keeping an eye on the project, as was Maria Feodorovna, the spouse of Emperor Paul I. It was she who commissioned the renowned architects Vasily Bazhenov and Matvey Kazakov.   

The building’s design took in the trends in the Russian classical architecture of the latter half of the 18th century, if complying with all the medical requirements, like the lighting of the wards, their convenient disposition vis-à-vis therapy rooms, and isolation of patients with infectious diseases. The ground floor housed a reception area, chemists, and a storage unit. There were also flats for the doctors.

The hospital received patients from all walks of life regardless of sex, ethnicity, citizenship or faith.  Aid was offered even to paupers but not to serfs. Originally a 50-bed plan, the hospital doubled the number of beds within three years. In 1803, an alms-house for the incurably ill was opened under its auspices. Donations for its upkeep were raised at high-society charity receptions.  

The facility of access failed to influence the quality of therapy. Cooperating with the hospital were Russian clinicians, scientists, founders of university departments and medical schools.  For 50 years, the hospital’s chief physicians were Moscow University professors, such as Yefrem Mukhin, founder of the Russian school of traumatology, who established, in 1814, Russia’s first osteopathic unit. Other collaborators were the court physician, resort specialist and philanthropist Anton Albini, the court surgeon Mikhail Markus, the obstetrician, pathologist and theologian Adrian Blumenthal, and the surgeon and teacher Sergei Deryuzhinsky. Before 1917, all directors of the clinic were recruited from the Golitsyn family.  

The hospital considerably advanced Russian medicine. In1825, professor of ophthalmology and staff doctor Pyotr Brosse opened Russia’s first eye unit.  In 1832, the hospital spawned the country’s first paramedical school and in 1868 – a maternity ward. In 1876, patients got an opportunity to obtain outpatient consultative aid. Moscow’s only hospital chemists had the right to sell its medicine freely to city residents.

In1833, the First City Hospital, a majestic building with a classical facade and the dome of the Mary Magdalene Church, sprung up next to the Golitsyn Clinic.  The project was also an initiative of the Golitsyn family but the funding for it came from the Treasury. This biggest, in terms of beds, city hospital was also intended for the destitute. In 1919, the First City Hospital took over the Golitsyn Hospital.  

Pirogov City Clinical Hospital No. 1. Golitsyn Building with the dome of the Church of the Faithful Saint Tsarevich Dimitri. Photo by Marino. 2002

During the Great Patriotic War, it housed a hospital for seriously wounded soldiers and attended to Moscow residents injured during bombing raids.  In 1959, the Boris Weisbrod City Hospital No.2 merged with the clinic, after which the Nikolai Pirogov City Hospital No.1 became one of the biggest outfits in Europe. Today it occupies one of the leading positions among the Russian medical establishments.