Friday object lesson #44: Quackery

Today’s object is another gift brought back by my son from the Tampere Lenin Museum: a Soviet poster from the 1950s. The words say: ‘Away with quacks: they don’t heal, they only rob and cripple.’ I find this interesting as it illustrates how even a very repressive state is unable to entirely control social practices.


8 thoughts on “Friday object lesson #44: Quackery”

  1. Dear Paul:
    Traditional cultures are hard to change.
    Don’t forget how the “prophetess” Baba Vanga in Bulgaria was protected by the Communist Party and even supposedly had the ear of Todor Zhivkov.
    Of course, it isn’t just Slavic cultures which are superstitious. Reputable American historians say that President Ronald Reagan never made an important decision without consulting his astrologist, Joan Quigley.
    It has also been said by some that Quigley was the only sensible person among Reagan’s close entourage.


      1. I didn’t know about her either, until I start noticing the new Russian verb “ванговать” (something like: to guess, to predict). Quite a common word these days, apparently.


      2. Yes, frequently you will see Russians saying (or writing) вангую. I usually translate this for English-speakers as “I nostradamize”.
        By the way, in 2008 many Russians liked (with Schadenfreude) to quote one of Baba Vanga’s most famous prophecies. Supposedly somebody had asked her to predict the future of Georgia (Gruzia) in such-and-such a year, and, gazing upwards with those huge white eyes, Vanga replied eerily: “I do not see such a country in the future.”


  2. The inscription reads “Away with medecine men/women“. “Знахарь” doesn’t necessary mean “quack”. So this poster is aimed against the traditional medical practices still popular in some rural areas. And I won’t call знахарство a “social practise”.


    1. The person in the poster is wearing a white coat and doesn’t look much like your local village healer, so I’m not sure about that explanation, but you may be right. Regardless, the poster speaks of a persistent underground market in medical or pseudo-medical services.


  3. I won’t call it a doctor’s “white coat”. Mole like winter overcoat typical for many babushkas.

    I don’t get what kind of point you are trying to make here, Paul? That in the country which proclaimed Dialectical Materialism (accodring to Marx and Lenin) there were still some “folk beliefs” and practises – expecially in remote, rural areas? And that this is somehow, what, a clear sign that totalitarian Soviet Union was doomed?


    1. Dear Lyttenburgh:

      Fact is, even though some folk practices continued in the countryside (e.g., folk herbalists, non-accredited midwives, sellers of holy water and astrologists, etc.) the Soviet government actually did a decent job of inculcating secular and scientific beliefs in the population. Via education, of course. I don’t have the numbers at my fingertips, but I remember reading some polls – to this day, even after 25 years of anti-communist propaganda, most Russian citizens continue to be secular and even atheistic in their belief-sets. So it wasn’t all in vain – LOL!


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