A Hospital in the Winter Palace. 1915-1917
The exhibition in the Foyer of the Hermitage Theatre is devoted to the history of the "field hospital for lower military ranks" which existed in the Winter Palace during World War I.
The materials presented in the exhibition (photographs, documents, memoirs) are, with few exceptions, originals and date from the time when the hospital existed. This archive was collected over many years and made it possible to recreate the history of the hospital and to prepare the exhibition.
A large hospital unit with surgical facilities and room for 1000 patients was organized with the permission of Emperor Nicholas II and his family. It occupied all of the state rooms of the Palace except for St George's Hall.. The opening of the hospital took place on 10 October 1915.
The Hospital of the Winter Palace was put at the disposal of the Red Cross, which, through its representatives, decided all matters of internal organization. The Red Cross selected the entire group of doctors and support staff: a chief doctor, 34 doctors (mainly surgeons), 50 nurses, 120 orderlies, 26 auxiliary staff and 10 office employees.
The chief doctor of the hospital was A.V. Rutkovsky, who was the doctor in charge of outpatients at the Hospital of the Society of St. Eugene and doctor of the Chancellery of the War Minister; he was engaged principally with administrative and financial matters. The de facto director of the hospital was the chief surgeon, doctor of medicine and professor, N.N. Petrov, who later became the founder of Russian oncology. A noteworthy position among the doctors was held by K.A. Walter, doctor of medicine, Honorary Life Guard-Medic, who headed the surgical department of the Hospital of the Society of St. Eugene.
Therapeutic specialists, oculists, throat and larynx specialists and dermatologists also worked in the hospital. The chief therapeutic doctor in the hospital was D.A. Sokolov; the main neurosurgeon was A.G. Molotkov, whose later work and research career is linked to the history of Soviet medicine.
Among the other doctors in the hospital, one may mention the surgeon Valpakorn or Mom-Chau. According to N.V. Galanina, this was a Prince of Siam who graduated in Russia from the Page Corps and then from the Military Medical Academy.
The hospital was served by nurses from the Society in Honor of Adjutant General M.P. Kaufman who were the strictest and had the best reputation in Petrograd. They were distinguished by high professionalism and dedication to duty. Among them were members of the most imposing princely and ducal families as well as noblewomen and the daughters of hereditary honorary citizens and junior officers.
The soldiers' hospital in the Winter Palace was like no other. It was situated in the imperial residence. It was equipped with the last word in science and technology of the time and the most advanced methods of medical treatment were used.
The hospital existed for two years. Following the February Revolution, it remained in the Winter Palace, where it continued to occupy the state rooms. On 27 October 1917, following the storming of the Palace, the wounded were sent to other field hospitals. On 28 October, the hospital was disbanded and this last page in the history of the Imperial Winter Palace was turned.
The first materials in the archival fund, the typed Memoirs of N.V. Galanina, a nurse in the Hospital of the Winter Palace, were deposited in the Hermitage in 1975. In the middle of the 1980's, Director of the Hermitage Boris Piotrovsky brought back from Stockholm the first six photographs which were donated to the museum by G.G. Alekseev-Landhof, whose mother had also served as a nurse in the hospital. Later the collection received various photos and reproduction materials from the collection of R.A. Molotkov. In 2003, the Hermitage received as a gift (via the Procurement Commission) a set of photos and documents belonging to Ludmila Vasilievna Somova, a nurse. After her death, her collection was given to the Hermitage by her colleague T.I. Moldaver-Cherdzhieva. This addition was very important in terms of the number of documents involved: they are mostly group photographs which reflect the different aspects of hospital life.
Besides photographs, which are now kept in the Department of Manuscripts and Documentary Fund of the State Hermitage, the exhibition also presents materials from the State Hermitage's Department of History of Russian Culture and Department of Numismatics: etchings, icons, soldiers' uniforms, articles of applied art, medals and badges. All of these items are evidence from the period which round out the exhibition and provide additional weight.
The curator of the exhibition is V.F. Marishkina, senior researcher of the State Hermitage's Department of Manuscripts and Documentary Fund.