On the Battlefield of Hygiene: The Lithuanian Medical Intelligentsia, 1914–1920

Andrea Griffante


The article shows the First World War as a ground-breaking time for the consolidation of thenational identity of Lithuanian physicians, and their coordination as a professional group witha precise commitment to the nation and the nation-building process. While physicians’ commitmentto hygiene dates from the period prior to the outbreak of the First World War, the warcreated material conditions which enabled the widespread comprehension of the importanceof hygiene in the life of the nation, and the growth of physicians’ sense of professional-intellectualagency within the ethnic community. The need to provide medical aid in a context characterisedby epidemics and deteriorating hygiene was a precondition for much stronger coordinationamong physicians, with the aim of optimising relief efforts. Furthermore, the spreadof epidemics was used as a reason for strengthening trust between medical personnel andthe population. The difficulties which characterised health care in the early phase of the Lithuaniannation-state (lack of money, shortages, irrational features of the health-care system, etc)made the implementation of the ‘national hygiene’ programme impossible in the short term.

Key words: First World War, hygiene, intelligentsia, national consolidation, national hygiene.

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