Public education and healthcare in the region:
from first steps to new challenges


Public education and healthcare in the region:
from first steps to new challenges

A difficult beginning

The first post-war years laid the foundations for further development of public education and healthcare in the recently established Kaliningrad region. Without them, it would have been very difficult to create the Soviet social system and culture, to settle the migrants, to set out favorable conditions for the population growth and to return to peaceful life.

In the second half of the 1940s schools, kindergartens, and orphanages were established en masse. Colleges and a pedagogical institute were opened to train educators and teachers. All this was done under difficult, sometimes extreme conditions.
Military hospitals and outpatient clinics of large enterprises became first institutions of Soviet medicine in the region. From 1946 the formation of the "classical" USSR regional system of healthcare began. It was represented by regional, city and district hospitals, outpatient clinics, feldsher-midwife stations, maternity welfare centres, etc. Unlike most other Russian regions, where the restoration of healthcare began in 1944 and was carried out with the active participation of institutions and specialists who had returned from the evacuation, in the "far west" of the RSFSR this process took place under special conditions. The creation of a comprehensive system of medical and sanitary services here began only in 1946. Before this there was no Soviet healthcare in the region. Provision of the region with the necessary personnel, materials and medicines remained extremely insufficient until the summer of 1947, prompting local authorities to make maximum use of local resources.
Despite the achievements in building a primary education and medical infrastructure, there was a vast number of problems that were to be solved next decade. There were lots of small settlements in the region, including farmsteads, often very distant from district centres. This caused additional difficulties in forming an accessible network of healthcare institutions, and contributed to the creation of numerous underfilled schools, poorly provided with material resources and pedagogical staff. There was a shortage of specialists in both the education and healthcare systems. The material and domestic problems were very acute, particularly in 1945—1947.
The first difficulty we are experiencing is the complete lack of transport in the district healthcare. We do not have a car for the whole Primorsky district, so we cannot evacuate the sick. When we need to take a patient to the city, we have to use random vehicles and thus spread the infection.
From the speaking of E.A. Gerasimova, a chief doctor of Zelenogradsk, at the Regional Meeting of the activists of medical personnel (21 March 1950)
State Archive of the Kaliningrad Oblast. Fond R-233, list 6, file 22, page 46.
Infectious morbidity remained widespread and child and especially infant mortality rates were higher than in many other parts of the country. Most of the deaths in the second half of the 1940s were children and adolescents. The development of industry and agriculture in the region led to an increase in the number of accidents and injuries.
There was painstaking work to be done to turn healthcare into an effective instrument for improving welfare of the population

Popular education as an engine of progress

In the 1950s the USSR began to implement a plan of transition to universal obligatory seven-year (later — to eight-year) education, so primary schools in the region were massively transformed into middle schools, the number of secondary schools more than doubled. By the end of the decade more than half of the pupils (their number increased from 73 to 112 thousand) were already studying in secondary schools.
Pupils in 7th form of the Kalinin orphanage
In the 1950s the practice of establishing schools for working and rural youth continued: by the end of the 1950s there were 74 such schools, which educated about 13 thousand people. The establishment of boarding schools began in 1957 in order to gradually eliminate underfilled schools that were specific for the region; from 1960 some schools created extended day groups, which became a mass phenomenon next decade.
The problem of staff shortage was being gradually solved, and the region completely switched to training its own specialists in public education. During the 1960—1961 school year there were 5 879 teachers, many of whom had received state awards and honorary titles.

Elizaveta I. Kovalyova


Since 1928 she worked as a primary school teacher, and as a deputy principal in the schools of Moscow and Kaluga regions since 1935.

After the war she moved to the Kaliningrad region. From 1948 to 1967 she was a headmaster of the primary school in Pushkarevo, Chernyakhovsky district.

For 15 years she was the head of the teaching council of primary school teachers of the district. In 1966 she was awarded the title of Hero of Socialist Labour with the Order of Lenin and the golden medal "Hammer and Sickle" for services to education. She retired in 1967.

Students from the region in Zelenogradsk
In the 1950s, a network of 13 specialised secondary schools (energy, pulp and paper, Soviet trade, shipbuilding, etc.) and colleges (maritime, medical, cultural, and pedagogical) was formed in the region.

Early in the decade higher education was represented only by the Kaliningrad State Pedagogical Institute (KSPI) with 421 students in 1950 and already 1970 students in 1958. In 1959, in addition to the two faculties, a third one, pedagogy and elementary education methodology, was opened.

The transfer of the Technical Institute for Fishery Industry from Moscow to Kaliningrad in 1958 was quite an event for the region. During the first years about 4 thousand people studied at seven faculties of the institute. According to the regional party leaders, the institute was given "the best buildings of the city", the total area of which was three times larger than that occupied by the institute in Moscow. In 1959—1960 the government provided an additional 9 million rubles for additional equipment of old laboratories and deployment of new ones. First young specialists graduated from the Kaliningrad Technical Institute in 1960, and in 1962 the training of foreign specialists, the first of whom were from Cuba — the founders of the fish industry in "Liberty Island", began. The establishment of a leading centre for professional education of fishery specialists in Kaliningrad became an additional factor in development of the fishery sector of its economy.

The Kaliningrad Medical School trained specialists for healthcare. However, higher medical education did not appear in the region during the Soviet period. The initiative to establish a medical institute in Kaliningrad was put forward twice by the regional authorities and both times they received a reasoned refusal from the republican and union authorities: there were several medical institutes in the nearest regions and republics, which were ready to accept applicants from the Kaliningrad region, and graduates of these institutes would satisfy the demand of the region for medical personnel.

There were not only civilian, but also military educational institutions in the region. One of them, the Baltic Higher Naval School (founded in 1948), gave the first officers graduated in 1952. Andrei Zhdanov Military Engineering School (holding the Order of the Red Banner and the Order of Lenin) was transferred to Kaliningrad from Leningrad in 1960 (since 1965 it has been a higher education institution). One of the largest talent foundries of the USSR engineering troops was located in the regional centre (the village of Borisovo).

Healthcare at a steady pace

The 1950s were a time of further quantitative development of the healthcare system and a period of considerable growth in the quality and efficiency of its functioning. During the decade, state expenditures allocated annually to the development of regional medicine and sanitary affairs more than doubled. The supply of the region with medicines, medical equipment and inventory increased sharply, and the situation with the staff improved: hundreds of young specialists, dozens of experienced doctors and healthcare system organizers were sent to the region.
Nurses, 1950s
The skill level of medical personnel in Kaliningrad was gradually improving. Innovative methods of treating patients became more widely used, complex operations on the lungs and abdomen were carried out more frequently, new methods of anaesthesia and X-ray therapy were used, and a wide range of antimicrobial medicines was introduced. With an increase in the number of operations, the post-operative mortality rate declined.
The decree of the Kaliningrad Regional Executive Committee of 2 March 1955 on the transfer of the school building to a tuberculosis dispensary
By the early '60s the region was well on the way to becoming one of Russia’s leaders in terms of the number of doctors and hospital beds available.
Substantial resources were mobilized to solve children’s health problems: the number of pediatricians increased manifold, in 1952 positions of regional, city and district pediatricians were introduced, large-scale sanitary work in schools and kindergartens was deployed, medical prevention, including vaccination and educational activities, summer recreation on the coast was organized. The regional children’s hospital, opened in Kaliningrad in 1961, has become a centre of highly qualified care for children.

However, the level of medical care for the rural population, including collective farmers, was still far lower than that of the urban population.

Lev M. Shor


Physician and scientist, one of the organisers of regional healthcare system, he graduated from the Leningrad Military Medical Academy in 1944. Lev Shor participated in the Great Patriotic War and, in particular, in the assault on Königsberg. After demobilization he stayed in the region and worked as a chief of medical service of the Kaliningrad pulp and paper plant-2, a head of health department of the Executive Committee of the city of Chernyahovsk. Since 1950 until 1954 he was a chief doctor of the regional hospital and a chief surgeon of the region from 1957 to 1987. In 1957 Lev Shor was awarded the title of Honoured Physician of the RSFSR. A Doctor of Medicine.

In the 1950s mortality from infectious diseases was significantly reduced through comprehensive concerted efforts. Early in the decade a turning point was reached in the fight against malaria as one of the most widespread infectious diseases of the first post-war years. Up to 1950 there were thousands of new cases, in 1951 — already hundreds, and since 1957 — dozens. In the early 1960s there were only isolated cases.

However, the success in the control of typhoid, typhus, malaria and tularaemia was accompanied by serious failure in the dysentery control. One reason for this was the difficult sanitary situation in a number of towns in the region and in some areas of Kaliningrad.
By the early 1960s infectious diseases remained a massive phenomenon and one of the chief causes of death among both adults and children. However, a general improvement in the material and living conditions of citizens, the development of preventive measures and the widespread introduction of antibiotics into medical practice led to a considerable reduction in the morbidity rates of infectious diseases and, most importantly, in mortality. In the 1950s the structure of mortality in the region took on its more current guise as mortality rates of elderly people came to prevail.

Intermediate results

The Kaliningrad region was entering a new decade with an already established system of public education and healthcare institutions, which met state-wide criteria and requirements. As archive documents testify, not all the urgent problems were successfully resolved. There was still to consolidate schools, to build dozens of new model school buildings, and to move towards universal secondary education after all. There were still no city multispecialty hospital and port hospital, tuberculosis morbidity rates remained high. The number of elderly people with cardio-vascular pathologies and cancer, which required difficult and expensive treatment, was gradually growing. Citizens' demands for medical services were rising. However, the achievements of the first fifteen years gave hope that the educators and medical officers, organisers and leaders of the social sphere would be able to provide a worthy response to the challenges of the future.