Winter 1995 (3.4)
Baku's "Doctor Spock"
by Fuad Akhundov
Dr. Yevsey Guindes, might well be called Baku's "Doctor Spock" for the active role he took in the medical, psychological and pedagogical welfare of children in the early part of this century. Born in Kiev in 1872, Guindes moved to Baku on the wave of the "Oil Boom" when thousands of newcomers from all over the world were flocked to this city.
His career in pediatrics began in 1905 when he was selected by the Council of Baku Oil-Producers to become the first director of factory clinics in Baku's industrial section called "Black Town".
These clinics became a sort of laboratory for his scientific research focusing on children's diseases. Soon he published "The Mothers' Guidebook on Children's Diseases". In 1907, he began establishing Day Care Nurseries for infants from poor families. In 1911, he established the Baku branch of the "Russian League for Combating Tuberculosis among Children."
His next idea was to create "Milk Drop Clinics" throughout the city and suburbs under the auspices of the "Society for Combating Infantile Mortality". These clinics treated children entirely with dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cream. In 1913, the "Society of the Baby Clinics" was founded and contributions from thousands of Bakuites enabled Dr. Guindes to construct a new Children's Hospital. Guindes directed this hospital for ten years and later transformed it into the "Institute of Maternity and Childhood".
In 1918, when the Russian Empire collapsed, Azerbaijan formed the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan. Guindes was one of its first Ministers of Health. However, the post was short-lived, he only served from December 1918-March 1919. By 1920 the Soviets had taken over Azerbaijan. During the Soviet period, Guindes had to try to downplay his involvement with the Democratic movement. It was only his overwhelming popularity as the "Babies' God" of Baku that saved him from exile and execution which happened to millions of innocent people.
In 1928, Guindes again showed his innovativeness by organizing summer sanatorias for children-the first in the Caucasus. He turned one of the pre-revolutionary ships into a floating sanatorium for children who were infected with tuberculosis and blood and bone diseases. The program became a huge summertime clinic for hundreds of sick children.
Guindes' work and writings always stressed the relationship between the mind and body. "No success can be achieved in the physiological treatment of children unless their psychology is taken into consideration and given due attention."
Another of his concerns was the juvenile delinquency that broke out in Baku in the early 1920s. So many crimes in the Soviet Union were being committed by children and teenagers that it was considered a national disaster. Millions of children had been orphaned and made homeless from the revolutions and civil wars. They resorted to crime out of sheer survival. In 1921, Guindes became the Chairman of the "Ad Hoc Commission Combating Juvenile Delinquency" and opened a Foundation called "Open House" for the homeless children and juveniles which provided them a safe haven to share their sorrow and grief. His observations and experiences were set down in "Delinquency Among Juveniles".
"We are the ones who are guilty of our children's criminality," he wrote. "The more concern, attention and warmth that we give, the fewer problems of delinquency and offenses. But we must look at this problem from a public, not only humanitarian, perspective. The more funds we can designate for schools and education now, the lower our costs will be for prisons and reformatory institutions in the future."
Guindes died in 1954, leaving a legacy of more than 160 monographs and scientific works which were published in Russian, Azeri and even in French. Some of them, such as "Advice for Mothers" and "Healthy and Sickly Baby" were reprinted several times.
Fuad Akhundov regularly writes features about the historical personalities in Baku.
From Azerbaijan International (3.4) Winter 1995.
© Azerbaijan International 1995. All rights reserved.