Author (Your Name)

Christine Shu, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Global Studies Program


Paul R. Josephson

Second Advisor

Mary Beth Mills


In St. Petersburg, Russia, two seemingly conflicting health doctrines, western medicine and alternative medicine, play significant roles in residents' health culture. I define alternative medicine as all health practices that use such natural products as herbs, natural honey, water, seeds, berries, and even animal products, and as such unobtrusive body therapies as acupuncture, massage, yoga, or animal therapies. I define western medicine as all treatments that involve the manipulation of ingredients in a chemistry laboratory (such as antibiotics, antiviral drugs, antihistamines. or pain killers) and all body therapies intrusive to the body (such as operations). Through interviews with St. Petersburg women who have completed university-level education, this study examines why alternative medicine continues to exist in St. Petersburg, a modern European city, that offers a free well-established state healthcare system, and more importantly, why so many St. Petersburg residents avoid the western medicine available to them, instead greatly preferring to use alternative medicine. Throughout history, the common Russian has not been able to rely on the state to provide him with adequate health care, so she has had to be self-sufficient. This tradition continues today. How residents negotiate the pluralistic medical society in St. Petersburg reflects a balancing act of a need to feel confident that the medical treatment she undertakes is the healthiest and most effective option available, with a wish for autonomy, pride in self-sufficiency, and a distrust of state-sponsored services.


St. Petersburg, Alternative Medicine, Western Medicine