Russian romances: Emotionalism and spirituality in the writings of "eastern front" nurses, 1914-1918

Christine Hallett

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The nursing work of the First World War is usually associated with the trench warfare of the Western Front. Nurses were based within fairly permanent casualty clearing stations and field hospitals, and patients were moved "down the line" to base hospitals, and then to convalescent hospitals "at home." The nurses and volunteers who worked on the Eastern Front and offered their services to the letuchka or "flying columns" of the Russian medical services had a very different experience. They worked with highly mobile units, following a rapidly moving "front line." The diaries of three British (one Anglo-Russian) nurses who worked alongside Russian nursing sisterhoods in three different flying columns - Violetta Thurstan [Field Hospital and Flying Column), Florence Farmborough (With the Armies of the Tsar) and Mary Britnieva (One Woman's Story) - stand as an important corpus of nursing writing. Written in a highly romantic style, they take up similar themes around their work on the Eastern Front as a heroic journey through a dreamlike landscape. Each nurse offers a portrayal of the Russian character as fine and noble. The most important themes deal with the romance of nursing itself, in which nursing work is portrayed as both character-testing and a highly spiritual pursuit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)101-128
Number of pages28
JournalNursing History Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2009
Externally publishedYes


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