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Demonstrations in front of the parliament, Ljubljana, March 23 1993. Photo: Tone Stojko. © Muzej za novejšo zgodovino Slovenije [National Museum of Contemporary History], collection Tone Stojko, inv. n. TS19932303_22.

Workshop Modern Psychiatry in Rural Societies: Southeastern Europe and Scandinavia in Comparison (20th Century), held December 5-6, at the University of Regensburg, was planned to bring together experts dealing with the history of psychiatry. During this two-day workshop, they discussed the similarities and differences between the organization of psychiatric care in the central and peripheral areas of Italy, Croatia and Finland. The time period considered was largely the first half of the 20th century. An exception in this regard was the presentation of reseracher Dr. Jelena Seferović, within which she was engaged in the analysis of the work of the Neuropsychiatric hospital Dr. Ivan Barbot in Popovača during the Socialist Yugoslavia. From her reflection on the chosen topic, and based on comments from other workshop participants, it was found that this hospital functioned as a kind of psychiatric colony. On the one hand, it is significant that it could be characterized as a hospital on the outskirts of Yugoslavia. On the other hand, given the number of patients she was receiving for treatment and the scope of work activities offered as part of occupational therapy, she was deservedly nicknamed the Mali Grad/ Small Town. In other words, it was a peripheral hospital given its geographical location, and by all other characteristics, it could be placed in the category of psychiatric institutions in Yugoslavia of that time, which were located in urban centers. Bearing in mind that this research project focuses on the history of psychiatry in the 20th century in Southeast Europe, the research work that will result from this colaboration will include the results of research on the history of psychiatry in Bosnia and Herzegovina.


Continued research entails reading archives material relating to the functioning of the Neuropsychiatric hospital in Popovača in the late 1960s and during the 1970s. In addition, it involves the analysis of documentation on the activity of the psychiatric department of the “Koševo” General Hospital placed in Sarajevo, which dates from 1910, when it was opened, until the beginning of World War II.


Photo from Postcard Collection of the Moslavina Kutina Museum. Inventory number: 8345-R-136; this is one of the buildings of Neuropsychiatric hospital dr. Ivan Barbot Popovača. This is a castle from the 18th century. It was once owned by the Erdody counts, a famous family. Photo posted with permission from the Museum of Moslavina.


Photo from Postcard Collection of the Moslavina Kutina Museum. Inventory number: 8341-R-132; left part of this postcard shows the city of Popovača and on the right side is hospital above which is written Moslavina Town. Photo posted with permission from the Museum of Moslavina.


Within the workshop, researcher dr. Jelena Seferović will present recent research findings on the activities of the only Croatian neuropsychiatric hospital. Her presentation entitled From “Moslavina Town” to the Neuropsychiatric Hospital: Possibilities and Limitations of Modernizing the Hospital in Popovača in Socialist Yugoslavia will deal with a comparative analysis of hospital everyday life of patients and employees during Second World War and its aftermath with their institutional culture of living in the mature years of socialism in Croatia. From the previous research of the archival material relating to “Popovača” dating back to the 60s, more specifically the period after the dismissal of its first director dr. Ivan Barbot, reveals a critical attitude towards his approach to hospital management. Namely, he was accused that, as it is reported in the regional newspaper Moslavački list in March 1967, “the hospital was until 1963 an abandoned asylum psychiatric institution without the necessary financial base and adequate professional employees and could not have any significant medical effect.” It seems that the second director of “Popovača”, dr. Peter Draganov, improved the organization of the hospital’s activities. Hospital wards and facilities have been renovated. The qualification structure of the employees has been advanced through their additional training and specializations. Also, the number of hospital specialist doctors and other medical professionals increased and its utility standard improved. The foregoing has contributed to changes in patient access and methods of psychiatric treatment. And while “Popovača” used to be known as an infirmary, asylum for the needy from the most backward parts of the country or the “Moslavina Town” due to its agricultural production and animal husbandry, crafts and the sale of its own products outside the hospital, in the late 1960s, the latter was placed in the same category with other psychiatric institution in the SFRY. The accuracy of the previously reported, largely negative connotations of the hospital’s description, is confirmed by the contents of the patient files of patients hospitalized in “Popovača” during and after the Second World War. Controversial aspects of the medical treatment of patients treated at this hospital, the debatable qualifications of employees and their (un)professional attitude towards patients are also evidenced by official documentation dating from the time when dr. Barbot was its director. Continued research assumes the comparative analysis of medical history data of patients treated at Popovača during the 1960s and 1970s with other archival sources, such as newspaper articles and professional publications in the field of psychiatry dating back to the study period.



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