Weak state-controlled disease prevention in peripheral border regions
Austrian Bukovina and Dalmatia in the late nineteenth century
in Medicalising borders
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The chapter investigates two particular cases of centre–periphery relations in the shaping of epidemic prevention efforts. It covers the period 1860–1910 looking at the state disease control measures within Bukovina and Dalmatia. Bukinova, at the time, was in the easternmost part of the Austrian Empire, bordering Russia and Romania, while Dalmatia was the southernmost region, then bordering Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro and the Adriatic. Both regions were comparatively poor and marked significantly by pre-modern social and cultural structures. The implementation of planned measures against the spread of epidemics such as cholera and smallpox, as instructed by the Viennese central government, ran into serious obstacles. A considerable number of people held alternative views on the causes of epidemic illnesses and their prevention or treatment (and even on the desirability of a state health policy at all) and these differed remarkably from the ideas of the medically educated elites within the state bureaucracy, responsible for designing public health policy. There was major dissent over both a collective spending of financial resources and the governmental intentions relating to restrictions on everyday life. In a significant instance, the tiny group of Lipovans in Bukovina – who lived according to the ‘ancient customs’ of the Orthodox Church – managed to avoid most measures against a smallpox epidemic for several years, above all, resisting vaccination. In 1898 this led to the death of more than 150 community members, mostly children of a young age, and a mortality rate much higher than in the rest of the province.

Medicalising borders

Selection, containment and quarantine since 1800

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