Ossipov, Nikolai Legrafovitch (1877-1934)

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Nikolai Ossipov, a Russian physician and dean of Moscow University and Charles University of Prague, was born on October 12, 1877, in Moscow and died in Prague on February 19, 1934.

The only son of a respected physician, he was brought up in a very cultured family. In 1897 he graduated summa cum laude from the best lycée in Moscow and immediately enrolled in the medical faculty of Moscow University. In 1899 he was suspected of taking part in a student brawl, imprisoned, and expelled from university. He then went abroad to continue his studies in Germany and Switzerland. He presented his doctoral thesis in histology before Kaufmann in Basel and graduated as a physician on November 16, 1904.

That same year he returned to Moscow and worked in the university histology department, as well as in the municipal psychiatric hospital (Preobechensk ). In 1906 he followed Vladimir Serbski to the Moscow University psychiatric clinic and definitively abandoned histology.

In 1907 Ossipov began to study Freud's work and spent some time with Jung. In his Mémoires he describes himself as the first to popularize Freud in Russia and he was the founder of Russian psychoanalytic terminology. His first work in the discipline (1908) consisted of inventories of Freud's previously published works. His first personal publication dates from 1910, the year when he visited Freud in Vienna and founded the collection "The Psychotherapeutic Library." He was also the cofounder of a psychotherapeutic outpatient unit in the University Clinic in which psychoanalytic techniques were applied without restriction. In 1911 he was elected president of the Moscow Psychoanalytic Society. In the same year Ossipov, Serbski, and most of their colleagues left the university in protest against restrictions on autonomy decreed by Kasso, the Minister for Education. Ossipov then set up in private practice. In 1912, a psychoanalytically-informed seminar was organized under the name of "little Fridays," with Serbski as president and Ossipov acting as secretary during the sessions.

After the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 he fled his beloved Moscow, lived in Southern Russia and, in 1921, continued his flight via Istanbul to Prague. His scientific and teaching skills were recognized in Czechoslovakia. In 1922 he was offered a post as professor of psychiatry in Masaryk University at Brno. The ever-conscientious and modest Ossipov declined to accept the position, claiming an insufficient knowledge of the language and socio-cultural conditions of the country. He did, however, accept a position as director of the psychiatric outpatient clinic at Charles University and lectured there on psychoanalysis.

He privately built up a stable work group consisting ofémigré Russian students and physicians whom he trained in psychiatry and psychoanalysis. Ossipov always maintained good relations with the Prague psychoanalytic group and in 1931 he and Emmanuel Windholz took the initiative of placing a commemorative plaque, in honor of Freud's seventy-fifth birthday, on the house where he was born in Píbor (Freiberg). For reasons of ill health neither Ossipov nor Freud could personally attend the inauguration, which took place on October 25, 1931. Ossipov was suffering from myocarditis, from which he died in 1934. He was given a solemn burial in the Russian cemetery in Prague.

The author of articles on "Tolstoy's Childhood Memories" (1923) and "Revolution and Dreams" (1931), in the course of his exile Ossipov was published in the Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse and other journals. He corresponded with Freud until his death. As a central figure in the development of psychoanalysis in Russia, he played an active role in having Freud's work published there. Through his actions he also had an influence on the development of the psychoanalytic movement in Czechoslovakia, where his student, Theodor Dosuzkov, managed to keep psychoanalysis alive under both the Nazi and the Communist régimes.

Eugenie Fischer and RenÉ Fischer

See also: Psychoterapia (Psixoterapija-Obozrenie voprosov lecenija i prikladonoj psixologii) ; Russia/USSR.


Ossipov, Nikolai Jegrafovitch. (1908). Psychologische und psychopathologische Einsichten S. Freuds in der deutschen Literatur bis 1907. Zeitschrift für Neuropathologie und Psychiatrie S.S. Korsakowa, 564-584.

. (1912). Das zwanghafte Lächeln. Zeitschrift für Neuropathologie und Psychiatrie S.S. Korsakowa, 4, 3-11.

. (1923). Tolstois Kindheitserinnerungen. Imago, 2, 1-171.

. (1931). Revolution und Traum. Wissenschaftliche Arbeit der russischen Universität in Prag, 4, 175-203.