Rosenthal, Tatiana (1885-1921)

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Tatiana Rosenthal, a Russian psychoanalyst, physician, and specialist in neurology, was born in Saint Petersburg in 1885 and committed suicide there in 1921. Coming from a Jewish family, she emerged from childhood with an uneasy disposition coupled with a passionate temperament. During the Russian revolution of 1905, she embraced the cause of the workers' movement. In 1906 she settled in Zurich, where she studied medicine. When she read The Interpretation of Dreams (Freud, 1900a), she was inspired with the idea of combining the ideas of Freud and Marx.

After she finished her studies, she moved to Vienna. She became a member of the Vienna Psychoanalytic Society in 1911, and the following year she began to attend the Wednesday meetings. After the outbreak of World War I, she returned to Saint Petersburg and the Psychoneurological Institute there, devoting considerable energy to interesting Vladimir Bechterev, head of the institute, in psychoanalysis. Fighting to have psychoanalysis used in the education of children, she was a precursor of Vera Schmidt at the Moscow Detski dom (Children's Home). In 1919 she became director of the polyclinic for the treatment of psychoneuroses attached to Psychoneurological Institute. In 1920 she was appointed director of the clinic for neuropathic children.

One year later Rosenthal, mother of a young child, committed suicide. Her death at her own hand becomes less enigmatic when placed in its historical context: Bolshevism, having repressed the workers' strikes in Saint Petersburg and crushed the Cronstadt uprising, was beginning to show its terrorist face. Her suicide, at the age of thirty-six, may have been the reaction of a personality whose idealism was strained to breaking point.

Rosenthal's only published work is the essay "Stradanie i tvortchestvo v Dostoïevskoni" (Suffering and creation in Dostoyevski), published in Russian in 1920 in the journal Voprosi psychologiu litschnosty. The second part of this essay and two other articles, on war neuroses and Alfred Adler's individual psychology, have never been published. In her Dostoyevski essay, Rosenthal dealt with the psychology of the artist and unconscious influences in the genesis of artistic work. To do so, she had to clarify what psychoanalysis can contribute to understanding works of art. For Rosenthal, certain insufficiently sublimated pathological components of the artist's psychology detract from artistic works. Dostoyevsky's three youthful novels are a case in point.

Anna Maria Accerboni

See also: Germany; Russia/USSR.


Accerboni-Pavanello, Anna Maria. (1992). Tatiana Rosenthal: Une brève saison analytique. Revue internationale d'histoire de la psychanalyse, 5, 95-109.

Neidisch, S. (1921). Dr Tatiana Rosenthal, Petersburg. Internationale Zeitschrift für Psychoanalyse, 7, 384-385.

Rosenthal, Tatiana. (1920). Stradanie i tvortchestvo v Dostoïevskoni. Voprosy psychologiu litschnosti.