The trial of the pest doctors in 1953 affected not only Moscow medical luminaries. One of the defendants in the case was the Kharkiv doctor Victor Kogan-Yasnyi, a world-famous scientist, the creator of domestic insulin.
Victor Kogan was born on July 16, 1889 in Poltava. Although his parents were not rich, they were able to send him to the First Poltava Gymnasium, and then to Kharkiv University. Kharkiv University was considered one of the best in the Russian Empire. Here, as in other cities, there was also a quota for Jewish students, but it was easier to enter than in the capitals.
Kogan chose the Natural department of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. In the course of his studies, he became interested in microbiology and in 1910 decided to transfer to the Faculty of Medicine. Along with his studies, he worked in the chemical and bacteriological laboratory of Kharkiv University, where he headed the chemical and microscopic department. Victor completed courses in food hygiene, and after graduation, he supplemented his education with courses in bacteriology.
In 1914, the First World War broke out. Victor was drafted into the army, and went through the whole war as a regimental doctor. He returned from the front in 1918 and discovered a civil war and a typhus epidemic. Victor Kogan immediately rushed to work. He became a resident of the Petr Shatilov clinic, and worked on a voluntary basis in the All-Ukrainian Scientific Commission for the fight against typhus. During the epidemic, he and his comrades decided to take a bold step - they tested on themselves a new anti-typhoid vaccine. All doctors survived.
Despite the enormous workload in the clinic, Victor Kogan did not leave science. In the same year, 1918, he and his comrades created the journal “Medical Business” (“Vrachebnoe Delo”). He himself chose and prepared materials for publication: he wrote and translated many of the articles. “Vrachebnoe Delo” was the only medical journal in Russia that appeared regularly throughout the difficult year of 1918.
In 1922, Victor Kogan became an assistant of the Faculty of Therapy Clinic of the Kharkiv Medical Institute, and in the same year he was Appointed Commissioner of the People’s Commissariat of Public Health of the USSR and the Red Cross for examination of Ukrainian starving provinces. After much travel and research, he published On Hunger.
He was engaged in research on insulin, a hormone of the pancreas. In 1922, two young scientists in Canada – Frederick Banting and Charles Best – managed to isolate this hormone. Victor Kogan made the same invention only a year later. It was a real scientific breakthrough: thanks to Victor, the USSR did not need imported insulin.
In 1924, the young scientist defended his thesis for the degree of Doctor of Clinical Medicine. The dissertation was devoted to the preparation, physiological action and application of insulin. The Ukrainian expert scientific commission under the People's Commissariat for Health of the Ukrainian SSR awarded her a special prize.
At the same time, Victor Kogan received the title of assistant professor and began lecturing on clinical endocrinology at the Kharkov Medical Institute. In his medical practice, he used insulin not only for the treatment of diabetes mellitus. He found that insulin helps with Graves' disease, gastric ulcer and duodenal ulcer, liver disease, bronchial asthma and even pneumonia. Now he signed his studies as Kogan-Yasnyi. There were many Kogans, including among scientists, and Victor did not want to be confused with others. The second part of the surname – Yasnyi – he took from his wife's surname.
In 1930, under the leadership of Victor Kogan-Yasnyi in Kharkiv, a separate endocrinological clinic with scientific laboratories and dispensaries was opened. In the same year, Victor was elected professor and became the head of the department of the Kharkiv Medical Institute. Ten years later, in 1940, Victor was elected chairman of the Kharkiv Medical Society, and in 1941 he was awarded the title of Honored Scientist of the Ukrainian SSR.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Kharkiv Medical Institute was evacuated to the city of Frunze (today Bishkek), where Kogan-Yasnyi opened the city's first therapeutic clinic. He did not stay in evacuation in Kyrgyzstan for long. In 1943, Kogan-Yasnyi was summoned to Moscow. He was offered to head the therapeutic clinic of the Moscow Regional Clinical Research Institute, the main goal of which was to develop measures to help the wounded and sick at different stages of medical evacuation. After the end of the war, Victor returned to the Kharkiv Medical Institute, and was appointed chief physician of the Ministry of Health of the Ukrainian SSR.
Since about winter of 1950, clouds began to gather over the head of the Kharkiv scientist. Victor Kogan-Yasnyi, by virtue of his origin, was an ideal target in the fight against cosmopolitanism. Kogan-Yasnyi was accused of self-promotion, of publishing articles by his son-in-law, associate professor Leonid Flanchik, on the pages of the press organ of the Ministry of Health of the Ukrainian SSR “without scientific and practical value”. Kharkiv Regional Committee proposed to the Kiev leadership to release Kogan-Yasnyi from the post of the executive editor of “Medical business” (“Vrachebnoye delo”).
Victor was forced to apply for resignation for health reasons. From the beginning of April 1950, his magazine “moved” to Kiev, the brainchild of Kogan-Yasnyi was given into the wrong hands.
And three years later, on February 7, 1953, Kogan-Yasnyi was arrested in the “case of pest doctors”. He was accused of nationalist activities and medical sabotage. His grandson wrote about this process many years later: “Victor was imprisoned in Kharkiv, where he lived and worked, and created a clinic, was imprisoned on charges that are standard for all defendants in the “doctors' case”, with minor adjustments. The first being that he was charged with an attempt to kill not Stalin, but others. The second feature was that he was arrested by a person he knew very well. Thirdly, they released him about two months later than the Moscow professors, and then they never returned his department. Grandfather was accused, in particular, of being an agent of the famous “Joint”.
Round-the-clock interrogations lasted three months. In prison, he was shaved bald, beaten and called simply by his name, as if he was not a world-renowned scientist. In addition to his involvement in the “Joint”, he was accused of “killing the sick with camphor” and slandering the soldiers of the Soviet army. The fact is that at one of the lectures Kogan-Yasnyi told the students about a soldier who fell ill with Graves' disease from fear – a fact that denigrates the high rank of a Soviet serviceman. Then they remembered that in 1930 he “published a work on the pathology of the endocrine system in Jews from a racist, nationalist position”. That in his home library he kept books of a nationalist nature: “The History of the Jewish People”, Bialik's “Tales, Parables, Sayings of the Talmud and Midrash”, Dobrushin's book “Benjamin Zuskin”... From bourgeois nationalism the investigation gradually reached the slander of Soviet power – at the 2nd All-Union Congress of Doctors, Kogan-Yasnyi blamed the Soviets for the famine that broke out in the country.
In the second half of March 1953, a wide-open trial was being prepared against Kogan-Yasnyi and other Kharkiv doctors – it was synchronized with the Moscow case of pest doctors. And only Stalin's death prevented new victims. In order to somehow justify their actions, the KGB dropped the charge of sabotage from Kogan-Yasnyi, but convicted him under a criminal article. But on March 27, 1953, in accordance with the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, all criminals fell under the amnesty. The case against Victor was dropped, and on May 1, 1953, he was released on the personal instructions of Lavrentiy Beria. However, the scientist was not reinstated in the party, he could not return to his department. Only after long ordeals he was given the head of the department of prevention of internal diseases at the institute. In spite of everything, he continued his scientific work - in the last years of his life, Kogan-Yasnyi published the monograph “Diabetes mellitus” (1957), co-authored the popular scientific publications “Gout” (1957) and “Endocrine Glands” (1958)...
In 1958, on the day of the 69th anniversary of Kogan-Yasnyi, the telephone was broken all day: everyone wanted to congratulate the professor on the holiday. And suddenly, once again picking up the phone, Victor darkened - they called from the city housing department: an official told the professor that the size of his apartment was too large and therefore the question of relocating the family to a smaller living space would be decided. In the evening of that day, Kogan-Yasnyi had a heart attack, and a few days later, on July 20, 1958, he died. A huge number of people came to the funeral of the scientist – students, colleagues and patients, whom Victor cured.
His merits have not been forgotten. In 2011, the Russian Diabetes Association (RDA) posthumously elected Victor Kogan-Yasnyi as its honorary member.
1889 – 1958