home    presentation    news   essays     bibliography  links                The following biographical notes are to be re-examined because the author (Dr. Giuseppe Leo) has got new informations about Tatiana Rosenthal, coming from the "Rektorat" of Zuerich University. In the NEWS page, we are going to take an account of the new findings about her biography.


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About the " Psycho-suiciders"  


About T. Rosenthal's biography  


About T. Rosenthal's essays




  Photo: Sabine Spielrein



  Photo: V. M. Bechterev

Photo:  Bechterev during a hypnosis seance.
  Photo: a picture from Cronstadt insurrection (1921)


  Photo: a portrait of Dostoevsky  

Photo: A. Luria



Text written by Giuseppe Leo on Jan. 5, 2006 and revised on Sept., 2, 2008

Ich hiess Tatiana Rosenthal 

Tatiana Rosenthal was born in 1884 at S. Petersburgh, coming from a jewish family. Since her youth she was said  she was very intellectually gifted, together with a restless and appassionate temperament. During the first russian revolution (1905), she fought for workers' movement cause, as president of the student associations of Moscow. Though her political engagement makes her interrupt her studies several times, in 1906 she decided and went to Zurich in order to begin studying again at University, being uncertain whether she had to enrol in the jurisprudence faculty or in the medical one. She chose the study of Medicine, afterwards becoming psychiatrist. A certain role in this choice might have had her reading of Freud's "The interpretation of Dreams", which would have led her to think:<<What a harmony could  rise from a common action by Freud and Marx>>1. At Zurich Tatiana Rosenthal might have been fiend of Sabine Spielrein. Sabine was the same age as Tatiana, she attended the medical faculty at Zurich in the same years, and, furthermore, in her diary2 there may be some reference to a jewish friend who was tired of life. In 1911 Tatiana Rosenthal, after graduating in medicine,  came back to St. Petersburgh and took up an unceasing activity of diffusion of  freudian technique over her professional  'entourage'. In 1911/12 her name is included (together with only three other russian ones, Spielrein, Drosnés and Wulff)  in the Wien Psychoanalytical Society members' list. This short stay at Wien has left a trace in the Wien Psychoanalytical Society protocols3. The only source for reconstructing T. Rosenthal's personality is Neidisch's obituary, published in 1921 in the Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse1. A <<complicated>> personality hiding, though her <<firm and strong manners, associated with an outstanding acuteness and clarity of thinking>>, <<an internal, persistent  restlessness, a sensitive soul inclined to a romantic misticism>>1 which is proved by some poems she published in 1917 at S. Petersburgh. In 1919 she achieved the direction of the "Psychoneurosis Treatment Clinic", a section of the "Brain pathology Research Institute"(Institut Mosga), directed by Vladimir Bechterev. In those years Bechterew was a luminary of russian neurology and psychology; even if he had a lot of reservations towards psychoanalysis, that didn't prevent him to trust Tatiana Rosenthal and to appreciate her work with neurotic children. In 1919 she gave a series of conferences on psychoanalysis in the Institute. In 1920 a Center for  psychically impaired children, directed by Tatiana Rosenthal, opened directly under the Education Office (Ministry), what represented a quite successful outcome of Rosenthal's efforts in awakening medical class opinion to the importance of psychoanalysis in mental child disorders. In her pioneer work we can find the basis of what will be the first psychoanalitic nursery school in Europe, the famous "Kinderheim-Laboratorium" in Moskow, created by Vera Schmidt4. In 1920 Tatiana Rosenthal was the only psychoanalist in St. Petersburgh, according Sara Neidisch, and <<she devoted herself with all her forces to the realization of the Center (...). Unfortunately>>  Neidisch admits <<there is a lack of data that doesn't permit to know how her work developped>>. Different 'strange' omissions concern Tatiana Rosenthal's work. For example, during the first Pan-Russian Congress for psychically impaired children treatment (Moscow, 1920), Tatiana Rosenthal made a report ("Importance of freudian doctrine in children's education") in which she maintained the efficacy of psychoanalysis both in the prevention field and in the education one. According to  Sara Neidisch1, the report gave rise to a very animated debate, in a favourable general context (<<im zustimmenden Tone>>). Rosenthal proposed a motion in which she hoped that every educator will make oneself familiar with psychoanalysis. Yet, inexplicably, this motion wasn't ever put to the vote. Jean Marti5 interprets that as the result of <<external pressures in order to stop this direction that could have influenced on the whole educational policy of the government>>. Furhermore, after 1921, Tatiana Rosenthal's name disappears from any account about the state of psychoanalysis in Russia. In 1925, Luria wrote up a report directed to the  psychoanalytical Association of Moscow, he was the secretary, about Leningrad Psychology Institute's works. This report was a synthetical history of russian psychoanalysis since 1907-1908. Yet, he never mentions Tatiana Rosenthal. Jean Marti5 wonders:<<Is that an intentional or an obliged silence? Simple ignorance? Anyhow it's a matter of a symptomatic omission (...)>>. In fact,  Rosenthal's suicide is explained by Marti in a specific historical  context, i.e. during a process in which Bolshevik power was showing its terroristic and repressive face (for example, in the circumstances of St. Petersburgh workers' strike as well as of Cronstadt movement). In other words, Rosenthal's suicide would reveal, according to Marti,  an   exasperated and disillusioned reaction in a high ideal personality. But, anyhow, every suicide holds a mystery, all the more so in the case of very poor biographical sources. And when autobiographical writings, and more generally, autograph documents, as in the case of Tatiana Rosenthal, are quite unfindable. <<She was young (she was thirty-six), gifted, active, happy in her profession, mother of an intelligent child she loved tenderly. She killed herself, victim of a destiny she herself wanted with her own forces>>1.   Finally, some words about her writings. Sara Neidish1 quoted  several papers (for ex., 'Anxiety in war neurosis', and 'Adler's individual psychology'), but only two of them were published: a review about Michalis's  "Das gefaehrliche Alter" and an essay about Dostoevsky7, moreover published on february 1920  in an almost unknown russian journal. In a different section of this web site you can get an account of Rosenthal's published  essays. 


          Bibliographical notes:


(1) S. Neidisch, <<Dr. Tatiana Rosenthal. Petersburg>>, Internationale Zeitschrift fur Psychoanalyse, VII, 1921, pp. 384-85.

(2) A. Carotenuto, Diario di una segreta simmetria, Roma, Astrolabio, 1980.

(3) H. Nunberg, E. Federn (eds.), Protokolle der Wiener Psychoanalitischen Vereinigung, vol. IV, Frankfurt a/m, S. Fischer, 1978.

(4) A. Angelini, La psicoanalisi in Russia, Napoli, Liguori, 1988.

(5) J. Marti, <<La psicoanalisi in Russia e nell'Unione Sovietica dal 1909 al 1930>>, in AA.VV., Critica e storia dell'istituzione psicoanalitica, Roma, Il Pensiero Scientifico Editore, 1978.

(6) T. Rosenthal, <<Karin Michaelis: "Das gefährliche Alter" im Lichte der Psychoanalyse>>, in  Zentalblatt fur Psychoanalyse, 1911, p. 277.

(7) T. Rosenthal, "Sofferenza e creazione in Dostojevskij. Analisi psicogenetica", italian translation by Patrizia Sechi, published in Giornale Storico di Psicologia Dinamica, Vol. XIII gennaio 1989 fascicolo 25, page 33. See also in the same number, A.M. Accerboni, <<Tatjana Rosenthal. Una breve stagione analitica>>, page  6 1.


Last modified:  Sept. 2, 2008

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