Pirogov's life (1810–1881) coincided with the "golden age of Russian literature" which dated roughly from 1820 to 1880. This was also the time of many historic upheavals and tragic events which were to have a profound influence on Pirogov personally as well as on the Russia whose ardent patriot he was.
Questions of Life records Pirogov's observations, reactions to events of those times and reflections on a multitude of questions such as preventive medicine, the psychological impact of war on soldiers, women's role in society and the wars, women's rights, the role of religion in the state, the origin of the universe, ethical problems of medicine and education, the doctor-patient relationship, and so on.
The diary consists of two parts. The first part reveals Pirogov's innermost thoughts, his views on science, education, philosophy, and his attitude toward life in general. The second part describes some of the important events of his life and the people who were influential in forming his personality and shaping his career.
These two parts of Pirogov's diary give the reader a vitally interesting account of Pirogov the man, a person of unusual talents who was at the same time humbly aware of the limitation s of human nature. The diarist describes the development of his own personality in comparison with that of other people he knew. These were the leading medical personalities, writers, and scholars of his world. This last literary work, Pirogov's diary, is unlike any of his other, scientific works. Here we see the "father of Russian surgery" in a different light. Here he is a thinker, a philosopher, a scholar who displays almost encyclopedic scope of knowledge.
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