The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

Categories: Health and Medicine

Sleep through anything, even the revolution. This can be seen in the example of Ivan Kuzmich Kachalkin, who fell into a dream under the tsar, and woke up in Soviet Russia. However, Ivan's sleep was specific – it can be called strong, but hardly healthy. Lethargy struck a nervous young man after the bloody events that shook the Russian Empire, but what he saw when he opened his eyes years later, he liked even less.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

Contemporaries described Ivan Kachalkin as an extremely impressionable man with firm monarchist views. He was deeply affected by the shocks that fell on Russia at the end of the 19th century: the tragic death of Emperor Alexander II in 1881, and then the illness and death of Tsar Alexander III in 1894.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

In 1896, a resident of the Altai village, Ivan Kachalkin, who was sick with his soul for his country, first fell into an inexplicable restless state, and then fell asleep. His sleep lasted for a long 22 years, despite the fact that the luminaries of Russian, European, and then Soviet science tried to wake up Kachalkin.

He received food with the help of a gastric tube, and he fulfilled his natural needs unconsciously. Kachalkin was transported from his native village, first to the county town, and then to the metropolitan clinic. A post was equipped near a serious patient, where nurses were constantly on duty.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

Modern experts in the field of neurology and psychiatry argue that the cause of a person falling into a lethargic sleep can be stress accumulated over a long time. The body seems to get tired of suffering and turns on a protective mechanism that slows down all life processes. There is also an opinion that lethargy becomes a complication of a poorly studied form of schizophrenia.

Almost always, lethargic sleep is preceded by stress, depression, gloomy thoughts, obsessive states and uncertainty about the future. If you believe the relatives and friends of the unfortunate Ivan Kachalkin, then this was exactly his case. Despite the fact that the processes in the body of the sleeper were slowed down and even almost imperceptible, it was obvious to everyone that Ivan was not dead, but asleep.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

For the first two years, Kachalkin showed some signs of life, for example, he could open his eyes a little or move his hand a little. But in 1898, all these actions stopped, and Ivan became completely motionless and unresponsive to any stimulus. It was the most severe lethargy known to Russian science – the patient's body temperature dropped, the skin became deathly pale, and breathing, pulse and heartbeat were barely determined.

When Kachalkin woke up, he said that for all 22 years he was aware that he was in a hospital ward and even heard the conversations of the medical staff. But Ivan could not give a signal that he was conscious, because he completely lost control of his body. The patient told with amazing accuracy about the events that took place around him, but at the same time claimed that because of the "irresistible heaviness in the muscles" he could not even blink an eye.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

Ivan Kuzmich Kachalkin became a real sensation and scientists from Germany, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain, and the Netherlands came to see him. The genius of Russian medicine, physiologist Ivan Petrovich Pavlov, showed great interest in the unusual patient. For the first time, the scientist saw the patient after the revolution, in 1918, when Kachalkin awoke. He wrote about this in his diary as follows:

Kachalkin became a patient of Pavlov and with his help, the Russian physiologist was able to illustrate many of the provisions of his famous theory of sleep. The scientist believed that sleep causes the processes of inhibition in the nervous system, and wakefulness is the processes of arousal. The entire activity of the human nervous system consists of the alternation of these two processes, but there are exceptions.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

If the brain decides to protect itself from nervous exhaustion, it triggers a protective reaction, slowing down all vital processes and plunging a person into a deep sleep. Lethargy is the most extreme form of such a protective sleep. Today, doctors are sure that if Kachalkin had not been handed over to specialists, but left at home in the village, he would not have been able to live for a couple of weeks and would have died of hunger and improper care.

People called a lethargic dream "sleepyhead" and were sure that the state was associated with the journey of the soul to the afterlife. Such patients were treated with spells, prayers and holy water. They could also take the patient to the bath and steam him properly, which he might not survive. Sometimes, to awaken the sleeper, a real fire of hemp was made on his chest.

Thanks to the care of doctors and nurses, Kachalkin lived in a state of lethargy for 22 years and woke up in a completely new world. The Russian Empire no longer existed, the sovereign Emperor Nicholas II abdicated and was spoken of as a villain, the power formally belonged to the people, but the Bolsheviks in leather jackets with Mauser belts ruled everything.

The story of Ivan Kachalkin, who fell asleep in the Russian Empire and woke up in Soviet Russia

After his miraculous awakening, Ivan Kuzmich did not live very long and in September 1918 he suddenly died of a heart attack. The cause of the man's death was not only global changes in the surrounding world, but also poor health. During the years of lying motionless, his organs almost atrophied and could not cope with the increased load after waking up.

Ivan could not return to a full-fledged life – he could hardly get out of bed without help and walked very slowly, leaning on crutches. Even Kachalkin had to eat with outside help – he could only digest specially prepared liquid food, which he swallowed in small portions. However, at the time of his death, Ivan Kuzmich was already fully 60 years old, which could be considered quite an advanced age by the standards of the early 20th century.

Keywords: Health and medicine | Illness | Sleep | Patients | Revolution | Depression | Mental disorders

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