Bekhterev, Vladimir

Bekhterev, Vladimir Mikhailovich


Born Jan. 20 (Feb. 1), 1857, in the village of Sorali, Viatka Province; died Dec. 24, 1927, Moscow. Soviet neuropathologist, psychiatrist, psychologist, physiologist, and morphologist.

Bekhterev was graduated from the Medical-Surgical Academy in 1878. From 1885 he was the head of the subdepartment of psychiatry at the University of Kazan, where he was the first to create a psychophysiological laboratory and where he founded (1893) Nevrologicheskii vestnik (Neurology Journal) and the Kazan Society of Neuropathologists and Psychiatrists. From 1893, Bekhterev was a professor at the Military Medical Academy in St. Petersburg; from 1897, professor at the Medical Institute for Women; from 1908, director of the Psychoneurological Institute, which he had organized; in 1918 he became head of the Institute for the Study of the Brain and Psychic Activity, which had been organized on his initiative (later the V. M. Bekhterev National Reflexology Institute for the Study of the Brain).

The problem of man was at the center of Bekhterev’s scientific interests. He saw its solution in the creation of a broad doctrine of personality which would become the basis for man’s education and his overcoming his behavioral anomalies. At first Bekhterev tried to construct such a doctrine on the basis of a search for a complex approach to the anatomical, physiological, and psychological study of the brain (Ob”ektivnaia psikhologiia [Objective Psychology], 1904; Psikhorefleksologiia [Psychoreflexology], 1910); later, by an attempt to create a complex science of man and society—reflexology (Refleksologiia, 1918)—which, according to Bekhterev, must be armed with a single natural-scientific method of research. Bekhterev believed that a system of knowledge about man must be constructed objectively on the basis of the study of man’s relations to his surrounding physical, biological, and especially social world. In a number of instances Bekhterev’s general theoretical constructs have been rated as vulgar-materialistic errors (attempts to extend the action of the laws of universal gravitation, energy conversion, and so on to social and psychic phenomena), generating criticism of his concepts in Soviet literature as well. By the end of the 1920’s his concepts had lost their significance.

Bekhterev’s major contribution to science was his work in the 1890’s in brain morphology. He made wide use of the concept of the nervous reflex, and he created the term “combinative-motor reflex” to describe the complex forms of reflex activity. Bekhterev’s work of over 20 years’ duration on sex education, early infant behavior, and hypnotic suggestion occupies an important place in his scientific legacy. He discovered the conductive paths of the spinal column and the brain and established the anatomical and physiological bases of equilibrium and orientation in space, the functions of the thalamus, and the motor and secretory centers of internal organs. He described a number of previously unknown brain formations. Bekhterev was the first to distinguish a number of characteristic reflexes, symptoms, and syndromes which are important in the diagnosis of nervous diseases. He described a number of illnesses and methods of treating them.


Osnovy ucheniia o funktsiiakh mozga. St. Petersburg, 1903–07.
Ob” ektivnaia psikhologiia. St. Petersburg, 1907–10.
Psikhika i zhizn’, 2nd ed. St. Petersburg, 1904.
Obshchaia diagnostika boleznei nervnoi sistemy, parts 1–2. St. Petersburg, 1911–15.
Kollektivnaia refleksologiia. Petrograd, 1921.
Obshchie osnovy refleksologii cheloveka. Moscow-Petrograd, 1923.
Provodiashchie puti spinnogo i golovnogo mozga. Moscow-Leningrad, 1926.
Mozg i deiatel’nost. Moscow-Leningrad, 1928.
Izbr. proizv. Moscow, 1954.


Osipov, V. P. Bekhterev. Moscow, 1947.
Miasishchev, V. N. “K 100-letiiu so dnia rozhdeniia V. M. Bekhtereva (1857–1957).” Zhurnal nevrologii i psikhiatrii im. Korsakova, 1957, vol. 57, issue 1. Page 314.
Petrovskii, A. V. Istoriia sovetskoi psikhologii. Moscow, 1967.