Talk:Mikhail Bulgakov

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Clarifications of Old Discussions & Issues with the Article[edit]

RE: The dicussion of origins: Russia & Ukraine This seems to be a much debated matter now adays due to the politicized status of the discussion brought on by Russian and Ukrainian relations. An example of political idealogy invading the arts. Historically speaking Russia and Ukraine can be properly regarded as one nation and culture. (I say historically because this is not so anymore). For example if one goes back to 'Slovo o polku Igoreve' what is currently Ukraine is clearly referred to as 'Русь' that is Russia. Historically the capital of Russia was also Kiev it should be said. Essentially the distinction did not exist in the way it does today prior to the split of the Soviet Union, unlike the other countries that made up the U.S.S.R. Ukraine's part in it was quite natural as this is indeed historical Russia. As for Bulgakov given his life, the language he wrote on etc. I think it would be a gross misapprehension to call him a Ukranian author, both because the term does not really and properly exist (at least at the time of his life), he would no doubt consider himself a Russian author (as in his response to the Phone call from Stalin) and further such a label would add certain attributions and referrents that would simply be inaccurately applied. To this end, even the Ukranian wikipidia has him listed as a Russian writer.

Accuracy & Issues: The article states that 'Bulgakov was ambivalent towards Soviet regime' not only is this not sited, but I think this is grossly incorrect. For example Bulgakov's letters were written to the 'Soviet Government' rather than to the politically correct designations of 'Polytbureau' or 'Sovnarcom', furthermore they seem to be quite clearly unrepentant of his inability or refusal to write the communist agenda or the party line. If I have time I'll look into this more and clarify the article properly w/ citations but I though it would be good to point this out to start. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:33, 23 February 2010 (UTC)

Re: I came here to see if anyone else had brought up this point. Writing a play glorifying Stalin, while living in Stalin's shadow, does not show sincere support for the government. Perhaps he supported Soviet /ideals/, but that's a far cry from the Soviet "regime". I'm removing this phrase. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:38, 6 May 2010 (UTC)

Old talk[edit]

Ukranian novelist? I wasn't aware of this. I know he lived in Moscow, and was a favorite of Stalin. How are we classifying Soviet authors, which is what he certainly was? Atorpen 05:22 Jan 24, 2003 (UTC)

Well, he was born in Ukraine... -- Zoe

Yes, he was. Learned more, since posting that rash note. But - I'm going to assert that he was a Soviet author. It may be a situation like that of T.S. Eliot, who eventually became a British citizen, I believe, and is studied in university under both disciplines. Atorpen
When I wrote the article on Laurence Harvey, I said he was "Latvia-born" instead of calling him British. Maybe you could say "Ukraine-born Soviet author"? -- Zoe
Done. AT
Very few of his works were published by the "Soviets", most were banned. I will dig out some of my Bulgakov studies and see if I can improve on this, which is not particularly good, be he Ukranian or Soviet. Ortolan88
I agree. Bulgakov certainly deserves more than he's getting; anyone know if the Russian Wiki has anything we can use? Atorpen
Actually about the publishing thing, most were eventually published between the 60's and late 80's so technically the Soviets did publish his work. Grend3l

Can't he just be a Russian writer? No Italian novelist whose work has been published in the 30s is called a Fascist writer and I never heard of "Nazi writer" or "Weimar writer" labels applied without discrimination to authors from Germany. If by "Soviet literature" we mean the kind of literature that passed the censorship during that period of Russian history, than Bulgakov wrote both Soviet and non-Soviet literature, but, in the first place, he wrote in Russian. Adrecaled 06:09, 31 January 2006 (UTC)


What needs to be added: a real bio, notes about his journalistic career, expansion on his writing career

All articles are under development. Although Stalin looked out for Bulgakov, he also prevented him from emigrating and banned all of his works. It is *very* hard to imagine that Stalin would have been a fan of The Master and Margarita. Ortolan88

Thankfully, I've never been inside Stalins head. Your point is taken; still, Stalin did give a helping hand to Bulgakov from time to time, when he wasn't off killing other people. Without this patronage, Bulgakov would likely have been entirely spurned by MASSOLIT and the Moscow community. Atorpen
You're kidding about that book! A friend of mine has been dogging me for weeks to read it but I've been busy with Orson Scott Card and Stephen King. It's here in hardcover; a black cat holding a gun and wearing a bow tie; the shadow on the wall behind has horns & a pointy tail. I take it that's an endorsement above, if Stalin didn't like it.  :-) Koyaanis Qatsi

Chances are it will spoil you for Stephen King and Orson Scott Card forever. It is one danged amazing work of literature. Ortolan88

Stephen King, maybe; I've become increasingly tired of him, though he still knows how to turn a phrase (and his description of when he was hit by a van was very affecting). Card is starting to show some common themes IMHO but I admire his skill at creating tension from ethical quandaries. Very humane author IMO, and easy, fun reading. Just the antidote I needed after having too many English classes. I will read the Bulgakov novel, probably when I go to L.A. and San Fran in early February. Koyaanis Qatsi
Darned edit conflicts. Got that version sitting in front of me. its pretty good, but from what I've heard, and the little I've read, nothing compares to the original Russian, which is mind-blowing. Atorpen

It's almost always that way with translations. Threepenny Opera is not near so cute in German. BTW, it is hard to imagine any authority figure, from school principal up to Soviet dictator, approving of The Master and Margarita. One whiff of Bulgakov's prose style, even in the earlier, weaker English translation of M&M would be enough to send the author to permanent detention. Ortolan88

I'm not sure I agree. Yes, it portrays the Devil as an authority figure, and Pilate mostly ineffective in dealing with the high priest. But, it was finally published in Soviet Russia, which is saying something. And it is well loved among Russian speakers I've met. I don't think the novel is entirely anti-Authority. But its been several years, so I should (am) rereading it now. Brilliant stuff. Of course, this is an aside, and probably doesn't belong here. Atorpen


Ok, we've got a slight problem. All Russian-language sources, including the Encyclopedia Bulgakov - which is pretty authoritive on his life - say that he could not find any work at all. I put that in the article, but twice it was removed by Wikipedians saying he did indeed work as a "literary bureaucrat". Please give a cite that he did indeed receive work. - User:Kricxjo

I wasn't the one who removed it, but: here, here, [and here], all suggest that he was able to find work, at least by 1930. I'd point out some print sources, but don't have any at hand. While we're at it, I disagree with the large Works heading at the very front. This is not standard for the English wikipedia, although it may be elsewhere, and it seems a bit jarring, especially as the title is used again later to refer to his works. Wikipedia:Manual of Style (biographies) suggests that biography come first, which is what I'm all for, although you obviously disagree. Any discussion? Atorpen 20:37 Feb 26, 2003 (UTC)

Who was that mysterious wikipedian? It was I. The biographical note to the 1995 Vintage edition of The Master and Margarita ISBN 0679760806 was written by Ellendea Proffer, translator of several Bulgakov works and author of Mikhail Bulgakov: Life and Work. It states:

In 1930, in a time of despair when he burned his works in manuscript, he wrote his famous letter to the Soviet government, defending his right to be a satirist, and asking that his country let him emigrate if it could not use his abilities. To everyone's astonishment, Stalin, who had seen The Days of the Turbins many times, answered this letter with a phone call, and soon afterward Bulgakov had employment with a small theater. The Moscow Art Theater then found work for him, but most of the projects he worked on came to nothing, and the last years of his life were full of stress and disappointment. He broke with Stanislavsky and the Art Theater after the Moliére debacle [?], and returned to Theatrical Novel (begun earlier, then resumed) as a way of venting his spleen. He went to work for the Bolshoi theater as a librettist, which also proved frustrating, as project after project remained unproduced. From 1928 on, Bulgakov had worked only sporadically on his major work, The Master and Margarita; in 1937 he dropped Theatrical Novel, which would remain unfinished, and concentrated on the novel about the devil in Moscow. In 1938 under pressure from the Art Theater he wrote a play about the young Stalin, Batum, which was not only a compromise on his part, but adversely affected his failing health when it was rejected.

He died two years later, still editing The Master and Margarita. "Literary bureaucrat" may not be the best shorthand for what he was doing, but apparently he was working in the theater during those years, according to this note. Maybe it should say "minor theatrical duties". I didn't stick that bit in to discredit Bulgakov or credit Stalin. I have the greatest disdain for Stalin and nothing but admiration for Bulgakov, but that they should have had any relationship, whatever it was, is fascinating. Like Lenny Bruce says (paraphrase), "Don't look down on people who crack. You don't know what you'll say when they're about to give you the hot lead enema."Ortolan88


Thanks for the cite, Ortolan88. I've just rearranged the article hoping it'll conform to the style guide a bit better. - User:Kricxjo


I think I've seen The Cabal of Hypocrites filmed as Molière. -Bryce

--- Bulgakov was Russian, not Ukrainian. He wrote in Russian, considered himself Russian, both his parents immigrated to Kiev from Russia, he never even mentioned Ukraine as far as we know and Ukraine didn't even exist when he was born there and it was Russian territory. (talk) 20:10, 8 December 2012 (UTC)

Disambiguation; S. Bulgakov[edit]

I came here looking for a page on Sergej Bulgakov, Soviet Idealist philosopher, author of Religija i politika, Religiya chelovekobozhestva u L. Feuerbacha etc. One of the main movers of Neo-Kantian philosophy in Marxist-Leninist dialectical thought. There may need to be a disambiguation page at "Bulgakov" for this reason. Nagelfar 10:26, 5 Sep 2004 (UTC)

Bulgakov's origin[edit]

To anyone who ever read Bulgakov's "White Guard" it is rather obvious he considered himself to be Russian rather than Ukrainian writer.

Also he was born in the Russian Empire not in Ukraine which did not exist at the time. (Fisenko 22:33, 13 May 2005 (UTC))

"Although a native of Kiev, he wrote in Russian." This could be a quote from one of Bulgakov's novels. Pronounced with utter contempt by one of the characters, e.g. by Behemot in the "Master" or Myshalyevsky in the "White Guard". Bulgakov did not see anyting unnatural in being a Kievite writing in Russian. --Barabash 21:11, 9 January 2006 (UTC)

He was of Russian ethnicity and both his parents immigrated from Russia so it's obvious he has nothing to do with Ukrainians. (talk) 20:08, 8 December 2012 (UTC)


How about incorporating public domain text & data from LOC?

mikka (t) 20:11, 25 May 2005 (UTC)

I added the English editions, but I left out the adaptations for theater. I guess they should be separated from actual translations. Adrecaled 05:36, 31 January 2006 (UTC)

letter to stalin[edit]

Hi. Just wanted to say that contrary to what is written in the article, Bulgakov wrote to Stalin on March 28, 1930, not 1938 - and a second letter in 1931 (he had already written several letters to the Central Comitee of the Communist Party in 1929). And to the question whether Stalin liked Bulgakov's work or not, it may be worth noticing that Belaïa Gvardia (the white guard) was paradoxically one of Stalin's favourite novels - which is in some way even more interesting than his opinion of the Master and Margarita, which Bulgakov finished only shortly before his death, so that Stalin's opinion on that work could not influence his opinion of the writer while Bulgakov needed his "protection". Malena

Removed fragment[edit]

I have removed the following fragment of the article. It does not go with the rest of the text and if of inferior quality. Please do not insert it wholesale but think how we can incorporate this into the article. abakharev 04:54, 12 October 2006 (UTC)

Bulgakov and the Soviet state[edit]

The mid 1920’s were a prolific time for Bulgakov, and it was to be the only period in his life when he would see something published. In 1924, the magazine “Rossiya” agreed to publish his first novel, The White Guard, the story of a Tsarist Ukrainian family and their struggle during the civil war against the Bolshevik Red Army. Rossiya was to be closed down before Bulgakov’s third and final instalment could be published, but the first two were enough to attract the interest of P.A.Markov, the literary editor of the Moscow Academic Arts Theatre, who commissioned Bulgakov to adapt the novel for the stage, resulting in the play, The Days of the Turbins. In 1925, Bulgakov saw the publication of a collection of short stories, Diaboliad, the serialisation of Notes of a Young Doctor (A Country Doctor’s Notebook) in a medical journal and the completion of his novella, the Heart of a Dog, even if it was to remain unpublished until 1987.

The 1920’s in soviet Russia saw as much cultural and literary upheaval as it did political. In the early years of the revolution, it was agreed by most, including Lenin, that a new “proletarian” culture was to be developed. This stemmed from the basic Marxist thesis that the dominant ideas of any age were always the ideas of the ruling classes. The Proletkult movement, founded by Bogdanov on the eve of the October Revolution in 1917, prescribed to this and theorised that it was not enough for the proletariat to control the political and economic mechanisms of the state, cultural backwardness would have to be alleviated and a new socialist form of thought developed if the revolution was going to be a success in creating a truly equal and harmonious nation. Proletkult did not however, seek to create an androgynous art, at least not in the sense of later soviet theory would. Bogdanov advocated using art to organise the “social Experience”, both in the literal, cognitive sense and in the realm of emotion and sensation, as he believe that these too led to an intellectual experience, and developed the reader’s understanding. He even encouraged the study of art from past and foreign cultures, even religious art, if it would develop the aesthetic of the new socialist movement, but did warn against assimilating ideology from past ruling classes into the art of the proletariat. During this period, Bulgakov got work as a satirist for some “thick journals”, satire still being possible at this time, with these journals having no direct contact with the party and no more a political objective than to promote writers who’s ideals were loosely attachable to a communist principle. This skill would be invaluable to him in his work to come, not least in the novella, The Heart of a Dog.

The letter Bulgakov received on the 21st of may, 1925, from Boris Leontyev, a publisher, summed up how The Heart of a Dog was received. It read; Dear Mikhail Afanasyevich, I am sending you Cuff Notes And The Heart of a Dog. Do what you like with them. Sarychev at the Censorship Committee declared that the was no point in even tidying up The Heart of a Dog. “It’s an entirely unacceptable piece” or something similar.# To read The Heart of a Dog as mere satire on the Soviet blend of communism would be to do Bulgakov an injustice. It is true that sharik and his willingness to give up his freedom for the promise of a better life, irrespective of how he will be treated by the professor, with his mispronunciation of Engles could be a sarcastic representation of the proletariat, but perhaps the more inflammatory reading of Bulgakov’s novella is that, beneath the fantastic events that unfold in Prechistenka St., the core subject of the novel is the moral state of modern Moscow. The possibility of Professor Peobrazshensky and Sharikov representing Lenin and the Revolution respectively then becomes a moot point, for if there exists in The Heart of a Dog a very real illustration of the moral malaise in the capital of the supposed socialist utopia, the novel would automatically become unsuitable to the regime, even in the pre-Stalinist Socialist Realism era. Sharikov may have been transformed by Philip Philipovich, but the mentality that existed in the dog sharik was a product of his “up-bringing” on the city streets, and with it’s human inhabitants. His drinking and foul language are acceptable etiquette within the lower classes he developed amongst. The dog cannot be blamed for his actions, he does not possess the cognitive powers to make decisions the way humanity does, if Sharikov does reflect his society, then it is that society which must be held to account. Any possibility of misconstruing Bulgakov’s intentions in attacking modern morality, or the possibility that Sharikov acts the way he does because he, as a dog, is a baser being, is blasted when Philip Philipovich corrects Bormenthal for implying Sharikov has “the heart of a dog”. the professor declares “for heaven’s sake don’t insult the dog…The whole horror of the situation is that he now has a Human heart, not a dog’s heart.”# The danger in this work is that, even in terms of the relatively moderate Proletkult thinking of the day, if the revolution was really about the proletariat, what kind of future could a nation have if it’s power base stemmed from the dregs shown in The Heart of a Dog? The Prols, as George Orwell would call them, looked foolish, violent and rude when held up to the moral and intellectual standard personified in Philip Philipovich, an obvious exemplar of tsarist bourgeois, a comparison that the Regime could not allow to be made, no matter how true it may have been. The Heart of a Dog did not see publication in the Soviet Union until 1987.

Things were to go from bad to worse for Mr. Bulgakov. The constrictions of the early and mid twenties would soon seem relaxed by comparison to what was to come. The formation of the R.A.P.P., the Russian Association of Proletarian Writers, and the advent of Socialist Realism would quickly destroy the experimentalism of the early revolution and strive for a State endorsed androgyny in literature. R.A.P.P. academics advocated the critic Ermilov’s theory of the “Harmonious Man”, who could maintain a balance between the Psyche and ideology, the conscious and the subconscious and between instinct and consciousness. His theory maintained that when the right socialist ideology controlled the psyche of the masses, the revolution would be completed by an unconditioned reflex. This thinking made suppressing unsuitable ideals in literature an imperative, giving those in authorities positions a carte blanche when it came to denouncing writers seen to be “enemies” of the revolution. Owing to this “necessary” censorship, Bulgakov’s Notes of a Young Doctor was the last thing published in his lifetime, and this suppression by the state would be of constant annoyance to and source of great depression for Bulgakov until his death. In a letter dated the 28th of March, 1930, and addressed “To the Soviet Government”, Bulgakov vented this frustration in no uncertain terms that; I am a passionate supporter of that freedom [freedom of the press], and I consider that if any writer were to imagine that he could prove he didn’t need that freedom, then he would be like a fish affirming in public that it didn’t need water.#

Three weeks later he was to receive a phone call form Stalin, who after denying Bulgakov’s request for foreign travel permits suggested he work for the Moscow Arts Theatre, a job he had previously been refused. Bulgakov accepted, along with a posting in T.R.A.M., the Young Workers’ Theatre. He immediately began work, fulfilling a commitment to transform Gogol’s Dead Souls into a stage production, actually quitting TRAM on the 15th of March,1931, believing himself to be overtaxed and as a result of no benefit to the organisation. It seems that when Stalin hinted at the possibility of foreign travel during the course of their conversation, Mikhail Afanasyevich took him at his word#, but never heard directly from the dictator again, a fact that cut the writer deeply.

Around this time, Stalin’s influence, and indeed the influence of many R.A.P.P. writers, further tightened controlled on the arts, culminating in the genesis of a theory referred to as “Socialist Realism” whereby the established techniques of the 19th Century were to be used to represent the struggle for socialism and the revolution in a positive light. In this Bulgakov was half there. He was not a modernist, a dirty word in Stalinist Russia, in terms of style. As opposed to some of his contemporaries, such as the novelist Zamyatin, Bulgakov had little or no interest in modernity and the future, he was more interested in preserving the past heritage of Russian literature, and his technique reflects this. It was his treatment of subject that was to prove far more controversial. Rather than the institution of Soviet totalitarianism, It was to be the institution of R.A.P.P. and other “proletarian” writers that would cause Bulgakov the most problems in the final years of his life. The general dogma of the day was that, in a perverse application of an interpretation of Hegel, the psychology of a literary parsonage reflected the psychology of his society, ergo, all literature must be Marxist-Leninist in content and proletarian in style. The leader of R.A.P.P., L.L. Averbakh, decreed that “the artistic method of the writer is completely subordinated to his ideological orientation”#, an attitude that was to assure Bulgakov’s position as an outsider with most of Soviet Russia’s literati.

On the 3rd of October, 1931, thanks in part to a favourable report given by Maksim Gorky, Bulgakov’s play, Molière, was given licence to be played in Leningrad and Moscow by the Chief Repertory Committee. The events that were to unfold came as a shock to Mikhail Afanasyevich, who was to tell his friend, Pavel Popov; “It turns out that that the play was not taken off by an organ of the State. Molière was destroyed by an utterly unexpected figure!”# The unexpected figure was none other than Vsevold Vishnevsky, an influential communist writer who, upon seeing rehearsals for the play in Leningrad, demanded that the Bolshoy’s Artistic-Political Council shut down the production immediately. Bulgakov knew this to be a jealous move by a rival who’s “motives were by no means political”#. The news that Molière had been cancelled left Bulgakov abject and facing serious financial troubles. In these late years, Mikhail Afanasyevich was becoming very embittered at his situation, and increasingly cynical. On the 7th of May, 1932, just before his 41st birthday, Bulgakov sarcastically wrote to Popov; “And here, towards the end of my career as a writer, I find myself obliged to write stage adaptations. What a brilliant finale, don’t you think? I gaze at the shelves and shudder: whom, oh whom will I have to adapt next?”# This stoical side of Bulgakov becomes very clear in his later work, especially his masterpiece The Master and Margarita. Events immediately preceding the Molière set-back would provide the writer with some respite, because in January a disappointed Stalin enquired as to why The Days of the Turbins was no longer being performed at the Moscow Arts Theatre. As a result of instruction from the Soviet Government, the theatre quickly revived the play, and in the author’s words, “[I’ve] had a part of [my] life restored to [me].”# this intervention form the State was to provide Bulgakov with almost his only source of constant income for the remainder of his life.

Bouncing back from the devastation inflicts by the Bolshoy’s termination of his first new play in years, in July 1932 Bulgakov signed a contract to produce a prose biography of Molière, which he worked on with great interest, delivering it to the publishers on the 5th of March 1933, only to have it rejected a month later on the advice of Gorky, a previous supporter of Bulgakov’s works on the life of the French writer. Maksim Gorky agreed with the editor, Aleksandr Tikhonov, who thought that the book was far too subversive in it’s style and much too suggestive of the soviet political reality in it’s description of the life and times of the playwright. Bulgakov refused to edit the book in any way, and in April 1933, writing again to Popov, who seems to have been a great source of strength for the embattled writer, he declared; “And so, it is my pleasure to bury Jean-Baptiste Molière. It will be better and more peaceful for everyone.”# After promising Stalin in a letter in 1930 that he had burned the manuscripts of the novel that was to become The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov returned to this work with great interest during the final years of his life. He used the novel as a tool with which to attack everything he saw as rotten in the soviet state, the story he produced standing as a classic of the soviet age, even though it was not to be published until long after his death. In the novel Moscow is visited by the devil, and the events that ensue are run parallel to the Master’s revised account of the final episode of Jesus Christ’s life. From the outset, there was never any question of the novel being printed under Stalin and Soviet Realism’s tight grip on Russian literature of the day, as we see Bulgakov challenging the basis of soviet rule from the beginning. In the “never talk to strangers” chapter, the Professor argues with Berlioz on the nature of power in relation to humanity’s frail mortality, a theme that is in direct contradiction not only to the ideology of the permanent world revolution and the inevitability of the success of communism, but also to the cult of Lenin and his continuing guidance of the revolution, not mentioning the emerging cult of the apparently omnipotent Stalin. The possibility of the regime being vulnerable, or of it being subject to a higher power or worse, an anarchic chaos theory was completely out of the question when it came to it being published, and when the Professor asks; “If there is no God, then who, one wonders, rules the life of Man and keeps the world in order?”# Any answer other than ‘Stalin, of course’ had to be nothing short of heresy. This also calls the theory of Socialist Realism into question, because, in affirming the mortality of man and the triviality of trying to control everything, it refutes any claim that either man or regime, with their inherent finite boundaries, could have on the infinite nature of art, what James Joyce called “the eternal affirmation of the spirit of man.” the novel can be seen as a condemnation of that spirit in Moscow, as the devil never has to corrupt, he only unmasks the presence of evil in the capital of Socialist utopia. In Bulgakov’s last novel we can detect much of the Socratic tradition, or the 3rd of Mikhail Bahktin’s elements of Menippean satire, whereby fantastic situations provoke and test the truth rather than having to accurately embody it. Bulgakov questions Soviet Russia and it’s morals, asking it to “drink the bitter cup of responsibility” as Rimsky does, if it sees elements of truth in the work. It is interesting that in a time of “communist equality”, Bulgakov felt the need to point out that both the Master and Ieshua were befriended only for material gain, by Mogarych and Iuda respectively. This is possibly a dig at the nature of soviet society as Bulgakov saw it, as he had suffered often at the hands of others for materialistic or jealous reasons, not least when Vsevold Vishnevsky had interfered in Molière’s fate. The novel also confronts soviet theory on the intellect, and cynically parodies it’s ideas on the intellect’s subversion. In the Master and the short lived Berlioz, we see the too ends of the intellectual spectrum. Berlioz is an educated man in a respectable position in the world of academia and yet he is represented as foolish and ignorant compared to the equally intelligent Master. The difference is that Bulgakov, who was a man of some faith, believed that knowledge is no guarantee of authenticity. Both Berlioz and the Master claim to “know” the truth about Jesus, one believes, the other doesn’t. Both perhaps have a strong argument, but neither can qualify it, and so we must take the Master to be the higher intellect, as he is the one who is prepared to embrace the improbable and believe. This element of Bulgakov’s masterpiece could be it’s most dangerous in terms of it’s threat to the regime, as it calls for people to re-introduce a dimension of irrational faith in the fantastic and improvable back into their cognition, something that could undo the tight controls imposed by a rationalistic atheist dictatorship. In terms of the soviet regime and Socialist Realism, this debates whether official myth mattered more than an obvious reality.

The tyranny of soviet mob rule is exposed best in the character of Bezdomny, who is incarcerated in a mental institution simply because what he has seen cannot be endorsed by soviet ideology, regardless of whether or not it could explain the death of Berlioz and the strange events surrounding Flat No.50. This is sardonic attack on Soviet theory derived from Hegel, that if might is right, than anyone in opposition to that right must be wrong and in need of treatment#. One cannot help but attach some significance between this representation and Bulgakov himself, as even though he was not incarcerated for his works, the constant efforts of the regime, the R.A.P.P., directors, other writers and editors to either heavily rework his writings or have them condemned as heresy, must have seemed to the writer as the actions of those who ‘knew better’ than he did, as he was obviously, in their eyes, disillusioned. The obvious parallels between Ieshua and the Master, and even Bulgakov himself, suggest that, in a society like ancient Jerusalem or contemporary Moscow, with their blind attachment to orthodoxy, leaves only one chance of development, and that is the martyrdom of heretic sacrifice in the hope followers might take that to be the highest qualification a belief could have, and spread it on that basis, the way the followers of Jesus would, and hopefully the way the Master’s teachings might infiltrate literature. It is obvious that Bulgakov held many of his contemporaries in contempt, as parodied in the MASSOLIT organisation, and no doubt believed that Russian literature was in need of a saviour if it was to survive. In a classic example of Bulgakov’s sarcastic wit, he makes fun of the belief Koroviev holds that, in MASSOLIT and the Soviet tyranny that the organisation represented that it was possible to think “that at this moment in that house there may be the future author of a Don Quixote, or a Faust or who knows-Dead Souls?”#

Two years before Bulgakov finished the novel, his theatrical career was to experience one final flutter of hope. Despite Vishnevsky’s attacks in Leningrad, the Moscow Arts Theatre where Bulgakov worked had continued very sporadically with rehearsals of Molière. It was premiered in early 1936, the delay a result of the lack-lustre approach of the theatre to the play and of the constant meddling of it’s director, Konstantin Stanislavsky, whom Bulgakov had become increasingly contemptuous. Eventually, after relations between Bulgakov and Stanislavsky reached breaking point over his constant reworking of the text, the theatre’s other Director, one time friend and current rival of Stanislavsky, V.I. Nemirovich-Danchenko, took over the production. It was to receive rave reviews to early premieres, but a damning article entitled “Superficial glitter and False Content” in Pravda on the 9th of March saw the play cancelled that very day. This latest attack on Mikhail Afanasyevich also saw his other plays, Pushkin and Ivan Vasilyevich, the latter being banned on the spot during a dress rehearsal by a member of the Party Central Committee.# Once again Bulgakov had been attacked under the auspices of Socialist Realism, but once again he incurred no penalty other than insult and the loss of yet more of his work to dogma. There were discussions held regarding the plays’ resurrections, on condition of their being reworked, but Bulgakov categorically refused any changes, obviously too disillusioned with the regime to believe any changes would really make a difference. It is also possible that the now very cynical Bulgakov saw any changes as a confession of wrong-doing. In her diary, his third wife, Yelena Sergeyevna, discusses the absurdity of suggestions that her husband should apologise or vindicate himself and his works by way of a letter. She says, in a exasperated tone; “Vindicate what? Misha won’t write such a letter…Everybody is saying the same thing in a friendly fashion-a vindication. He has nothing to vindicate.”#

Following the latest barrage of criticism, a scornful Bulgakov put an end to his six year career at the Moscow Arts Theatre, taking with him a cynical and bitter opinion of the two Directors of the theatre, Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko, the two former friends of Chekov, innovators of the Russian theatre during the early years of the revolution, and the cornerstones of the Soviet stage, holding them to be jealous, conceited hacks who did nothing more than preserve what he now held to be nothing more than the statuesque pageant of communist theatre.

This disdain found incarnation in Bulgakov’s other secret novel of the period, A Theatrical Novel or The Notes of a Dead Man, as he would later refer to it as. It is an obvious recollection of his time working under the two giants of the Moscow stage, with Stanislavsky parodied in the guise of the character Ivan Vasilievich, a play on words pointing towards Ivan the Terrible, no doubt a comparison Bulgakov found to be very fitting.

The Notes of a Dead Man was never finished, Mikhail Bulgakov died on the 10th of March 1940. While it lacks the direction and originality of his other works, it is a brilliant piece of hatchet work directed at the tyrannical orthodoxy that Bulgakov saw in contemporary Russian artistic circles. This unfinished piece is also a vital key to the career of Bulgakov, as it was the first thing he had published in the Soviet Union since the 1920’s. It appeared in the journal, Novy Mir, in 1965 and sparked the renaissance in interest that Bulgakov’s writings still enjoy today. 1966/67 saw The Master and Margarita make an appearance, albeit somewhat censored, in the Moskva publication. This rejuvenation of his work shows Bulgakov to be an artist of the highest moral integrity, one of the few that did not bend or buckle under Soviet pressure, but instead remained true to his beliefs and his art. His resistance to political pressures and the absurd dogma of Socialist Realism in Soviet Russia is a testament to the will of great artists to persevere with originality, and Bulgakov’s mentality perhaps finds apt voice in the opinion of another great writer, Bertolt Brecht, who, when discussing the Soviet regime and it’s control over artists, declared that “it is not the job of the Marxist-Leninist party to organise production of poems as on a poultry farm. If it did the poems would resemble one another like so many eggs.”

In his infamous letter to Stalin in May 1931, Bulgakov himself summed up his career and his philosophies, and their relation and resistance to the Soviet Union, he said; “In the broad field of Russian literature in the U.S.S.R. I have been the one and only literary wolf. I was Advised to dye my fur. An absurd piece of advice. Whether a wolf dyes it’s fur or has it clipped, he will still look nothing like a poodle.”#�

Flat or Apartment?[edit]

I was under the impression that American terminology was to be used as the standard in Wikipedia. I for one would prefer to keep it as 'Flat' but I feel the rules ought to be followed. Should this be changed? Doktor Waterhouse 14:17, 19 June 2007 (UTC)

Re: In Contemporary Literature[edit]

An anonymous user has been adding numerous links to Martha Cooley and two of her books including Thirty-three Swoons to a variety of articles--- 1) Mikhail Bulgakov 2) Bennington, VT "Notable Residents" 3) Adelphi University "Notable Alumni" Leading one to question if this is a family member or friend of above author.

Regardless, these links require some sort of outside validation.Euphorya 00:13, 4 October 2007 (UTC)

Re: Famous Quotes[edit]

the translation of the quote

"Not causing trouble, not touching anything, fixing the primus" ("Не шалю, никого не трогаю, починяю примус")

This is incorrectly translated. not touching anything should be not bothering anyone or more literally no one I touch .
fixing the primus in the Russian is said grammatically incorrect on purpose to poke fun at the proletariat. Починяю correctly in Russian is чиню in this case. This is an idiomatic nuance of Russian that is very difficult, if not impossible, to translate into English.
--Czar 23:32, 28 October 2007 (UTC)

Agreed and fixed on the никого.Preobrazhenskiy (talk) 22:26, 22 August 2009 (UTC)

Ukrainian Nationalist Army[edit]

The article used to say: "He was briefly forcibly mobilized by the Ukrainian Nationalist Army"

An anonymous user changed it to "joined the Ukrainian Nationalist Army".

"Joined" implies that he did it on his own will; i am not sure about that. Since i don't know what really happened, i changed it to "served in the Ukrainian Nationalist Army".

If anyone can write what really happened, with a source, it will be appreciated. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 19:59, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

P.S.: I am also changing Ukrainian Nationalist Army to "the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic". Ukrainian National Army existed at a different time. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 20:04, 29 November 2007 (UTC)

Stalinist Russia -> Soviet Russia[edit]

I am replacing this: widespread paranoia of Stalinist Russia -> widespread paranoia of Soviet Russia

Master and Margarita should not be connected so closely to Stalin, because Bulgakov's relationship with Stalin was much more complicated and because Stalin's persona is not referred to directly in the book.

Saying Soviet Russia is much safer.

If anyone can cite a work that describes Master and Margarita as an indictment of Stalinist Russia, then it can be changed back. --Amir E. Aharoni (talk) 08:59, 4 February 2008 (UTC)

Fair use rationale for Image:Ivanvasil2.jpg[edit]

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Image:Ivanvasil2.jpg is being used on this article. I notice the image page specifies that the image is being used under fair use but there is no explanation or rationale as to why its use in this Wikipedia article constitutes fair use. In addition to the boilerplate fair use template, you must also write out on the image description page a specific explanation or rationale for why using this image in each article is consistent with fair use.

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BetacommandBot (talk) 22:38, 13 February 2008 (UTC)

New Images[edit]

I hope these are satisfactory, given the licensing explanation and high resolution. Fuzzform (talk) 03:37, 23 March 2008 (UTC)

See User:Fuzzform/Bulgakov for more images. Fuzzform (talk) 03:13, 24 March 2008 (UTC)


There are many, many books about Bulgakov and his works. And yet, not one of them is cited in this article! Here is my current list of sources (extensive, but not complete):

The Master and Margarita: A Critical Companion Weeks, Laura D. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1996.

Three Russian writers and the irrational: Zamyatin, Pilʹnyak, and Bulgakov Edwards, T. R. N. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Bulgakov: Life and Work Proffer, Ellendea. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, c1984.

A Pictorial biography of Mikhail Bulgakov Proffer, Ellendea. Ann Arbor, MI: Ardis, c1984.

An international bibliography of works by and about Mikhail Bulgakov Proffer, Ellendea. Ann Arbor: Ardis, 1976.

Democracy or theocracy: Frank, Struve, Berdjaev, Bulgakov, and the 1905 Russian Revolution Flikke, Geir Oslo: Universitetet i Oslo, Slavisk-baltisk avdeling, 1994.

Is Comrade Bulgakov dead?: Mikhail Bulgakov at the Moscow Art Theatre Smelï¸ i︡anskiÄ­, A. M. (AnatoliÄ­ M.) London: Methuen, 1993.

Manuscripts don't burn: Mikhail Bulgakov, a life in letters and diaries Curtis, J. A. E. (Julie A. E.) Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press, 1992.

Bulgakov's Last Decade: The Writer as Hero Curtis, J. A. E. (Julie A. E.) Cambridge [Cambridgeshire] ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1987

Mikhail Bulgakov Natov, Nadine. Boston: Twayne Publishers, c1985.

Mikhail Bulgakov : a critical biography Milne, Lesley. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

Mikhail Bulgakov: life and interpretations Wright, Anthony Colin Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, c1978.

Mikhail Bulgakov: The Early Years Haber, Edythe C. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998.

Evangelie Mikhaila Bulgakova ("The Gospel in Mikhail Bulgakov's Work") A. Zerkalov [In Russian, unfortunately...]

The Master and the Devil: A Study of Mikhail Bulgakov Andrzej Drawicz and Kevin Windle Studies in Slavic Language and Literature

A Mind in Ferment: Mikhail Bulgakov's Prose Kalpana Sahni (1984)

Hope someone takes the initiative and uses some of these books to reference this article! It might one day be a featured article. (I can only hope...).

Cheers, Fuzzform (talk) 20:56, 27 March 2008 (UTC)

What's the connection to Satanism?[edit]

I found the "Bulgakov's Flat" section a bit confusing. Just because the devil was a character in one of his novels, that makes him some sort of Russian Anton LaVey? Is there any other reason why Satanists would gather at his former place of residence? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:12, 12 April 2008 (UTC)


Wife's name given variously as Elena and Yelena. Needs to be made consistent. (talk) 11:05, 5 February 2011 (UTC)

File:Bulgakov1910s.jpg Nominated for Deletion[edit]

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I've removed the diacritics in his name at the beginning of the article (á to a). While helpful for Western audiences in aiding pronunciation, this strikes me as incorrect. IPA characters would be a more appropriate way of indicating his name's pronunciation. As ever, revert if I've missed something (and perhaps give a citation). --BDD (talk) 23:21, 6 March 2012 (UTC)

Political views section needs work[edit]

I was recently kindly pointed out to me that I added a unnecessary citation needed tag to the article. I had mistakenly thought that the citation was for one sentence, rather than the two sentences before it. However when I looked into the reference I found that it was not exactly saying what the article claimed. There are 3 points made by the article as it now stands that I'd like to discuss, all seem to be contained in the reference (p6) but not as they are in the article.

Firstly there is the statement that he was a "jingoistic monarchist". In the reference it states that Marietta Chudakova's biography of Bulgakov was likely to be biased towards "over-emphasising the conservationism of Bulgakov's upbringing", it then goes on to quote Chudakova quoting an anarchist schoolboy stating that, as a schoolboy, Bulgakov was considered "jingoistic monarchist". Chudakova then qualifies that with the fact that anarchists and communists would have considered anyone neither anarchist or communist to be a monarchist, and any monarchist to be jingoistic. That is a lot of context that's been left out of the article.

I don't see the fact that Bulgakov was an anarchist anywhere on the referenced pages. I think this was a misunderstanding by a wikipedian who mistook the info about the Chudakova's informant being an anarchist with Bulgakov being one.

The fact about Bulgakov being against the death penalty is suggested by Chudakova based on the fact that one of Bulgakov's "semi-autobiographical heros" was against the death penalty. I do not think that makes it an established fact as the article states it.

So overall I think the Political Views section needs a rewrite. I really don't know anything about Bulgakov other than what I read in the reference and the article, but I do think that it's important that the article reflect what info we have from the references, so I'd be happy to do that. Also, it's just a couple sentences. --Keithonearth (talk) 17:14, 7 July 2012 (UTC)

OK, I've updated the section. I can't stand by the validity of the reference, as I don't know anything about Bulgakov. However, I do feel having a reference that agrees with the wikipedia page is a step forward. I hope that step didn't land on anyone's toes, I'll go back to editing articles on things I know about now. --Keithonearth (talk) 01:10, 10 July 2012 (UTC)
I created this section just in case to cite the categories. One user insisted to do so.--GoPTCN 10:52, 10 July 2012 (UTC)
I'm sorry but I'm not quite sure what you mean. Thanks for making a note here though. --Keithonearth (talk) 02:00, 14 July 2012 (UTC)

Book List[edit]

It would be helpful if you also included the dates the books were written in instead of just listing and ordering them by modern publication dates. (talk) 03:55, 25 August 2012 (UTC)