The Master and Margarita (miniseries)

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The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita (DVD cover).jpg
Russian DVD cover
Created by Vladimir Bortko
Starring Anna Kovalchuk
Aleksandr Galibin
Oleg Basilashvili
Vladislav Galkin
Sergey Bezrukov
Theme music composer Igor Kornelyuk
Country of origin Russia
No. of seasons 1
No. of episodes 10
Running time 10 x 52 minutes
Original network Telekanal Rossiya
Original release 19 December (2005-12-19) – 28 December 2005 (2005-12-28)
External links

The Master and Margarita (Russian: Мастер и Маргарита, translit. Master i Margarita) is a Russian television mini-series produced by Russian television channel Telekanal Rossiya, based on the novel The Master and Margarita, written by Soviet writer Mikhail Bulgakov between 1928 and 1940. Vladimir Bortko directed this adaptation and was also its screenwriter. The series tagline is "Manuscripts do not burn!".


This was Bortko's second attempt to make a screen adaptation of Bulgakov's masterpiece. In 2000 he had already been solicited by the Kino-Most film studio, associated with competing channel NTV; but at the last moment Kino-Most did not reach an agreement with Sergei Shilovsky, grandson of Mikhail Bulgakov's third wife Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya, the self-declared owner of the copyrights. In 2005, Telekanal Rossiiya reached an agreement with Shilovsky.[1]

This TV-epopee of more than eight hours was heavily criticized, or at least regarded with much skepticism. The first broadcast on December 19, 2005, was preceded by months of controversy in the media. Opponents feared that filming the work for television would sacrifice the layered narrative of the novel and the complexity of the socio-political and metaphysical themes to the popular demands of the broadcast medium. Director Bortko followed the dialogues of the novel carefully, and the series became the most successful series ever on Russian television. Most of the criticism stopped after the first appearance on screen. On December 25, 2005, 40 million Russians watched the seventh episode.[2]

Despite the fact that the city of Moscow plays an important role in the novel, director Vladimir Bortko opted to shoot the 1930s scenes in Saint Petersburg. “Saint Petersburg today is much more like Moscow in the Stalin period than Moscow today,” he said. The biblical scenes were shot in Bulgaria and in the Crimea.[3]

Unlike previous screen adaptations, director Vladimir Bortko followed the novel meticulously. The setting of a TV-series appeared to be an ideal format to elaborate the complicated, multidimensional work with many different characters. “Bulgakov wrote the novel almost like a screenplay”, Bortko said.

The story[edit]

Three layers[edit]

The film is an adaptation of the novel The Master and Margarita written by the Russian author Mikhail Bulgakov. Three story lines are interwoven.

  • The first story is a satire of the ‘30s in the 20th century, the period during which Joseph Stalin was in power in the Soviet Union. The devil Woland comes to Moscow to have his annual Spring Ball of the Full Moon. Together with his demonic suite, he challenges the corrupt lucky ones, bureaucrats, and profiteers of that period in an hilarious way..
  • The second story line is set in the biblical Yershalaim, and describes the inner struggle of Pontius Pilate before, during, and after the conviction and execution of Yeshua Ha Nozri.
  • The third layer tells the love story between a nameless writer in Moscow in the 1930s and his lover Margarita. The Master has written a novel about Pontius Pilate, a subject which was taboo in the officially atheistic Soviet Union.

Differences from the novel[edit]

Despite the length of the TV series, several scenes and characters from the novel were not included in this adaptation.

  • The most notable of the absent characters are doctor Kuzmin and the demon Abaddon.
  • The most notable of the absent scenes is The Dream of Nikanor Ivanovich, in which Bulgakov denounces, through the dream of a protagonist, the show trials in the Soviet Union. Vladimir Bortko replaced this scene with an assembly of authentic Soviet propaganda films from that period.


  • Vladimir Bortko did not like the voice of actor Aleksandr Galibin, who played the role of the Master. Galibin's voice is not heard in the film. Instead, his lines were dubbed using the voice of Sergey Bezrukov, the actor who played the role of Yeshua.[4]
  • Some of the actors who appear in this TV series also appeared in the film The Master and Margarita made by Yuri Kara. Aleksandr Filippenko (Azazello in Bortko's production) is Koroviev in Kara's film, while Valentin Gaft, who plays the roles of both Caiaphas and the chief officer of the secret police in Bortko's miniseries, is Woland in Kara's film.[5]
  • A main theme of The Master and Margarita, death under mysterious circumstances, remains very topical. Several deaths that have occurred, since the filming of the miniseries, among actors who played roles in it feed the idea for many Russians that a curse rests upon those who participate in a film adaptation of The Master and Margarita, and this idea is fiercely debated even today. Valentin Gaft, who plays both the roles of Kaifa and the chief of the secret police, lost his 29-year-old daughter, who hanged herself shortly after filming. Valery Zolotukhin, who played Bosoy, lost his 27-year-old son in the same way. Kirill Lavrov, who played the role of Pontius Pilate, got cancer and died on April 27, 2007. Aleksandr Abdulov, the actor who played Koroviev, died of lung cancer on January 3, 2008, age 54. Vladislav Galkin, who played the poet Ivan Bezdomny, was found dead under suspicious circumstances in a rented apartment in Moscow on February 27, 2010, age 39.[6]




Igor Kornelyuk
01. Titles - 2:04
02. Invisible and Free - 4:57
03. The Execution - 5:20
04. Do you like My flowers? - 2:40
05. Sabbath - 6:55
06. Waltz - 3:48
07. Garden of Gethsemane - 3:31
08. Woland’s theme - 3:40
09. Love Leaped Out in Front of Us - 4:47
10. Azazello’s Cream - 1:47
11. Even the Moon Gives Him No Peace - 4:01
12. The Great Ball at Satan's - 12:02
13. More About Love - 6:58
14. Maestro! Hack Out a March! - 1:47

Total time: 60:89 min.

More screen adaptations[edit]

To be expected
  • Scott Steindorff - The Master and Margarita - 2012 (movie picture)
  • Rinat Timerkaev - Master i Margarita - 2012 (animated movie picture)

External links[edit]