Mikael Bulgakov

the master & margarita

Mayakovskiy metro. With Vera.

My student Vera (Faith is Vera in Russian) and I went to the Bulgakov’s House and Museum at Dom 10 along Mayakovskiy ulitsa. The excursion is only scheduled at night, maybe to create some drama and special effects to the Bulgakov experience. At the door, we were greeted by a man dressed in a soldier’s uniform that was worn by an official in the 1920’s. He greeted me in English thinking that I was an American, and when Vera said that I was from the Philippines, he said that they never had somebody from the Philippines visited their museum before and it would be nice if I left some notes of my impression in their log book.

Inside the museum were activities of different sort from the books and plays of Bulgakov, it’s a pity that my Russian language ability is soooo bad as to understand anything intelligible from what’s going on. We went to a tiny room where different assortment of things past were under display. I took a picture of the first edition of his most famous novel The Master and Margarita. Our guide was a young woman and a literature teacher from a nearby university whose knowledge about Bulgakov extends up to his shenanigans.

Originally, Bulgakov was from Ukraine, his father works in a seminary and wanted Mikael to follow his profession as a minister, but Mikael argued that working in a seminary wasn’t a prestigious profession. And so he taught himself to become a doctor and worked as a doctor during the civil war.

He had eight other siblings and lived quite comfortably even after the death of his father.

He had married three times. The first was Tatiana who sacrificed a lot for him. She went with him to Moscow and they lived poorly in the streets. But Tatiana was a resourceful woman, she sold her jewelries and find means to survived in the new city. It is at this time that Mikael started to write and was noticed by some journalists.

Then, the guide said about him falling in love with another woman named Evgenya, and divorced Tatiana in the process. Allegedly, Tatiana waited for ten years for Mikael to come back to her. And that when The Master and Margarita was published, he went to see Tatiana with the book but Tatiana was heart broken upon seeing the book’s dedication. He had dedicated the book to Evgenya. Tatiana asked him why did he dedicated the book to his second wife when it was her who sacrificed with him when he started his writing career. It was further explained by our guide that in the later years of Mikael’s life, when he was already suffering from his kidney disease, he wanted to see Tatiana and asked for her forgiveness.

The third wife was Yelena, and she is “the” Margarita in his The Master and Margarita’s book. She had children from other men but never married. The Margarita from his book was married to another man, and never left the house for more than a year when her husband denied her a divorce. Yelena died after Mikael’s.

Bulgakov was a favorite of Stalin, and he became the envy of the other literary folks from his time. It was said that Stalin went to his flat in Dom 10 nine times. Bulgakov admired Nikolai Gogol, and up until now it is a mystery how the grave stone of Gogol ended up in his grave yard at the Novodevichy cemetery, the cemetery where all famous poets, scientist, and USSR/Russian leaders were buried.

On the fourth floor where the “other” museum is located, is the real flat of Mikael. It was closed by the authorities because some fanatics went there to do some weird rituals. In his book, Bulgakov described the flat as desolate and “strange”, and some visitors had said that indeed weird things were happening in that flat. Like, the black cat would be seen in the mirror and some characters from his book appears and can be felt. Some extreme fans would even jump from the window (like from the book) believing that they would go to heaven (or hell, I say).

We proceeded to the Patriarchy pond were the devil appeared for the first time in Moscow, and we stopped at the pedestrian lane where the head of one of the character rolled after being hit by a tram. Suddenly I felt scared as I remembered this opening chapter in his book. We went around the pond and found the statue of Kirilof a famous classic fable writer instead of Bulgakov’s. Our guide said that there is no single monument or any kind of memento of Bulgakov in Moscow. Apparently, the government doesn’t support his “mysticism”. To which I kinda support judging from the kind of people gathered around the pond at this night. Scary. In fact the Bulgakov House and Museum is not funded by the state and it is the only museum dedicated to a Russian writer whose privately funded by its fans.

100 meters from the pond was the house were Margarita lived. It was said that Gogol lived in that house for quite awhile and also Vryubel had spent some time in Margarita’s house painting. I remembered a Vryubel art at the Tretyakov gallery, indeed his paintings were strange. Vera doesn’t like him. His painting about the devil was most interesting. Vyrubel painted him as a really handsome man. Strong, attractive and not in the least scary as what other painter depicts a devil to be.

Our night excursion ended back at Dom 10 wherein our guide suggested that I should read the “Dog’s heart” if I wanted to know more about Bulgakov’s “mysterious” mind.

What saddens me tonight was the fact that Bulgakov was a son of a minister, raised in a religious family and according to my guide was an expert about Jesus Christ and the bible. If this was really the case, then how could he have missed the message of the gospel? I guess, it was just all head knowledge to him… pity.

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