Bulgakov, Mikhail

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Bulgakov, Mikhail Afanas’evich


Born May 3 (15), 1891, in Kiev; died Mar. 10, 1940, in Moscow. Soviet Russian writer. Born into the family of an instructor at the Kiev Theological Academy.

Bulgakov graduated from the medical department of the University of Kiev in 1916 and was a district physician in Smolensk Province. Bulgakov’s professional literary activity began in 1919. During 1922-26 he was a contributor to the newspaper Gudok. His first collection of satirical stories, Deviltry (1925), generated arguments in the press. The publication of the novel The White Guard (1925-27) remained incomplete. He used the themes of this novel for the play Days of the Turbins (staged by the Moscow Academic Art Theater in 1926). These works, as well as the play Flight (1926-28, produced in 1957), depict the change in attitudes of the old Russian intelligentsia, debunk the idea of the “White” movement, and show the sterility of life in emigration. In the comedies Zoia’s Apartment (produced by the Evg. Vakhtangov Theater in 1926) and The Crimson Island (produced by the Kamernyi Theater in 1928), Bulgakov ridicules the manners and morals of the milieu of NEP speculators and parodies the customs of the small, self-contained world of the theater.

The literary critics of the late 1920’s viewed Bulgakov’s work extremely negatively; his works were not printed and his plays were withdrawn from the theaters. In the early 1930’s, Bulgakov was assistant stage director of the Moscow Academic Art Theater and staged N. V. Gogol’s Dead Souls (1932). In the historical dramas The Bondage of Hypocrites, or Molière (1930-36; produced in 1943) and The Last Days, or Pushkin (1934-35; produced in 1943) and in the biographical story Life of Monsieur de Molière (1932-33, published in 1962), Bulgakov shows the incompatibility of true art with monarchic despotism. The uncompleted Theatrical Novel: A Dead Man’s Notes (1936-37; published in 1965) combines a lyrical confession and satire. From the early 1930’s until the end of his life Bulgakov worked on the novel The Master and Margarita (published in 1966-67). By combining three levels of action—the level of history and legends (ancient Judaea), of present-day manners and morals (Moscow in the 1930’s), and of mysticism and fantasy—Bulgakov created an original form of the philosophical novel, in which he posed the “eternal” problems of good and evil, of false and true morality. As a playwright and narrator Bulgakov was a master of polished realistic techniques, satire, flexible and vivid language, and rapidly moving plots.


Izbr. proza. (Introductory article by V. Lakshin.) Moscow, 1966.
Dramy i komedii. (Introductory article by V. Kaverin.) Moscow, 1965.
“Master i Margarita.” Moskva, 1966, no. 11; 1967, no. 1.
“Avtobiografiia.” In Sovetskie pisateli: Avtobiografii, vol. 3. Moscow, 1966.


Smirnova, V. “Mikhail Bulgakov—dramaturg.” In her book Sovremennyi portret. Moscow, 1964.
Lur’e, Ia., and I. Serman. “Ot ‘Beloi gvardii’ k ‘Dniam Turbinykh.’” Russkaia literatura, 1965, no. 2.
Ermolinskii, S. “O Mikhaile Bulgakove: Glava iz knigi vospominanii.” Teatr, 1966, no. 9.
Lakshin, V. “Roman M. Bulgakova ‘Master i Margarita.’” Novyi mir, 1968, no. 6.
Skorino, L. “Litsa bez karnaval’nykh masok.” Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 6.
Vinogradov, I. “Zaveshchanie mastera.” Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 6.
Skorino, L. “Otvet opponentu.” Voprosy literatury, 1968, no. 6.
Palievskii, P. “Posledniaia kniga M. Bulgakova.” Nash sovremennik, 1969, no. 3.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.