Mikhail Bulgakov Museum, Moscow, Russia

The Mikhail Bulgakov Museum is a state museum in Moscow dedicated to the life and work of the writer Mikhail Bulgakov The first in Russia Mikhail Bulgakov State Museum was founded on the 26th of March, 2007, by the Government of Moscow in apartment number 50 in house number 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya street.

Thus the writer’s first address – Bolshaya sadovaya street, 10, apartment № 50 — became the first and only Memorial Museum of Mikhail Bulgakov in Moscow. In autumn of 1921 a young writer with his first wife Tatiana Lappa made his first home in Moscow in a small room of a huge communal apartment. Here he wrote his first literary works nightly. And alhough he moved to another flat in summer of 1924 the very image of the weird communal flat haunted Bulgakov and his works for many years («Psalm», «Moonshine Lake», «№ 13 house-Elpit Rabkommuna», « Zoyka’s apartment » and finally, «The Master and Margarita», the novel which immortalized the house and its inhabitants).

The Mikhail Bulgakov Foundation was established in 1990 as an institution which served the purpose of making apartment № 50 accessible to the visitors. Now the famous «Odd Flat» is a museum where one can immerse in the environment of that period of the writer’s life in Moscow.

The main exhibition is on the second floor of the house. Here you can see Bulgakov’s personal belongings, hear the story of his life in Kiev. This story is closely intertwined with his novel The White Guard.

The name “House of Turbins” was assigned to the house thanks to the writer Viktor Nekrasov, after his essay “House of Turbins” was published in the magazine ” New World “. The house is called not by the name of the author of the novel “The White Guard”, but by the name of the “heroes” who lived here.

Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov (15 May 1891 – 10 March 1940) was a Russian writer, medical doctor and playwright active in the first half of the 20th century. He is best known for his novel The Master and Margarita, published posthumously, which has been called one of the masterpieces of the 20th century.

In Moscow
In December 1917, Bulgakov first came to Moscow to visit his uncle, the famous Moscow gynecologist N. M. Pokrovsky, who became the prototype of Professor Preobrazhensky from the novel “Heart of a Dog”. On February 18, 1934, the Bulgakovs lived in a house 3/5 on the street. Furmanova (now Nashchokinsky Lane) .

At the end of September 1921, M. A. Bulgakov finally moved to Moscow and began to collaborate as a feuilletonist with metropolitan newspapers (“Gudok”, “Rabochiy”) and magazines (“Medical Worker”, “Russia”, “Vozrozhdenie”, “Red Journal for Everyone”). At the same time, he published some of his works in the newspaper Eve, which was published in Berlin. From 1922 to 1926, more than 120 stories, essays, and satirical articles by M. Bulgakov were published in the Gudok newspaper. The first story, “Unusual Adventures,” was published in the magazine “Shout” No. 2 for 1922.

In 1923, Bulgakov joined the All-Russian Union of Writers. In 1924, he met with Lyubov Evgenievna Belozerskaya (1895-1987), who had recently returned from abroad, who in 1925 became his wife.

The first and second parts of the novel by Mikhail Afanasevich Bulgakov, The White Guard, were published in Nos. 4 and 5 of the Monthly Public Literary Magazine “Russia” for 1925; the third part was never published due to the closure of the magazine. In February, the Fatal Eggs are published in the Nedra almanac, and in July M. Bulgakov published his first separate book, The Devil. Stories. It was reprinted the following year. In mid-1926, a second book was published in Leningrad — a collection of short stories in the series “The Humorous Illustrated Library of the Laughing Magazine”, then in the same year — the third and last Russian lifetime book of the writer — a collection of short stories, “A Treatise on Housing,” published by the publishing house “ ZIF “.

In 1926, the OGPU conducted a search of the writer, which resulted in the seizure of the manuscript of the story “Dog Heart” and a personal diary. A few years later, the diary was returned to him, after which he was burned by Bulgakov himself. The diary has survived thanks to a copy taken in the Lubyanka.

Since October 1926, the play “Days of the Turbins” was a great success at the Moscow Art Theater. Her production was allowed only for a year, but was later extended several times later. The play was liked by I. Stalin. The widespread assertion that Stalin watched the play 15 times does not find any documentary evidence and is doubtful. In his speeches, I. Stalin said that “Turbin Days” is “an anti-Soviet thing, and Bulgakov is not ours”, but when the play was banned, Stalin ordered it to be returned (in January 1932), and before the war it was no longer was forbidden. However, this permission did not apply to any theater except the Moscow Art Theater. Stalin noted that the impression of the “Turbin Days” was ultimately positive for the Communists (a letter to V. Bill-Belotserkovsky published by Stalin himself in 1949 ).

At the same time, an intense and extremely harsh criticism of the works of M. A. Bulgakov takes place in the Soviet press. According to his own calculations, over 10 years there were 298 abusive reviews and 3 benevolent. Among the critics were influential writers and literary officials (Mayakovsky, Bezymensky, Averbakh, Shklovsky, Kerzhentsev, Kirshon and others)

“The consciousness of one’s complete, blinding impotence must be kept to oneself.”
From a letter from Bulgakov to Veresaev.

At the end of October 1926 at the Theater. Vakhtangov with great success was the premiere of the play based on the play by M. A. Bulgakov “ Zoykina apartment ”.

In Moscow in 1928, the premiere of the play “ Crimson Island ” was held. M.A. Bulgakov came up with the idea of the novel, later called “The Master and Margarita.” The writer also began work on a play about Moliere (The Cabal of the Holy).

In 1929, Bulgakov met Elena Sergeyevna Shilovskaya, who became his third, last wife in 1932.

By 1930, Bulgakov’s works ceased to be printed, his plays were withdrawn from the repertoire of theaters. They were banned from staging the play ” Run “, “Zoykina apartment”, “Crimson Island”, the play “Days of the Turbins” removed from the repertoire. In 1930, Bulgakov wrote to his brother Nikolai in Paris about the unfavorable literary and theatrical situation and the difficult financial situation. Then he wrote a letter to the USSR Government, dated March 28, 1930, with a request to determine his fate – either to give the right to emigrate, or to provide an opportunity to work at the Moscow Art Theater. On April 18, 1930, I. Stalin phoned Bulgakov, who recommended the playwright ask him to enroll in the Moscow Art Theater.

In 1930, he worked as a director at the Central Theater of Working Youth (TRAM). From 1930 to 1936 – at the Moscow Art Theater as a director-assistant. In 1932, on the stage of the Moscow Art Theater, the production of the play “ Dead Souls ” by Nikolai Gogol based on the staging of Bulgakov took place. In 1934, Bulgakov was twice denied travel abroad, and in June he was admitted to the Union of Soviet Writers. In 1935, Bulgakov appeared on the Moscow Art Theater as an actor – in the role of Judge in the play ” Pickwick Club ” by Dickens. Work experience at the Moscow Art Theater was reflected in Bulgakov’s work “Notes of the Dead” (“Theatrical Novel”), the material for the images of which were many theater staff.

The performance “The Cabal of the Holy” (“Moliere”) was released in February 1936 – after almost five years of rehearsals. Although E. S. Bulgakova noted that the premiere, held on February 16, was a huge success, after seven performances the production was banned, and a devastating article about this “fake, reactionary and worthless” play was placed in Pravda . After an article in Pravda, Bulgakov left the Moscow Art Theater and began working at the Bolshoi Theater as a librettist and translator. In 1937, M. Bulgakov worked on the libretto “Minin and Pozharsky” and “Peter I”. He was friends with Isaac Dunaevsky.

In 1939, M. A. Bulgakov worked on the libretto “Rachel”, as well as on the play about I. Stalin (“ Batum ”). The play was already preparing for the production, and Bulgakov with his wife and colleagues left for Georgia to work on the play when a telegram came to cancel the play: Stalin considered the production of the play to be inappropriate about himself.

From that moment (according to the memoirs of E. S. Bulgakova, V. Vilenkin, and others), M. Bulgakov’s health began to deteriorate sharply, he began to lose his sight. Doctors diagnosed Bulgakov with hypertensive nephrosclerosis – a kidney disease. Bulgakov began to use morphine, prescribed to him in 1924, in order to relieve pain symptoms. Traces of morphine were found on the pages of the manuscript of the novel “Master and Margarita” three quarters of a century after Bulgakov’s death. In the same period, the writer began to dictate to his wife the latest version of the novel “The Master and Margarita.” The novel was first published in the journal Moscow in 1966, that is, 26 years after the death of the writer, and brought Bulgakov world fame.

Early works
During his life, Bulgakov was best known for the plays he contributed to Konstantin Stanislavski’s and Nemirovich-Danchenko’s Moscow Art Theatre. Stalin was known to be fond of the play Days of the Turbins (1926), which was based on Bulgakov’s novel The White Guard. His dramatization of Molière’s life in The Cabal of Hypocrites (1936) is still performed by the Moscow Art Theatre. Even after his plays were banned from the theatres, Bulgakov wrote a comedy about Ivan the Terrible’s visit into 1930s Moscow. His play Batum (1939) about the early years of Stalin was prohibited by the premier himself.

Bulgakov began writing prose with The White Guard (1924, partly published in 1925, first full edition 1927–1929, Paris) – a novel about a life of a White Army officer’s family in civil war Kiev. In the mid-1920s, he came to admire the works of H. G. Wells and wrote several stories with elements of science fiction, notably The Fatal Eggs (1924) and Heart of a Dog (1925). He intended to compile his stories of the mid-twenties (published mostly in medical journals) that were based on his work as a country doctor in 1916–1918 into a collection titled Notes of a Young Doctor, but he died before he could publish it.

The Fatal Eggs tells of the events of a Professor Persikov, who, in experimentation with eggs, discovers a red ray that accelerates growth in living organisms. At the time, an illness passes through the chickens of Moscow, killing most of them, and to remedy the situation, the Soviet government puts the ray into use at a farm. Due to a mix-up in egg shipments, the Professor ends up with chicken eggs, while the government-run farm receives the shipment of ostrich, snake and crocodile eggs ordered by the Professor. The mistake is not discovered until the eggs produce giant monstrosities that wreak havoc in the suburbs of Moscow and kill most of the workers on the farm. The propaganda machine turns on Persikov, distorting his nature in the same way his “innocent” tampering created the monsters. This tale of a bungling government earned Bulgakov his label of counter-revolutionary.

Heart of a Dog features a professor who implants human testicles and a pituitary gland into a dog named Sharik (means “Little Balloon” or “Little Ball” – a popular Russian nickname for a male dog). The dog becomes more and more human as time passes, resulting in all manner of chaos. The tale can be read as a critical satire of liberal nihilism and the communist mentality. It contains a few bold hints to the communist leadership; e.g. the name of the drunkard donor of the human organ implants is Chugunkin (“chugun” is cast iron) which can be seen as a parody on the name of Stalin (“stal'” is steel). It was adapted as a comic opera called The Murder of Comrade Sharik by William Bergsma in 1973. In 1988, an award-winning movie version Sobachye Serdtse was produced by Lenfilm, starring Yevgeniy Yevstigneyev, Roman Kartsev and Vladimir Tolokonnikov.

The Master and Margarita
The Master and Margarita became the best known novel by Bulgakov. He began writing in 1928, but the novel was finally published by his widow only in 1966, twenty-six years after his death. The book contributed a number of sayings to the Russian language, for example, “Manuscripts don’t burn” and “second-grade freshness”. A destroyed manuscript of the Master is an important element of the plot. Bulgakov had to rewrite the novel from memory after he burned the draft manuscript in 1930, as he could not see a future as a writer in the Soviet Union at a time of widespread political repression.

The novel is a critique of Soviet society and its literary establishment. The work is appreciated for its philosophical undertones and for its high artistic level, thanks to its picturesque descriptions (especially of old Jerusalem), lyrical fragments and style. It is a frame narrative involving two characteristically related time periods, or plot lines: a retelling Bulgakov’s interpretation of New Testament and a description of contemporary Moscow.

The novel begins with Satan visiting Moscow in the 1930s, joining a conversation between a critic and a poet debating the most effective method of denying the existence of Jesus Christ. It develops into an all-embracing indictment of the corruption of communism and Soviet Russia. The novel was completely published more than 25 years after Bulgakov’s death.

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A story within the story portrays the interrogation of Jesus Christ by Pontius Pilate and the Crucifixion.

The once luxurious rental house, constructed by millionaire Ilya Pigit, owner of the tobacco factory Ducat, was fitted for the first working commune after the revolution. The house, which housed or was visited by dancer Isadora Duncan and poet Sergey Esenin, Alice Koonen and Andrei Bely, Vasily Surikov and bass Fyodor Shaliapin, imaginists and futurists, the members of the artistic group the Jack of Diamonds, and the whole Moscow bohemians, was filled up with the proletariat in the early post-revolutionary years. The studios of the artists Pyotr Konchalovsky and Georgy Yakulov, which were situated in the court of the house 10, were kept, and artistic life continued to pulsate there weekly. What occurred in other apartments – Bulgakov described vividly in the stories № 13 – Elpit Rabcommune Building, The Psalm, The Moonshine Lake, and finally in the novel The Master and Margarita.

Pigit’s House
House No. 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya Street was built in the Art Nouveau style in 1902-1903 by architects Edmund Yuditsky and Antonin Milkov, commissioned by Ilya Pigit, a Moscow merchant and owner of the Dukat tobacco factory. In honor of him, the house received the popular name “House of Pigit.” Initially, the entrepreneur planned the construction of a factory production building, but the Moscow government banned the construction of factory buildings inside the Garden Ring. Because of this, the house was built as a profitable, and the creative intelligentsia of Moscow settled in the apartments: artists Pyotr Konchalovsky, Georgy Yakulov, Vasily Surikov, writer Mikhail Bulgakov, philanthropist Nikolai Ryabushinsky and others . It was at one of the parties arranged in the studio of George Yakulov that the poet Sergei Yesenin met Isadora Duncan .

The building, built in the shape of a trapezoid, consisted of three residential buildings and a section of art workshops. In the center of the house was a courtyard with a fountain and a front garden, not preserved to this day. All apartments had an expanded layout and consisted of four to five rooms. The exception was only the sixth entrance, the apartments of which were at the last moment redeveloped into a dormitory of the Higher Women’s Courses .

Before the revolution, rather wealthy Muscovites rented apartments in the house. In the central part of the courtyard building were workshops of artists. Workshop No. 38 was for some time rented by philanthropist and editor-publisher of the Golden Fleece magazine Nikolai Ryabushinsky. Since 1910, the artist Pyotr Konchalovsky worked in this workshop, until in 1917 he moved to workshop No. 40, in which Peter and then his son Mikhail worked until 1996. Workshop No. 36 was rented by the manager of the Moscow office of the imperial theaters and imperial theater schools Nikolay von Bool .

In 1918, the house was nationalized and became the working commune of the former printing house of Ivan Mashistov. Beginning in 1919, the first communal apartments created as a result of the densification policy and populated by workers from the Dukat factory began to appear in the house. In one of these apartments, Fanny Kaplan stopped the night before the attempt on Lenin in 1918. It is known that she left early in the morning from the house on Sadovaya and headed to the Michelson factory, where she fired two shots.

In the 1920s, workers, primarily employees of Moscow printing houses, as well as workers at the Dukat factory, sellers, cleaners, dressmakers, locksmiths and others, were settled in communal apartments of the house. In 1920, workshop No. 38 was occupied by avant-garde theater artist Georgy Yakulov. One evening in his workshop, Sergei Yesenin met Isadora Duncan.

In the 1960s, the mass resettlement of communal apartments began. If in 1944 767 people lived in the house, then in 1978 it was already 355. In the 1970s, the house on Sadovaya Street became one of the unofficial Moscow centers of non-conformist art. By 1986, almost all of the communal apartments on the front of the house were settled, and musicians, artists, hippies moved into vacant spaces, which were shabby from time and mismanagement. In several apartments, including the former homeowning apartment No. 5, they organized a squat that lasted until 1996.

Bulgakov Accommodation
Mikhail Bulgakov ended up in house number 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya in the autumn of 1921 – together with his first wife Tatyana Nikolaevna Bulgakova (nee Lappa ), he settled in one of the rooms of communal apartment No. 50 and lived until the autumn of 1924. During this period, Bulgakov wrote the novel “The White Guard”, the novel “The Devil ” and “The Fatal Eggs ”, “ Notes on the Cuffs ”, stories, feuilleton and essays (“The Red Crown ”, “The Capital in the Notebook”, “ Kiev-city ”, “Benefit of Lord Curzon” and others). The communal apartment No. 50 itself served as one of the prototypes of the “bad apartment” in the novel”The Master and Margarita. ” The circumstances of the life of the Bulgakovs in the apartment could be reflected in the stories ” Moonshine “, “Three types of swine”, ” No. 13. The house of Elpit-Rabkommun ” and other works.

Museum opening
In 1983, Giprotehmontazh Design Institute entered apartment 50. Inspired by the history of the apartment, her colleague Natalya Romanova staged an improvised Bulgakov exposition in one of the rooms. At the same time, the real Bulgakov press boom begins. One after another, very different people are in favor of creating the Bulgakov Museum on Bolshaya Sadovaya and for the Bulgakov holidays at the Patriarch’s Ponds. The first such holiday took place in September 1989. On the eve of the 100th anniversary of M. A. Bulgakov, in 1990, the Mikhail Bulgakov Foundation was created under the leadership of Marietta Chudakova, who also took care of the writer’s apartment. In 1994, the premises were officially transferred to the foundation. The museum opened on May 15, 2007.

Inna Mishina became the first director, the contract with which lasted until 2012. In June of the same year, a competition was announced for the creation of a new museum concept, which was won by the Italian bureau Gabriele Filippini together with a team of literary critic Marietta Chudakova. Subsequently, Peter Mansilla-Cruz became the new director of the museum.

Currently, the administration plans to expand due to lack of space for cultural and educational events. In 2015, the museum included the memorial workshop of Pyotr Konchalovsky, which has been under reconstruction since 2018. The museum plans to open a branch in an apartment on Bolshaya Pirogovskaya Street, where Bulgakov lived from 1927 to 1934. There he rented three rooms in which “ Running ”, “ Cabal of the Holy ”, and also “Master and Margarita” were written. Since 2018, the premises are under reconstruction .

The institution has the Comedyant Theater, which is staged in public spaces of the museum.

History of the Museum
On March 26, 2007, the Moscow City Government established the first Museum of M. A. Bulgakov in Apartment No. 50 in Moscow.

So the first Moscow address of the writer – Bolshaya Sadovaya, house 10, apartment 50 – was the first and only memorial museum of M. A. Bulgakov in Moscow. In the fall of 1921, having arrived in a hungry and homeless city, the writer and his wife settled here, occupying a room in a huge communal apartment. Here at night, before moving in the summer of 1924, he wrote his first Moscow works. The very image of a “bad” communal apartment and a house, “peace located on Sadovaya”, will for many years begin to haunt Mikhail Afanasevich. Let us recall the stories “Psalm”, “Moonshine Lake”, “No. 13 of the Elpit-Rabkommun House”, the play “Zoykina Apartment”, and finally, “Masters and Margarita” – a novel that immortalized the house and its inhabitants. 70 years later, in 1990, the Bulgakov Foundation was created, the main purpose of which was to open apartment No. 50 for visitors.

Now the famous “Bad Apartment” is a museum where you can immerse yourself in the atmosphere of the first years of the writer’s life in Moscow. A special aura of this place, which was formerly a hostel of the Higher Women’s Courses before the Revolution, and the classic communal apartment, which temporarily became the refuge of the writer, and the mythical “bad apartment” in the famous novel, and, finally, the place of pilgrimage for Bulgakov’s admirers, was saved despite everything.

The apartment turned out to be a point of contact with three eras of Russian reality – with post-Soviet modernity; with the era of the “Soviet past” (its way of life, its literature, its tragedies and lessons); with the era of pre-October Russia, which Bulgakov was a full-fledged citizen of up to 26 years old and the nostalgia for which he transferred to his books. It is Bulgakov’s creativity that allows us to find what unites these three eras, and the M.A. Bulgakov Museum hopes to continue these interesting searches with you.

Mikhail Bulgakov Museum
The first in Russia Mikhail Bulgakov State Museum was founded on the 26th of March, 2007, by the Government of Moscow in apartment number 50 in house nember 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya street.

Thus the writer’s first address – Bolshaya sadovaya street, 10, apartment № 50 — became the first and only Memorial Museum of Mikhail Bulgakov in Moscow. In autumn of 1921 a young writer with his first wife Tatiana Lappa made his first home in Moscow in a small room of a huge communal apartment. Here he wrote his first literary works nightly. And alhough he moved to another flat in summer of 1924 the very image of the weird communal flat haunted Bulgakov and his works for many years («Psalm», «Moonshine Lake», «№ 13 house-Elpit Rabkommuna», « Zoyka’s apartment » and finally, «The Master and Margarita», the novel which immortalized the house and its inhabitants).

The Mikhail Bulgakov Foundation was established in 1990 as an institution which served the purpose of making apartment № 50 accessible to the visitors. Now the famous «Odd Flat» is a museum where one can immerse in the environment of that period of the writer’s life in Moscow.

Despite everything we succeed in preserving the special atmosphere of this place which became a cross-point of three different epochs of Russian history: pre-revolutionary Russia, the Soviet era and the Post-Soviet reality.
It is Bulgakov’s creative work that makes it possible to find out what unites these three epochs and Mikhail Bulgakov Museum hopes to continue this search.

The collection is based on artifacts donated by the writer’s relatives and friends: philologist Elena Zemskaya, V. M. Svetlaeva, and the president of the Bulgakov Foundation V.F. Dimenko. The main exposition is divided into two parts: historical and literary. The corridor is an intermediate space, for the mystification of which visual special effects and computer technologies are used . As of 2018, the museum’s collection includes more than three thousand items .

In the dressing room is a collection of bags, suitcases, hats and umbrellas, symbolizing the journey of the writer. From the hallway you can get to the Blue Office – the writer’s office restored from the memories of relatives and friends from an apartment in Nashchokinsky Lane, where Bulgakov lived the last years of his life. The room features some of the original furniture. On the table lies the publication of the only surviving work in Latin “ Golden Donkey ”, authored by the ancient Roman writer Apuley. Many researchers suggest that it was this work that Bulgakov was inspired to write “The Masters and Margarita.” In the corner of the office there is a wardrobe, previously owned by the writer’s wife, and Bulgakov’s secretary, for whom he worked in the last years of his life. Also in the office are a piano and a cabinet-bureau, nicknamed the writer’s family “puzatik”.

A separate room is dedicated to the history of the house of Pigit and exhibits documents, photographs and drawings of the building. The room Bulgakov kept part of the personal library of the writer, typing play “Moliere” with his autograph, psyche, as well as a carved desk. The last item did not belong to the writer, but stood in the apartment of Uncle Bulgakov, doctor N. Pokrovsky. The Kitchen installation symbolizes the social changes of the 1920s and is an exposition modeling the communal kitchen of that time. Nearby are the original buffet from the Nashchokinskaya apartment of the writer, a nickel-plated fire helmet, as well as a stove. Living roomis a public space in which the museum holds performances and music concerts. The room contains antique furniture, photographs, prints, as well as the piano of the 19th century and N. Pokrovsky’s coffee table. The White Hall has an exhibition space where lectures and concerts are held.

The staff of the museum was active and proactive. Among the first events is the first grant for the Tea Party on the Bulgakov Porch. The advertising of the museum and stories about it on the radio worked. Visitors brought gifts and items and sponsorship money to the museum.

Now The Odd Flat is revived and not only shadows of literary personages and former tenants roam here. It is opened for everyone, who wants to find himself inside the novel, to learn more about Bulgakov and his epoch, to communicate with like-minded persons. Gradually a constant exposition was created on the basis of the collections of Bulgakov’s nieces E.A. Zemskaya and V.M. Svetlaeva, and also V.F. Dimenko’s collection.

Cultural events in “The Odd Flat”: plays of the theatre KomediantЪ, the first half of 20th century jazz concerts and concerts of classical music, exhibitions and subject seminars: culturological seminars are connected with the club New Moscow, literary-philosophical – with the work of the Bulgakov discussion club, and traditional meetings of Aleksey Didurov’s Rock-cabaret.

On the 13th of the month, the museum hosts a journal – a musical evening of classical music.

The museum has been hosting literary and musical evenings for the past three years within the framework of the Entrance from the Porch project, whose founder and curator is Olena Malyshevskaya, a distant relative of Lisnovichy.

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