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Mikhail A. Bulgakov Poster

Biography

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Overview (3)

Born in Kiev, Russian Empire [now Ukraine]
Died in Moscow, RSFSR, USSR [now Russia]  (hypertensive nepropathy)
Birth NameMikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov

Mini Bio (1)

Mikhail A. Bulgakov was a Russian writer and medical doctor known for big screen adaptations of his books, such as Beg (1971) and Master i Margarita (2006).

He was born Mikhail Afanasievich Bulgakov on May 15, 1891, in Kiev, Russia (now Kiev, Ukraine). He was the first of six children in the family of a theology professor. His family belonged to the intellectual elite of Kiev. Bulgakov with his brothers took part in the demonstration commemorating the death of Leo Tolstoy. Bulgakov graduated with honors from the Medical School of Kiev University in 1915. He married his classmate Tatiana Lippa, who became his assistant at surgeries and in his Doctor's office. He practiced medicine, specializing in venereal and other infectious diseases from 1915 to 1919.

Bulgakov wrote about his experiences as a doctor in his early works "Notes of a Young Doctor." In 1917-1919, he suffered from an infection that caused him an unbearable painful itch requiring him to take morphine; which he became addicted to, but he managed to overcome the dependency and quit. He joined the anti-communist White Army in the Russian Civil War. After the Civil War, he tried to emigrate from Russia, to reunite with his brother in Paris. But he became trapped in Soviet Russia. Several times he was almost killed by opposing forces on both sides of the Russian Civil War, but soldiers needed doctors, so Bulgakov was left alive. He provided medical help to the Chehchens, Caucasians, Cossacs, Russians, the Whites, the Reds... Bulgakov was the Doctor to all the sick people.

In 1921, Bulgakov moved to Moscow. There he became a writer and made friends with Valentin Kataev, Yuriy Olesha, Ilya Ilf, Yevgeni Petrov, and Konstantin Paustovsky. Later, he met Mikhail Zoschenko, Anna Akhmatova, Viktor Ardov, Sergey Mikhalkov, and Korney Ivanovich Chukovskiy. Bulgakov's plays at the Moscow Art Theatre were directed by Konstantin Stanislavski and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko. "Days of the Turbins," about the demise of the White Army, was performed more than 200 times at the Moscow Art Theatre, and also at other Soviet theatres until it was banned.

The play was later restored to the repertoire and at least fifteen performances of this play were attended by Joseph Stalin. Stalin liked the play and later, in his official speeches, he used some of the well-written lines that were spoken from the stage by the Bulgakov's characters. In 1941, after the Nazi invasion in Russia during the Second World War, Joseph Stalin started his first radio address to the people of the Soviet Union with Bulgakov's words from the play, "Brothers and Sisters..."

Bulgakov's political independence was expressed in his article on the death of the first Soviet dictator V.I. Lenin, "He killed a river of people..." wrote Bulgakov in 1924.

Bugakov's own way of life and his witty criticism of the ugly realities of life in the Soviet Union caused him much trouble. In 1925 he released 'Heart of a Dog', a bitter satire about the loss of civilized values in Russia under the Soviet system. Soon after, Bulgakov was interrogated by the Soviet secret service, OGPU. After interrogations, his personal diary and several unfinished works were confiscated by the secret service.

His plays were banned in all theaters, which terminated his income. Being financially broke, he wrote to his brother in Paris about his terrible life and poverty in Moscow. Bulgakov distanced himself from the Proletariat Writer's Union because he refused to write about the peasants and proletariat. He made adaptation of the "Dead Souls" by Nikolay Gogol for the stage; it became a success but was abruptly banned.

He took a risk and wrote a letter to Joseph Stalin with an ultimatum: "Let me out of the Soviet Union, or restore my work at the theaters." On the 18th of April of 1930, Bulgakov received a telephone call from Joseph Stalin. The dictator told the writer to fill an employment application at the Moscow Art Theater. Gradually, Bulgakov's plays were back in the repertoire of the Moscow Art Theatre. But most other theatres were in fear and did not stage any of the Bulgakov's plays for many years.

Joseph Stalin, who was increasingly paranoid, ordered massive extermination of intellectuals during the repressions known as the "Great Terror" (aka.. Great Purge). Many of Bulgakov's friends and colleagues, like Vladimir Mayakovsky, Osip Mandelstam, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Anna Akhmatova, Mikhail Zoschenko and many others were censored, banned, prosecuted, exiled, imprisoned, executed, found dead, or just disappeared without a trace.

At that time Bulgakov started his masterpiece - "Master and Margarita." It was slowly evolving from the series of chapters, initially titled "The Black Magician" in 1929. That was changed to "The Prince of Darkness" in 1930. Then it was changed again to "The Great Chancellor" in 1934. Finally, the novel was titled as "Master and Margarita" in 1934 and was rewritten and updated constantly until the writer's death in 1940.

While writing the novel, Bulgakov met Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya, who became his wife. She was, in part, the model for Margarita in the novel. Secret service agents were spying on Bulgakov and learned about his new novel. Bulgakov was interrogated again and was ordered to destroy the manuscript under the threat from the government agents. He had to be very cautious. Bulgakov split the manuscript in two parts and destroyed one half in a fire.

Soon, he restored the missing part from memory and continued writing the novel. He was writing the novel in secrecy, hiding its manuscript for many years until his death in 1940. The main character in the novel, Voland, alludes to Stalin, or Beria, or any dictator who plays a semi-god. Voland was modeled after Satan in "Faust" by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. The novel has many parallels with the Bible and the "Divine Comedy" by Dante Alighieri. The characters and events in "Master and Margarita" are alluding to Bulgakov's experiences in Moscow under the dictatorship of Joseph Stalin.

Five days before his death, Bulgakov accepted an unusual promise from his loving wife. She swore to live a humble life and wait as long as it would take for Bulgakov's masterpiece to be published. The original manuscript of "The Master and Margarita" was preserved by Bulgakov's wife, Elena Sergeevna, until its first publication in 1966. It is a Menippean satire, a cross-genre comedy, drama, and fantasy, regarded by many as the best of the 20th century Russian novels.

Mikhail Bulgakov died of a kidney failure, on March 10, 1940, in Moscow. He was laid to rest in the Novodevichy Monastery Cemetery, next to other Russian cultural luminaries.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Steve Shelokhonov

Spouse (3)

Elena S. Bulgakova (4 October 1932 - 10 March 1940) ( his death)
Liubov Evgenevna Belozerskaia (June 1924 - 3 October 1932) ( divorced)
Tatyana Lappa (1913 - 1924) ( divorced)

Trivia (2)

Joseph Stalin called him on the phone and allowed employment at the Moscow Art Theater in 1930.
His play, "The Master and Margarita," at the Strawdog Theatre Company in Chicago, Illinois was nominated for the 2011 Non-Equity Joseph Jefferson Award for Production of a Play.

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