Mikhail Bulgakov was born on 15 May 1891 in Kiev.

Bulgakov received his education at Kiev University’s Medical Faculty and was a practicing doctor. He abandoned his medical practice to become a writer. After travelling through Northern Caucasus and an unsuccessful attempt to emigrate, he settled in Moscow in 1921, near the famed Patriarch’s Ponds.

He was on a path to gaining wider recognition with a stage adaptation of his first novel, The White Guard, but in 1929 political pressure led to the banning of his plays and to the repeated failed attempts to be published.

Throughout the 1930s, he devoted his time to writing The Master and Margarita in complete secrecy, which today is considered a literary masterpiece and the forerunner of ‘magical realism’. The novel is “an extraordinary blend of comic satire, set in the 1930s in Moscow, with a profound and intense retelling of the encounter between Christ and Pontius Pilate” [1]. It was clear however that there was no question of publishing The Master and Margarita in the USSR of the 1930s.

It was not until over 25 years after his death that a censored version of The Master and Margarita was first published in serial format in the journal Moskva in 1966 and 1967. The 1991 centenary of Bulgakov’s birth saw the texts of all four of his novels, several novellas and some fourteen plays finally becoming available to the Soviet public.

Further reading:

  • Marietta Chudakova (1988) Zhizneopisaniye Mikhaila Bulgakova (The Biography of Mikhail Bulgakov)
  • Lidiya Yanovskaya (1983) Tvorchesky Put’ Mikhaila Bulgakova (Creative Path of Mikhail Bulgakov)
  • A. Colin Wright (1978) Mikhail Bulgakov: Life and Intepretations
  • Ellendea Proffer (1984) Bulgakov: Life and Work
  • Lesley Milne (1991) Mikhail Bulgakov: A Critical Biography
  • J. A. E. Curtis (1991) Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov – A Life in Letters and Diaries

[1]  J. A. E. Curtis Manuscripts Don’t Burn: Mikhail Bulgakov – A Life in Letters and Diaries