Chtenia 36: Reading Bulgakov

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Olga Kuzmina


The texts presented here showcase the abilities of one of the twentieth century's finest writers, Mikhail Bulgakov. Indeed, he was a literary chameleon, able to work in an impressive variety of genres against a rapidly changing political background. The works selected here give a portrait of the artist as a chronicler of the tumultuous early years of the Soviet Union, as well as a survivor, who was able to accommodate his writing – without sacrificing any of its quality or originality – to the shifting political limits of the times. Nearly 80 years after Bulgakov’s death, the body of work he left behind continues to shine a light on the role of the artist in a controlled society.


Mikhail Bulgakov (1891-1940) was born in Kiev and educated as a doctor. He volunteered with the Red Cross in World War I, was badly injured, and struggled with pain the rest of his life. He worked as a doctor in Kiev through the Russian Civil War, when he caught typhus. He gave up doctoring and turned to journalism and writing, creating some of the greatest classics of twentieth century Russian literature, including A Dog’s Heart, The White Guard, and The Master and Margarita. In the last decade of his life he struggled against censorship and was personally banned (and yet protected) by Stalin, who loved his play, Days of the Turbins.

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