14 may 2016

Exhibition Manuscripts don’t burn on Bolshaya Pirogovskaya street

On May 14, 2016 Mikhail Bulgakov’s apartment on the Bolshaya Pirogovskaya street will open its doors for the first time with the exhibition «Manuscripts do not burn».

 

After leaving Bolshaya Sadovaya Street and marrying L. Belorzerskaya, M. Bulgakov moved between several addresses – a cabin on Chisty Lane (at that time, Obukhovy Lane), two rooms at 4 Maly Levshinsky Lane. Following the stunningly successful premier of The Day of the Turbins (The White Guard) in Autumn 1926, Bulgakov finally had some money and was able to afford a whole flat for the first time rather than the one or two rooms he was used to renting. Bulgakov found out about the empty flat on Bolshaya Pirogovskaya from his friend, Rosa Lvovna Ginzburg. In passing, she mentioned that a relative of her acquaintance was looking to rent out a three-bedroom flat.

 

On 1 August 1927, Bulgakov signed a rental agreement with the architect and developer of the house in which the flat was located. Mikhail Bulgakov lived here until 18 February 1934. Until autumn 1932 – with his second wife L. Belozerskaya, and then with his third wife E. Bulgakova.

 

This was the writer’s first flat in which he had his own office. It was decorated in his favourite blue colour. There was also a yellow dining room, L. Belozerskaya’s white room and a small kitchen.
Bulgakov found himself in friendly company on Bolshaya Pirogovskaya. His Moscow friends Nikolay Lyamin, Sergey Zayaitsky, Sergey Sherverinsky and others all lived close by in Prechistenka District. They formed a circle of highly educated, old-Muscovite intellectuals. Life on Bolshaya Pirogovskaya was loud and fun. Belozerskaya and Bulgakov would leave each other witty notes, there were clever pranks, charades and other games, not to mention feasts in the living room lasting into the small hours of the night.

 

In February 1929, Bulgakov met E.S. Shilovskaya, at that time the wife of the high-ranking military commander, E.A. Shilovsky. At the insistence of her husband, E.S. Shilovskaya broke off her relationship with Bulgakov.
After a long period of forced estrangement, M. Bulgakov met E.S. Shilovskaya in the summer of 1932 and decided never to part with her again. On 4 October, E.S. Shilovskaya married Bulgakov. It was also at that time, in the autumn, that Bulgakov returned to his brainchild and in a short period, he wrote a new edition of his novel, which required very few corrections and is now known as ‘The Master and Margarita’.

 

There were two sides of the coin to M. Bulgakov’s position at that time. On the one hand, after Stalin’s call in 1930, Bulgakov became an assistant director at the Moscow Art Theatre, in the winter of 1932, The Days of the Turbins (The White Guard) reopened on the stage and in 1933, rehearsals for Molière began again. However, as before, other plays were banned (first and foremost, Flight) and did not go to stage, and Bulgakov was not allowed out of the country. He was the only person at the Moscow Art Theatre who was regularly refused a passport to travel abroad. Most importantly, however, his works were not printed. “I’ve been artificially blinded”, said Mikhail Bugakov.

 

In 1936, his position began to change. After years of endless alterations, bans and approvals, on 6 February, a dress rehearsal of Molière took place at the Moscow Art Theatre. The premier and some of the first performances were overwhelmingly successful with the public. On 4 March 1936, E.S. Bulgakova wrote in her diary, ‘It was a full house. Litovsky was sitting in the government bow. Through the semi-darkness, I saw he was writing something. The curtains were raised many times for applause’.

 

During the thaw years of the 1960s, not losing hope for the novel’s publication, E.S. Bulgakova retyped a number of copies of The Master and Margarita. On 15 February 1961, she wrote to K.M. Simonov: ‘If only you knew how difficult it has been for me to prove over 21 years that Bulgakov needs to be printed’. The attempts continued: in 1965, an already formatted publication of ‘old’ chapters about Pontius Pilate with an introduction by K.M. Simonov, Chairman of the Committee on Bulgakov’s Literary Estate, was banned and the anthology was published without Bulgakov’s text.

 

In 1966, E.S. Bulgakova finally managed to have the novel published in a journal called ‘Moscow’ with the help of A. Vulis and K.M. Simonov.

 

The version of Master and Margarita that appeared in the journal was seriously distorted by omissions (around 12 percent of the text was cut out). It was the journal’s editors who decided to abridge the text. K.M. Simonov highlighted that the General Directorate for the Protection of State Secrets in the Press had approved the manuscript in its entirety. Despite the omissions, the editions of the journal containing the novel flew off the shelves. On 5 September 1967, the deputy editor of ‘Moscow’ wrote in Soyuzpechat, ‘To our knowledge, this journal (Moscow, No. 11, 1966) was sold out in a matter of hours in Moscow and other cities. Moscow, No. 11, 1966 is already a rare publication. Many readers are quite literally attacking the editors and bombarding up with calls.

 

Address: Moscow, Bolshaya Pirogovskaya street, 35A bld.1