by Mikhail SHAPOSHNIKOV, section head, State Literary Museum, Moscow
In the latter half of 2006 the State Literary Museum (Trubnikovsky pereulok, Moscow) featured a memorial exposition-"Mikhail Bulgakov's Moscow"-on the 115th birth anniversary of Mikhail Bulgakov (1801 - 1040), an eminent Russian prose writer and playwright. This exhibition brought together a wealth of materials-those from our collections as well as those contributed by the Central Science Library of the Russian Federation's Union of Theater Artists, by the A.S. Pushkin Moscow Drama Theater, by the museum of the Ye.B. Vakhtangov State Academic Theater, and by the M.A. Bulgakov International Fund. There were many "firsts" on display-memorabilia from private collections of Bulgakov's relatives and acquaintances: Boris Myagkov, Mikhail and Natalia Shaposhnikovs, Olga Severtsova, Yelena Zemskaya (the writer's niece) and other persons.
Our guests could see a wide variety of items in the exhibition halls-photographs, drawings and manuscripts laid out side by side with newspaper and magazine clippings, copies of Bulgakov's writings published in his lifetimes and after; theater posters of the 1920s and 1930s. A one-of-a-kind pictorial chronicle of Moscow - the way it was in Bulgakov's days-was likewise on, calling up the city's image described with so much verve and talent by the writer in his novels, stories, and dozens of sketches and cartoons in newspapers and magazines.
The exposition stuck to the topographical, theme and time sequence. It proceeded from the very first Moscow impressions of the young author, his work as the writer of satirical sketches for the press, and on to his involvement in the literary life of Moscow in 1921 - 1925. The second part of the exposition dealt with Mikhail Bulgakov's cooperation with Moscow theaters in the 1920s and 1930s; the third and fourth ones, with Prechistenka ulitsa (street) and Nashchokinsky pereulok (lane), and their role in the author's life and work.
All in all visitors could have a look at more than 80 sights of good old Moscow, all that supplied with circumstantial descriptions. The photos evoked the living image of Mikhail Bulgakov. Since most of his works could not see the light of day in his lifetime, the copies on display dated by and large from the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, as the author regained his popularity among new generations of readership.
The exhibition opened with the photograph of what used to be the Bryansk (now Kievan) Railway Terminal in the 1920s, which Bulgakov depicted in his story Notes on the Cuffs (1922 - 1924), in some of his sketches, and in the novel The Master and Margarita (1929 - 1940). This is what he confided to his diary: "It was end of the year 1921... My very coming /to Moscow/ did not pose any particular difficulties to me, for my luggage was utterly compact. All my belongings could fit into a handbag..."
Next was the photo of a residential house in Vorotnikovsky pereulok (side-alley), where he stayed with his relatives, the Zemskies; it was the writer's first domicile in Moscow. Nearby we could see the picture of a dwelling house in Maly Kozukhinsky pereulok, which he visited to attend literary soirees arranged by the Komorsky spouses; Bulgakov mentioned their flat and its tenants in some of his earliest cartoons, and in the Theater Romance (1936 - 1937). Bulgakov also visited one of the houses in Malaya Bronnaya ulitsa (street)-No. 32-to see the Kreshkov couple, whom he pictured in the stories Л Spiritualistic Seance and in the Treatise on Housing at the beginning of the 1920s.
"Not from a goodly distance at all did I explore Moscow... Nay, 1 lived in it, I did tread it far and wide... I was here, there and everywhere! I walked up and down Myasnitskaya/street/ hundreds of times, Varvarka /street/, its Business Court, and Staraya ploshchad /square/, where I dropped into Centrosoyuz /Central Council/; I flung myself as far as Devichye pole / a field in Moscow's southern outskirts then/," Bulgakov wrote in his cartoon sketch of Moscow of the 1920s.
Put on display were rare documents dating to 1922, in particular a type-written copy of the short story Red Crown with the author's autograph; newspaper clippings carrying the satirical sketches Formerly a Singer, signed by the author - M. Bull, (one of his first known publications in Moscow; and Secrets of the Madrid Court signed G.P. Ukhov, a pen name that the censorship of the day could never uncover.
One of the exhibits featured the "protocols" of the sessions of the literary coterie Nikitina's Subbotniks, or Saturday Specials at Yevgenia Nikitina's (hence the name) in Gazetny pereulok; the photo showed this house the way it looks today.
On March 21, 1925, Bulgakov recited there the second part of his long story Dog's Heart which he had just completed; and soon after, he read out his Notes on the Cuffs. Alexander Kurennoi, an artist attending one of those nights, made a drawing of Mikhail Bulgakov, which is one of the writer's earliest pictorial images. This is complemented by photographs of such Moscow literati as the poets Pavel Antokolsky and llya Selvinsky, the prose writers Vladimir Lidin, Leonid Leonov, Vikenty Veresayev and other men of letters that Bulgakov was in touch with in those days.
Now on with our tour of the Bulgakov exhibition. Coming next was the type-written text of the long story Notes on the Cuffs autographed by Bulgakov... his membership card issued by the Soviet Writers' Union in the early 1930s... his fanciful sketch Diavoliade brought out by Nedra Publishers in 1925 with a dedication to Viktor Ardov, an author of humorist skizzes. This part of the exposition also carried photographic pictures of the poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, the prose writer Boris Pilnyakand other authors (1928).
At this point it would be in place to recall what Bulgakov wrote in his diary: "Literature is a hard job nowadays. What with my views perforce reflected in my writings, I feel it is hard to be published and live on." And furthermore: "Had I not been for Nakanune, neither Notes on the Cuffs nor many other truly revealing things of mine would have ever seen print." Bulgakov mentions the newspaper Nakanune ("On the Eve") for which he was writing in 1922 to 1924. Here came a wonderful relic, the photograph of the house in Bolshoi Gnezdnikovsky pereulok as viewed from Tverskaya, the main street in the heart of Moscow; this building that housed the editorial board of the newspaper was mentioned in the Bulgakov essay Forty by Forty (early 1920s), in the long story Diavoliade, and the novel Fhe Master and Margarita.
Here before us is Gudok ("Whistle"), a railwayman's newspaper, that on May 21, 1924, carried a satirical sketch-"Was He Hanged or Not?" contributed by Mikhail Bulgakov under the pen name Mr. All Right as well a passage from his diary of 1922 to 1926. We must also add the thrilling cartoons in which the stage actor Boris Livanov poked fun at the prose writers Isaac Babel and Yuri Olesha (1920s) - put on display, too, together with photographs of such foremost men of letters as Alexei Tolstoy, Yuri Olesha (1920s), llya Ehrenburg, Yevgeny Petrov, llya Ilf, and Valentin Katayev (1934). As part of this pictorial chronicle was a historic photograph showing Katayev, Ilf, Bulgakov and Olesha among the mourners bidding farewell to the late poet Vladimir Mayakovsky in the House of the Writers' Union in Povarskaya Street on April 16, 1930.
One of Bulgakov's most memorable and shattering stories, Dog's Heart, held pride of place as a work permeated with the moods and life styles of Moscow in the hectic Twenties-Bulgakov portrayed his characters under a harsh light that allows no shadows and no padding. He pulled no punches. One of the protagonists of this scathing satire was Nikolai Pokrovsky, Professor of Medicine and the author's uncle (depicted in the person of Prof. Philip Preobrazhensky), who edited the type-written text; his photographs were also displayed, among them one made in the 1920s in his Prechistenka apartment, the story's locale.
Next followed the "theatrical" section of the Bulgakov memorial exhibition. It was opened by Zoika's Flat-а Bulgakov play staged in 1926 and published many years after, in 1982, by the journal Sovremennaya Dramaturgia (Contemporary Dramaturgy). The Yevgeny Vakhtangov Theater's museum provided photographs of some of the scenes of that performance with illustrious actors and actri-
ces like Cecilia Mansurova and Boris Zakhava. The Vakhtangov Theater's building of the 1920s and 1930s (26 Arbat), where Zoikina's Flat was on in 1926 to 1929, has not survived; but our guests could see a photo of that house. In 1941, soon after Bulgakov's death (1940), his stage version of Don Quijote de la Mancha by the great Miguel de Cervantes was presented at Vakhtangov's.
Bulgakov's famed play The Days of the Turbins, staged by the Moscow Art Theater in 1926, became a pinnacle of his dramaturgy. Looking at us from a set of really touching photos is a constellation of premier actors who played in this momentous stage presentation: Mikhail Yanshin, Mark Prudkin, Boris Dobronravov, and Nikolai Khmelev (1930s). One of the pictures shows the author with the cast of the first performance (October 5, 1926) and in a skiing party (late 1920s).
Mikhail Bulgakov's friendship with the Moscow Art Theater did not end there, as we can see in the factual evidence, such as the cast of the piece Race (1928), or a version of The Days of the Turbins, his identity card of assistant stage director at the theater, a photograph of Bulgakov posing as the presidingjudge at court in Pickwick Papers (after Charles Dickens), and other items. Bulgakov the dramatist also came up with the stage presentation of The Sanctimonious Kabala (after Moliere) as shown by the script of the play (autumn of 1929); the first edition in print (1962); and Maxim Gorky's comments (1930s). All this is illustrated by a photograph of the Moscow Art Theater in Kamergersky pereulok (lane) in the 1920s.
In October 1936 Bulgakov put down in his diary: "This is a holiday to me. Exactly ten years ago The Turbins had its first night. I'm sitting by the inkwell and waiting for the door to come open, and Stanislavsky and Nemirovich stepping in with an address and gifts... Yet the most precious gift to me would be a big casserole of some noble metal (copper for example) filled with the blood they had sucked from me in these ten years." Meanwhile Konstantin Stanislavsky, a great stage director, took Bulgakov quite in good earnest: "I have put big hopes on Bulgakov. He has all the makings of a stage director. He is both writer and actor. I judge by his cues to the actors at the rehearsals of The Turbins. In the end he staged the play - at any rate supplied the spangles that came aglitter and made the performance a success."
It was the Art Theater where the scene was laid for Bulgakov's Theater Romance that unfortunately remained incomplete (the name was thought up by the poet Alexander Tvardlovsky; the author's version was Deadman 's Notes. The Bulgakov age comes alive in a gallery of pictures of the eminent actors and stage directors Konstantin Stanislavsky and Vladimir Nemirovich-Danchenko (1930s); of the poet Pavel Antokolsky (1932 - 1934) and other persons, including Miss Bokshanskaya, the secretary of Nemirovich-Danchenko; of Mr. Mikhalsky, the superintendent of the theater, and many other images of the Thirties... In 1926 Bulgakov produced another play, The Crimson Island, and inscribed the title page of the text; this piece was staged by the Moscow Chamber Theater in Tverskoi Boulevard (a photo of its building was shown). There were many other items reviving the theater ambience of Moscow in the 1930s.
Bulgakov worked for the Bolshoi Theater, too, trying his hand at the opera genre. For one, in 1936 he scripted a libretto for the opera Minin and Pozharsky dedicated to these two Russian heroes of the patriotic crusade of 1612 that put an end to the Time of Troubles. Photographs of Alexander Melik-Pashayev, the chief conductor, and of the composers Yuri Shaporin, Sergei Prokofyev, Dmitry Shostakovich and other musicians illustrated this part of the exposition on the Bolshoi. This is how Bulgakov penned his impressions of it in his essay Forty by Forty (a Russian idiom for a great number of churches in Moscow):
"Bolshoi stands in its huge bulk the way it has stood for dozens of years. Pale-yellow blotches of light in between the columns. The theater lights that beckon and invite... In the entr'actes the theater shines forth in gold and red, and it looks just as smart as in old days. The golden-reddish hall is all arustle in the entr'acte. Coiffured female heads in the boxes. Civilians sit cross-legged and, as though mesmerized, gaze at the tips of their patent-leather shoes (I've bought a pair, too). The entr'acte sanctity is broken only by one nep-
woman.* Leaning over the dress-circle box she shouts, all worked up, across the stalls, her hands folded into a loud-hailer: Dora! Get in here! Mitya and Sonya are in our box!.. In the daytime the Bolshoi Theater rises awkward and yellow, peeled off, frazzled..."
Entering the next hall of the memorial exhibition, our guests approached the holy of holies, a big writing-table- the desk at which Bulgakov wrote his masterpieces. It stirred a sense of awe and reverence. That's the desk that saw the birth of the epic The Master and Margarita and other writings of his.
Prechistenka is a street that had a particular significance to Bulgakov. One of the photographs of the 1920s depicts house No. 32, the seat of the State Academy of the Arts (GAKhN).** This is a historic building in many ways: up until 1917 it housed Polivanov's private grammar school (classical gymnasium) attended by Vladimir Solovyev, a renowned philosopher of the later day, and the poets Valery Briusov, Andrei Bely, Maximilian Voloshin and Sergei Solovyev; Alexander Alekhin, a world chess champion in 1927 to 1935, and other personalities were among its students, too. Mikhail Bulgakov often went there to art and scholarly sessions. In the selfsame house he called upon Boris Shaposhnikov, an art critic expert in the museum science, and GAKhN member. An amateur photographer, Shaposhnikov took several snapshots of the writer. The academy was visited by the artistic elite, including the actors Vassily Kachalov and Ivan Moskvin (1920s). Their pictures were likewise displayed.
The Prechistenka motif is alive in many pictorial sights of Moscow. In the 1920s and 1930s Bulgakov went to see his friends, the Popovs, who had a flat on the ground floor in Plotnikov Lane, not far from Prechistenka; he must have pictured the flat in his novel The Master and Margarita as the Master's cellar; another probable abode of the hero could be a residential house in Mansurovsky Lane, where Bulgakov would visit a friend of his, Toplennikov the artist. Thus we come to the best-known work of the master writer. This subject was covered in much detail, including the four autographed copies of the text (the originals are in the custody of the Russian State Library), the very first edition of the novel in the literary magazine Moskva (1966), the photograph of Bulgakov and Yelena Shilovskaya that Boris Shaposhnikov took in 1935 in the writer's apartment in Nashchokin Lane.
Several pictures show the probable prototypes of Margarita, the heroine of the novel: Lyubov Belozerskaya and
* Allusion to NEP. the New Economic Policy of the government in 1921 - 1928, which permitted a modicum of private enterprise. The entrepreneurs of the day were called nepmen; hence nepwoman by analogy - Ed.
** The State Academy of the Arts (GAKhN ) - in 1921 to 1930 a research body involved with aesthetics, philosophy, culture and arts. - Ed.
Yelena Shilovskaya (the writer's second and third wives), and a Margarita Smirnova who, after the author's demise, claimed the image of Margarita was written from her (all photographs were of the 1920s and 1930s).
Two adepts of Moscow's history and sights, Boris Myagkov and Natalia Shaposhnikova, drew a graphic sketch of Margarita's giddy "flight" over Moscow, so vividly described by Bulgakov, the master: "Free and invisible! Flying over her side-alley, Margarita got into another one that crossed the first one at right angles. She hopped above it in a jiffy, this crooked, long and patched-up lane... The third one took her flush to Arbat /street in Moscow/... Swimming below were the roofs of trolleys and cars, and on sidewalks what looked like streams of caps... She crossed Arbat and rose ever higher, to a fourth-floor level and, rushing past the glaring tubes at the theater's building catty-corner, sailed into a narrow side-lane with tall buildings..."
Some of these sights are still there: the Patriarshi Ponds, the opening scene of the novel; the music hall on Sadovaya Street (now the Satire Theater (a variete in the novel), and further on the residence of the US ambassador Bullit, the Spasohouse, where Bulgakov was invited as guest in 1936... Margarita sailed clear of Mokhovaya ulitsa and the Rumyantsev Museum (now the Russian State Library) - on its roof, in one of the last scenes of the novel, one of its protagonists, Voland, said farewell to Moscow. Then Margarita swerved to Nashchokin Lane and the house were the author lived from 1934 up until his death on March 10, 1940 (photo of the 1930s).
Now we come to the final leg of the Bulgakov itinerary of Moscow: the author's draft sketch of the play Shepherd (Batum) made in 1939, Anna Akhmatova's poetic In Memoriam on Bulgakov's death (1940), his photograph on the deathbed, that of his apartment, of his kith and kin...
Bulgakov's words addressed to eternity are inscribed below his last lifetime image: "My God! How sad the eventide earth is! How weird those mists above swamps! He who has roamed and wandered in those mists, he who has suffered so much before his death... he ought to know. He who is tired. And he leaves without regret these mists of the earth, its bogs and streams and embraces death heartily, aware that it alone shall give him repose."
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