When it comes to the extent to which somebody’s creative work is made sacred and mystified, Mikhail Bulgakov is an iconic figure indeed. His fans arrive from all over the world to see the Russian capital from the writer’s perspective, to walk along the streets and alleys as the characters from “Master and MargaritaRussian: Мастер и Маргарита” did. In the building at 10, Bolshaya SadovayaRussian: Bolshaya Sadovaya or Большая Садовая, which became the prototype for the legendary 302-bis from “Master and Margarita”, there are currently two Bulgakov museums. A monument to the characters in the novel welcomes visitors in the courtyard of this building by the entrance to the Museum Theatre Bulgakov’s HouseRussian: Muzey-teatr «Bulgakovskiy dom» or Музей-театр «Булгаковский дом». The museum is dedicated to the times in which the great writer lived and created his works in and to help immerse visitors in the atmosphere of the epoch, the museum team offers unique walking tours of Bulgakov’s Moscow. If time permits, definitely don’t miss an excursion on the famous rubber-tyred tram 302-bis.
Both museums are in a remarkable location as there are many memorable places in close proximity where you can have a pleasurable walk. The Patriarch’s pondsRussian: Patriarshiye prudy or Патриаршие пруды hide on one side of # 302-bis. It was here that the events of the first chapter of “Master and Margarita” took place. The Foreign Affairs reception houseRussian: dom priyomov MIDa or дом приемов МИДа, where Margarita lived according to one version of the tale, is close by at 17, SpiridonovkaRussian: Spiridonovka or Спиридоновка street. The Aquarium gardenRussian: sad «Akvarium» or сад «Аквариум», where the famous Variety ShowRussian: Варьете used to be located, is on the other side. The way from the Red Square Moscow to the Museum will take you about half an hour.
MUSEUM-THEATRE BULGAKOV’S HOUSE
In 2004, art patrons and connoisseurs of Bulgakov’s works founded one of the most hospitable museums of the city – Mikhail Bulgakov’s House Museum Theatre. It opened its doors and has kept them open absolutely free of charge (you only need to buy tickets to some special events). The museum is located in the same building as the “sinister” communal flat where Bulgakov used to live with his first wife Tatiana Lappa during his first four years in Moscow.
Inside the museum, visitors will not find many of the author’s possessions but definitely expect to feel the spirit of a Soviet flat of the early 20th century. The atmosphere is undeniably Bulgakov’s – museum employees have created a unique electronic exhibit which lends itself well to re-creating the atmosphere of the previous century. There is also an archive of documents and objects of value connected with Bulgakov’s life and creative work which contribute to the sense of antiquity.
Among the objects in the museum, there is an authentic cupboard with food from the 1920s, Underwood typewriters, period furniture, books, first editions of the writer’s novels and short stories, and, quite unexpectedly, a giant black cat which lives in the flat. Its name is BehemothRussian: Бегемот, which comes as no surprise.
HISTORY OF THE BUILDING IN SADOVAYA STREET. BULGAKOV’S FLATS
The building housing the museum at present was constructed between 1902 and 1905. It was a classical tenement building, belonging to Iliya Pigit, a Russian millionaire. The exceedingly rich owner of the DukatRussian: Дукат tobacco factory invested in real estate built in the Art Nouveau style (or, rather, its Russian variant). Construction was booming in Moscow at that time. The Garden RingRussian: Sadovoye Koltso or Садовое Кольцо made up of streets trimmed with trees was underway. Bolshaya Sadovaya was one of these newly built streets. With his entrepreneurial spirit, Mr. Pigit sold his property in June 1917, as if having smelled a rat. Luckily, it turned out he had – a revolution hit the country soon after that. After the revolution he wouldn’t have got even a negligible sum of money for the tenement building as the new authorities turned the elegant flats of the former tenement building into shared communal flats.
Mikhail Bulgakov moved into one of these communal flats in September 1921. The writer didn’t show much predilection for the Soviet authorities, just like his professor Preobrazhensky from ‘The Dog’s HeartRussian: Sobache serdtse or Собачье сердце’, as the proletariat with their lack of culture and undue familiarity irritated him. You did not have to travel far for examples of unscrupulousness – when the street was being widened, the “hegemons” broke down the front fence which had been an important ornament of the building. In his novel, Bulgakov changed the number of the house from 10 to a proletarian-like ludicrous 302-bis. Three years after the writer’s family moved in, they changed flats, moving to a more comfortable one on the fourth floor – #34. This move was a treat for Tatiana Lappa, whom Bulgakov left a few months later to live with Lubov Belozerskaya, who he married in 1925. The writer’s third wife, Elena Shilovskaya, became the prototype for Margarita, the Master’s soulmate. Elena Shilovskaya afterwards became the keeper of Bulgakov’s literary legacy.
EXCURSIONS RUN BY THE MUSEUM-THEATRE
The cat called Behemoth, together with Bulgakov’s other characters, is a feature hero of the plentiful tours the museum has on offer. The word “theatre” in the name of Bulgakov House is no coincidence, as tours of the museum and the surroundings guided by the museum employees are exceptionally good, ideally stylised, interactive and with a large number of twists in the tale inspired by Bulgakov’s works (“Manuscripts Do not BurnRussian: Rukopisi ne goryat or Рукописи не горят”, “Mystical Moscow and the Ghosts’ TerritoryRussian: Misticheskaya Moskva i territoriya prizrakov or Мистическая Москва и территория призраков”, gripping night excursions, and others). The museum also stages the main scenes from the legendary “novel in a novel”.
If time permits, don’t miss an excursion on the famous rubber-tyred tram 302-bis which departs from the museum and takes tourists all around Bulgakov’s Moscow starting from Patriarch’s ponds. The excursions finish in different parts of Moscow, because there are so many itinerary options. Apart from excursions, Bulgakov’s House Cultural Centre organises “Evening With…” events, exhibitions and lectures, regularly inviting talented theatrical ensembles and aspiring musicians, actors, and writers.
For those who believe the magic of Bulgakov’s words, there is a Love MailRussian: Pochta lyubvi or Почта любви mailbox by the entrance to the museum. Any visitor is welcome to place a piece of paper with their wish in it. They say that the wishes regularly come true and if it is delayed, the museum magicians can help put them into practice on the annual Wishes Come True dayRussian: Den ispolneniya zhelaniy or День исполнения желаний together with the bronze Fagot and Behemoth the cat who welcomes guests to Bulgakov’s House whatever the weather.© 2016-2023 moscovery.com