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Mikhail Bulgakov’s cult novel The Master and Margarita is a unique phenomenon in Russian literature of the 20th century. It is a satirical masterpiece that tells the story of the devil’s visit to Soviet Moscow at the height of Stalinist purges. Bulgakov’s devil rewards the good, punishers the wrongdoers and leads the secret police on a wild goose chase around the streets of Moscow.

In the 1920s Bulgakov’s phenomenally successful play The Days of the Turbins  was running at the Moscow Arts Theatre  and was famously seen by Stalin several times. However, by the end of that decade Bulgakov’s refusal to compromise his vision and to adapt to the ideological demands of the time led to a widespread ban on his works. He was placed under police surveillance and his ‘sunset’ novel was written in secret. This talk explores Bulgakov’s life (1891-1940) and The Master and Margarita as a story of surviving in Stalinist Russia. Bulgakov – one of the great 20th century writers. 

Dr. Olga Voronina has taught at the Universities of Leeds, Nottingham, St. Andrews, and University College Oxford before returning to The School of Slavonic & East European Studies at UCL in 2017. She completed her PhD in Comparative literature at UCL SSEES in 2011 and is the author of Depicting the Divine: Mikhail Bulgakov and Thomas Mann. She regularly speaks on Russian literature and culture, and was recently an expert panelist on the BBC World Service programme The Forum on The Master and Margarita.

In English.

This lecture is dedicated to the memory of the late Professor Richard Freeborn D.Litt. Professor of Russian Literature at SSEES from 1967 to 1988,  a long time and most distinguished member of this Society and its predecessor Societies, who delivered several lectures to us, who regularly contributed exquisitely written articles to this Society’s Journal, and who sadly passed away on January 1st 2019 at the age of 92.