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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Mikhail Bulgakov and his works Galichenko, Nicholas Vladimirovich

Abstract

The scholarly purpose of this thesis is to illustrate the position occupied by Mikhail Afqnasyevich Bulgakov (1891-1940) in Soviet satire particularly and in Russian literature as a whole, since the dilemma in which the author under analysis found himself, was shared by Soviet authors of diverse backgrounds and literary ideas. Early princedom Russia, the Kievan State and the entire pre-Petrine epoch with its archaic structure, enrooted convervatism and primitivism did not regard literature, grammar and education as valuable assets to the Russian citizen. Of greater importance was defence against invading hordes of nomads, the search for food for daily life and the observance of ancient orders, social customs, superstitions and firm belief in the old faith. It was Peter the Great's responsibility by means of enormous efforts and the introduction of vigorous, often drastic laws and methods, to smash through the century-old crust of ancient "ice" covering the Russian land, the Russian soul and mentality. When he began to trim the boyar’s beards, some preferred suicide to humiliation, and others death beneath the axe of the state executioner. It seems that similarly Russian literature has always led and leads a path of suffering in a difficult defense of its literary principles against oppressive odds and very likely will continue to do so in the future. Such a beginning, this virus in the body of Russian literature - the pushing of various impeding stakes in between the spokes of creativity, never was cured by the application of any effective antidotes. Thus was the fate of Russian literature decreed, so that within it may always be juxtaposed the Pushkins with the Dantes, the Lermontovs with Martynovs, Bulgakovs and Tarsis’ with the Khrushchevs, Brezhnevs and their party successors . In the works of each of Russia's literary giants -prose writers and poets alike, each paragraph, line and word fought with a Herculeon will and might its way towards life in the hearts and minds of the people. For this reason tyrants, regardless of bloodlines, fear the growth, significance and active role of literature. For this reason Russian literature, developing and refining itself always remained very caustic in tone, very heavy in theme and had many enemies everywhere - among the strong of the world, in the darkest kingdoms of egoists, bureaucrats, secret services and other organs of suspicion, censorship and enslavement. Were not all the persons sincerely connected with literature condemned as rioters, rebel-rousers and revolutionaries? And how many special rules governed and still regulate the printing presses? Where else but in Russia did the shameful employment of "zits-editors" exist, whose duty it was to sit out jail terms for their employers - editors and publishers of newspapers and journals - who were sentenced by rule of other men, not law? Finally, what mountains of literary works were censored and what number of their authors defamed? It may be deduced, that over twenty-five percent of all literary workers in Russian literature perished either physically or morally and died one of these deaths. Such "attention" paid to literature by its oppressors could not help but leave a trace on its history. It is unlikely that our evaluation of Russian literature as one baptized in storm and fire is incorrect. These very elements continue to temper it today. Why else would the characteristic genres like "laughter through tears", "notes from penal and mental institutions" (imaginary and factual) and "dreams” prevail in it? What indeed did the Russian literary figure characteristically represent? He was the object of suppression, criticism, censorship, and other extreme measures. What had the writer to be on alert for? Dangerous intrigue in the case of Pushkin, ill-fame for Bulgakov and death for Pasternak. In Soviet times, all of these "pleasures" awaited each writer and poet if he could not reconcile himself with and "thank" from the bottom of his heart his hateful overlords, the rulers of the bodies and souls of the Russian people. In completing a major thesis on M.Bulgakov, it was necessary first of all to keep in mind a great Russian literature, whose image may be likened to a Sorrowful Beauty, who presents before the peoples of the world her magnificent exterior and mature personality, while mourning for the people of her own land. I wish to call her by the ancient yet appropriate apellation - "a mourner of the Russian soul". In contrast to French literature - a coquettish being, and German literature - a home economist, Russian literature despite the presence of Krylov, Chekhov, Gorbunov and later Zoschenko - always bore the stamp of "laughter through tears". Mikhail Bulgakov in the history of Russian literature was at one and the same time a part of its heritage and an educational, scandalous embarrassment for the Soviet government. But for Russia itself, Mikhail Bulgakov was one of those rare people who give impetus and vitality to a national literature that will live forever.

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