I hate to say it, but Mikhail Bulgakov’s memory has not been done a favor by all the attention paid to the building he lived in at 10 Bolshaya Sadovaya Street from 1921 to 1924. It is honored with two plaques, one a workmanlike affair indicating the years of the writer’s residency and the information that the building is maintained by the state, the other a more decorative thing that adds the information that some scenes from Bulgakov’s popular novel The Master and Margarita are set in this building. This latter plaque, as you can see below, is rather under attack from the signs that the contemporary world heaps on many city dwellings. Even the rather imposing second-floor balcony sign proclaiming the location The Bulgakov House, gets lost in the visual chaos of the place.
That’s not so bad, you say. That’s just what happens in the modern world. And you’d be pretty much right. I wouldn’t argue it. But, to my eye somehow, Bulgakov plays second fiddle here, popular as he is. The surfeit of information smacks up against a deficit of impact. But that’s nothing compared to what hits you when you enter the courtyard of the building where the entrance to Bulgakov’s apartment was located.
Here the building featuring two museums and a theater has been plastered with all kinds of stuff – sculptures, bas reliefs, pictures, posters, marquees and such. At least one statue – of Woland’s helpers Fagot and Begemot – was erected near the door to one of the museums. This work by sculptor Alexander Rukavishnikov was originally planned to be part of a large ensemble of sculptures that was to be erected in the mid 2000s in and around Patriarch’s Pond, another section of the city that is closely connected to the plot of The Master and Margarita. (You can see a bunch of them here.) Although all (or almost all) of the statues were made, none were ever erected in the intended location. I guess it was kind of a consolation prize that Fagot and Begemot were given a home at building No. 10. If you’ll look closely, you’ll see that they stand in close proximity to a trash can, although if you look even closer, you’ll see that many candy- and cigarette-hungry visitors just stuff their waste papers into the primus heater held by Begemot. People have their picture taken with the duo like they don’t really care, and the whole atmosphere of the place reminds me of a cheap attraction in a run-down, half-forgotten town. A little deeper into the courtyard is the entrance to museum No. 2, the so-called “bad apartment” from The Master and Margarita – that is, apartment No. 50, in which Bulgakov actually lived. I don’t know, folks. De gustibus non est disputandem. The great truth of which is proved by taking a gander at one of the many websites devoted to this conglomeration of museums and statues and such. Here, for example, are just a few of the comments on Afisha, or Marquee, magazine’s page devoted to the place:
“The Bulgakov House is a special place for me! I was there once and I talked about Mikhail Bulgakov all night…,” writes Svetlana Migovich.
“I think this was done really well and the spirit [of the place] is well-created…,” writes Aigul Kh.
“The museum may be marvelous, but the rudeness of the guy at the door amazed me…,” writes Ekaterina Arkharova.
Well, nobody’s perfect. As for me, after about 10 minutes of forcing myself to take pictures, I ran out there as if somebody had sucked all the air out of the place.