Other characters in Moscow
George Bengalsky is the master of ceremony in the Variety Theatre. He's a symbol for the «political educators» who took an active part in the Soviet society. Mikhail Bulgakov hated them, so he is promptly decapitated by Woland's gang. This character is probably based on Vladimir Ivanovich Nyemirovich-Danchenko (1858-1943), one of the directors of the Moscow Art Theatre MKhAT. Bulgakov called him an «old cynic». He was longing to show his novel to this «philistine». In his Theatrical novel Bulgakov already presented this Vladimir Ivanovich on the bank of the river Ganges. Maybe that's an explanation for the name Bengalsky.
Bengalsky's decapitation was probably inspired by a scene from the novel Metamorphoses, also known as The Golden Ass, written by the romanized Berber Lucius Apuleius Platonicus (123 BC- 80 BC). Metamophfoses is the only Latin novel which was preserved in its entirety. The witch Moreya tears off the head of the main character, Socrates, and puts it back intactly.
Anna Frantsevna, the widow of jeweller de Fougeray, lived in apartment number 50 of Bolshaya Sadovaya ulitsa 302-bis before Likhodeev and Berlioz. The name de Fougeray must sound odd in Russian ears, because фужер [fougèré] means wine glass in Russian. In Russia lived a real jeweller with a similar name though: Peter Carl Fabergé (1846-1920).
Fabergé was a third generation Russian operating the jewelry which his father had founded in 1870 in Saint-Petersburg. He opened points of sales in Moscow, Odessa, Paris and London. His craftsmen made many lavishly decorated objects, but got famous all over the world with the imperial easter eggs which were very popular to the last two czars from 1881 to 1917.
A far relative of the real jeweler, A. P. Fabergé, lived in Prechistenka 13, where some of Bulgakov's friends lived later. Bulgakov was a frequent visitor of this house when he started living in Moscow. The candleholder and the staircase in the novel are probably based on examples he had seen there.
Kurolesov is the actor who, in Nikanor Ivanovich's dream, declaims fragments of The Covetous Knight of the Russian poet Alexander Sergeyevich Pushkin (1799-1837). His name is derived from the verb куролесить [kurolesit], which means as much as to play tricks. During his show Kurolesov told «many bad things about himself».
Prokhor Petrovich is the chairman of the Commission on Spectacles and Entertainment of the Lighter. When Behemoth comes to see him «to discuss a little business» with him he gets irritated and shouted: «What is all this? Get him out of here, devil take me!» Behemoth smiles and says: «Devil take you? That, in fact, can be done!» and - bang! Petrovich disappears, but his suit is still there and keeps on working like if nothing happened. Not for long though. Incidentally, he returned to his suit immediately after the police came into his office, to the ecstatic joy of Anna Richardovna and the great perplexity of the needlessly troubled police.
The Commission on Spectacles and Entertainment of the Lighter which Petrovich presides is presumably the Государственного объединения музыки, эстрады и цирка (ГОМЕЦ) [Gosusarstvennogo obedineniya muzyki, estrady i tsirka] (GOMEC) or the State Union of Music-Hall, Concert, and Circus Enterprises, which was situated in the building of the Old Circus on Tsvetnoy bulvar 13, where now the Yuri Nikulin Circus is situated.
Anna Richardovna is the secretary of Prochor Petrovich (Prosha), chairman of the Commission on Spectacles and Entertainment of the Lighter. She calls her boss Prosha, which is rather inappropriate in a working environment.
Professor Kuzmin is the doctor to whom Andrey Fokich Sokov, the barman of the Variety Theatre, goes after having heard that he would die of cancer. Like Annushka, the Kuzman character really existed as described in the novel. Kuzmin is one of the doctors who treated Bulgakov in the '30's. In reality doctor Kuzmin lived in Sadovaya Kudrinskaya 29, but in the novel Bulgakov situates his cabinet on Bolshaya Sadovaya ulitsa 5, which is the house where Elena Sergeevna Shilovskaya (1893-1970), Bulgakov's third wife, has lived. This building was demolished to make place for the Pekin hotel, one of the biggest hotels in Moscow.
Nikolay Ivanovich is Margarita's downstairs neighbour who rubs himself with the leftover of Azazello's cream and changes into a pig. He pals up with Margarita's maid Natasha, who flies on his back to the sabbath and to Woland's ball. He receives from Woland, very exceptionally, a certificate stating that he «spent the said night at Satan's ball, having been summoned there in the capacity of a means of transportation... make a parenthesis, Hella, in the parenthesis put 'hog'. Signed - Behemoth.». He wanted this certificate «for the purpose of presenting it to the police and to his wife».
Natalya Prokofyevna (Natasha)
Natasha is Margarita's housemaid who rubbed herself with the cream too. After the ball Woland allows her, like all of Margarita's friends, to return to the life she wishes, but she prefers to remain a witch because monsieur Jacques, one of the guests at the ball, had proposed to her.
Varenukha is the administrator of the Variety Theatre. After a rather rude meeting with Behemoth and Azazello appears in the front hall of Sadovaya 302-bis a completely naked girl - red-haired, her eyes burning with a phosphorescent gleam. «Let me give you a kiss», the girl says tenderly, and there are shining eyes right in front of his eyes. Then Varenukha faints and never felt the kiss. He becomes a vampire and, together with the red Hella he terrorizes financial manager Rimsky, who was only just saved because the cock trumpeted, announcing that dawn was rolling towards Moscow from the east.
Varenukha comes from варение [varenye] or to brew. It's also the name of an Ukrainean cocktail made of honey, berries and spices boiled in vodka. Unlike the Russians, who insist on chilled vodkas, the Ukrainians prefer warm brandies and vodkas, which as they so quaintly put it «make a carnation bloom right inside your stomach.» For centuries varenukha - which means boiled - was the favored tipple of the fearsome Cossacks, fueling their warrior bodies by day and making them merry by night.
Rimsky is the financial manager of the Variety Theatre. Римский or Rimsky means Roman in Russian. After his bewildered meeting with Varenukha and Hella he flees from Moscow with the Leningrad-expres. During the judicial inquiry after the events he's discovered there in the wardrobe of room 412 of the hotel Astoria. he can not or does not wish to give sensible replies to questions and is delivered to Moscow under guard. The hotel Astoria at Saint-Isac square was the place where Bulgakov's usually stayed when he went to Saint-Petersburg.
His name comes from the Russian composer Nikolay Andreevich Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908), who wrote the famous Flight of the Bumblebee from the opera The Tale of Tsar Saltan (1899-1900) and the symphonic suite Sherazade (1888).
Ironically enough the financial director of the Variety Theatre, with his rational mind an opponent of the black magic sceances, has the same name as the composer who put pagant legends and folklore onto music, like May Night (1880) and Night on Bald Mountain (1886), a symfonic poem he finished for Modest Petrovich Mussorgsky (1839-1881).
For the trivia: in Vladimir Bortko's TV-series Мастер и Маргарита [Master i Margarita] from 2005, the orchestra of the Variety Theatre plays Rimsky-Korsakov's Sherazade at the beginning of Woland's show.
Pavlovna is the citizeness with the ledger at the writers' house Griboedov who, «for unknown reasons», wrote down all those who entered the restaurant. She refuses admittance to Koroviev and Behemoth when they are having their last destructive trip in Moscow. She has the same name as the heroin from the theatre play Woe from Wit written by the real Alexander Sergeevich Griboedov (1795-1829).
When she has to admit access to the pretty pair after an intervention of Archibald Archibaldovich, they register under the names of the writers Ivan Ivanovich Panaev (1812-1862) and the critic and journalist Alexander Mikhailovich Skabichevsky (1858-1912). None of both has lived in the Soviet era, but Bulgakov considered them as low level writers. According to him they had no opinion of their own, and made their judgments just based on superficial elements like the membership of a writers' club. So they are exchangeable, which Bulgakov illustrates when they register. Koroviev wrote Skabichevsky next to the name Panaev, and Behemoth wrote Panaev next to Skabichevsky.
Nevertheless Skabichevsky could sometimes lash out severely. He once wrote an article on The Adolescent by Fyodor Michailovich Dostoevski (1821-1881) and judged that Dostoevski «as an artist and novelist was very negligent and sometimes demonstrated an amazing lack of talent».
Characters in Moscow
- Archibald Archibaldovich
- Mikhail Aleksandrovich Berlioz
- Ivan Nikolayevich Ponyrov (Homeless)
- Nikanor Ivanovich Bosoy
- Latunsky, Ariman and Lavrovich
- Stepan Bogdanovich Likhodeev (Styopa)
- Baron Meigel
- Aloisy Mogarych
- Maximilian Andreevich Poplavsky
- Alexander Riukhin
- Arkady Appolonovich Sempleyarov
- Andrey Fokich Sokov
- Doctor Stravinsky
- The writers at Griboedov's
- Other characters in Moscow
Your guide through the novel
In this section are explained, per chapter, all typical notions, names of people and places, quotations and expressions from the novel with a description of the political, social, economical and cultural context.