Maximilian Andreevich Poplavsky

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At the beginning of the book, in chapter 3, while Berlioz runs to the exit of the Patriarch’s Ponds to call the secret police, Woland calls out : «Would you like me to have a telegram sent at once to your uncle in Kiev?» At the beginning of chapter 18, Maximilian Andreevich Poplavsky, the uncle of the late Berlioz, came to Moscow with the first-class sleeping car no. 9 of the Kiev train. He is an industrial economist, who lives in Kiev on the former Institutsky Street, and received an astonishing telegram from his wife''s nephew: «Have just been run over by tram-car at Patriarch's Ponds funeral Friday three pm come. Berlioz».

Maximilan Andreevich does not rejoice in the spring flooding of the Dnieper, for some unknown reason he doesn't like Kiev, there's only one thing he really wants: moving to Moscow. The telegram staggers Maximilian Andreevich. This is a moment it would be sinful to let slip. «Practical people know that such moments do not come twice». It is difficult, very difficult: he must get himself registered, at least temporarily, as the tenant of his late nephew's three rooms. So he goes to the management of no. 302-bis on Sadovaya Street because, as he says: «I am obliged, in accordance with the law, to take over the inheritance contained in our apartment no. 50».

But in the apartment he meets Woland's retinue, where Behemoth puts up a good show. They intimidate the uncle in such way that, after first having withnessed Sokov's befall with the diabolic trio from a distance, he's carried by the bus in the direction of the Kiev station.


Bulgakov himself was born in Kiev. It may be surprising why the story needed an uncle from Kiev - or maybe not... it could come from the Russian saying «в огороде бузина, в Кеве дядя» [v ogorode buzina, v Kyeve dyadya], literally: «elderberries in the garden, an uncle in Kiev», which roughly means «nonsense».

Poplavsky’s concern for coming to Moscow is not so much the death of his nephew, he's more interested in the living space of the deceased. In many of his works, Bulgakov denounced the housing policy of the Soviet Union.

The typical Soviet reaction to the hardship was to think up clever schemes to get around the official regulations. The apartment exchange was a case in point. If, for example, two people married, they might want to exchange their two one room apartments for one two room apartment. The simplest way might be to find another couple who were divorcing and switch with them. Of course, all this had to be approved by the Housing Committees of each apartment building. Usually the situation was more complex: perhaps a third or fourth family would be involved, with family three moving into apartment one, and family four moving to apartment three, and so on. Inequities in terms of the size and quality of the apartment and the desirability of the neighbourhood had to be taken into account. Sometimes the parties could be paid off in some way to accept a less desirable living situation. Another trick was to divide an apartment with large rooms into smaller rooms, which might make it more desirable, at least on paper. Such machinations endured into the last days of the Soviet Union.

In one of the earlier versions of The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov used the name Poplavsky for the character of Berlioz, in another one he used the same name for the character of findirector Rimsky. In the final version, it was the name of Berlioz' uncle.

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