Margarita's house

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«Margarita and her husband occupied the entire  top floor of a  magnificent house in a garden on one of the lanes  near the Arbat.  A charming place! Anyone can  be convinced of it who wishes  to  visit  this garden. Let them inquire of me, and  I will give them  the address, show them the way  -  the house stands  untouched to this day.» 

That's how Bulgakov describes Margarita's house in one of the passages where he directs himself to the reader as a chronicler.

Different opinions

In the side alleys of the Arbat, many houses correspond more or less to Bulgakov's description. On the internet there are many fanatics who are going very far in their efforts to locate it, from the direction of the incidence of light of the moon  to the angle of incidence of the place from which Margarita could see her downstairs neighbour Nikolay Ivanovitch - as if the bench on which he was sitting could  never have been removed. One can ask for the sense of such efforts. In the descriptions of other places in the novel, Bulgakov often mixed details of different places with each other, or moved existing buildings to other spots, where it suited him better. Think, for instance, of Dramlit, the Spaso house or Griboedov. But there's always a reason for it, and often Bulgakov gives clues in the satire to localise it and to give it a meaning. He doesn't give any clue for Margarita's house however, he even explicitly says that he doesn't want to do it in public - as if the readers may not know it, as if he only wants to give the address to the ones who «wish to visit  this beautiful garden». It leads us to suspect that he describes here a house of his close personal environment and that it should remain there, or maybe it just isn't relevant to understand the novel.

Bulgakov's road map

Anyway, if I have to, I'm inclined to situate the house of Margarita and her husband in Taneyevuch ulitsa, which is now Maly Vlasevsky pereulok. Therefore I rely on on a clue presented by Bulgakov's himself in Chapter 21 of the novel. Because he gives a real detailed description of Margarita's flight on the broom, you just have to follow it. She starts «over the front gates, between the maple branches, into the lane» (Sivtsev Vrazhek street). Then she got «into another that crossed the first at right angles and passed the kerosene shop to fly to the third lane» (Kaposhin street) which, indeed, led «straight to the Arbat, close to the Vakhantov theatre» of which she passed the dazzlingly bright tubes.

In Maly Vlasevsky pereulok there are - or were - two houses corresponding very well to the description. The first is number 12, a house with two storeys and a beautiful garden, a cast iron fencing and a gate. The second is number 10, of which the description corresponds perfectly with the house in the novel, at least until before 1964, the year in which it was demolished. Now there is a large characterless apartment building.

On this map you can follow Bulgakov's description of Margarita's flight

Bulgakov must have known that house on Maly Vlasevsky pereulok no. 10 very well. Because there, or in the house just next to it, in no. 9a - the sources are not unanimous - lived Olga Sergeevna Bokshanskaya (1891-1948), his sister in law. Olga Sergeevna was the personal assistant to Vladimir Ivanovich Nemirovitch-Danshenko (1858-1943), one of the two founders of the Moscow Art Theatre MKhAT. Olga Sergeevna lived there with her husband, MKhAT actor Yevgeny Vasilevich Kalushki (1896-1966). That's at least what comes from the memory of Marina Vladimirovna Dmitryeva (1917-?), born Pastukhova, the second wife of the artist Vladimir Vladimirovitch Dmitryev (1900-1948). The Dmitryevs were close friends of Bulgakov.

The Bulgakov’s had a rather complicated relation with Olga Sergeevna and her husband. Olga was unconditionally faithful to her boss, and rather insensitive for Bulgakov’s talents and feelings, which could irritate Elena Sergeevna immensely. Olga was also font of Alexander Nikolayevich Afinogenov (1904-1941), a pure communist who hindered Bulgakov frequently at the MKhAT and who was, according to Bulgakov, always given preferential treatment by the theatre management.

On the other hand, Bulgakov could appreciate his sister in law. Because it was to her that he dictated the text of The Master and Margarita end of May, beginning of June, 1938. Olga was a fully skilled typist and remained rather disapproving to The Master and Margarita until the very end,  but yet Bulgakov thought that she had worked very well, often until she was really exhausted, and Bulgakov admired her «unique perseverance».

Was Bulgakov a clairvoyant? Marina Vladimirovna Dmitriyeva said that one day, she was walking with Mikhail Bulgakov in Taneyevuch ulitsa, when he said unexpectedly: «When I die, my soul will move to your child». Bulgakov died on March 10, 1940. And exactly nine months later, on December 10, 1940, baby Anna Vladimirovna Dmitriyeva was born. This baby would later become a talented tennis player. Later she would become a sports commentator to end her career as general manager of the sports section of NTV-Plus. Her second husband, Dimitri Nikolayevitch Chukovsky (°1943), is the author of a television documentary on Mikhail Bulgakov.

The house next door, Maly Vlasevski pereulok, no. 12, which was built in the same style as Margarita'a house, has been completely restored. In January 2012, it was put on the market. The advertisement called it, rather deceptively, Margarita's house and the asking price was 42 million dollar. In that price was included the adjacent farm.

Metro: Арбатская (Arbatskaya), Смоленская (Smolenskaya)

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