The Soviet Union in Bulgakov's time
In order to understand the satire in The Master and Margarita completely, one should know its context. Bulgakov, born in 1891, was youngster and adolescent in the last years of the regime of czar Nicolas II (1868-1918). During the civil war following the revolution he took the Whites' side.
When Stalin came to power, Bulgakov had a very difficult time. His stories, novels and plays were very popular among the public, but unanimously abused by the state critics and banned by the authorities. Though Stalin said that he loved Bulgakov's plays, he was prohibited to publish them, and the staging of his plays was forbidden.
In the chapter Historical and political context you can read how the Soviet Union could emerge, and how the country was organized under Stalin, with a special focus on the secret police which played a major role, not only in The Master and Margarita, but also in daily life of the soviet citizens.
In the chapter Economical context two other important themes from the novel are discussed: the housing policy and the currency policy.
In the chapter Social and cultural context some social and cultural aspects of the Russian society are described which were not different in the Stalin period than in the periods before or after. But knowing them can help to bet-ter understand some parts of the novel.
In the chapter The literary scenery we describe not only the environment in which writers such as Bulgakov had to try to survive, but also the poet Aleksandr Pushkin, who is often mentioned in The Master and Margarita, and who, still today, is of great importance for all Russians.
Studies and essays
In our archive section you can find more studies and essays on the Soviet Union in Bulgakov's time.
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.