Аркадий Аполлонович Семплеяров

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In the novel Arkady Appolonovich Sempleyarov is the self-satisfied chairman of the Acoustics Commission of the Moscow theatres. During the show at the Variety Theatre he is in box number 2 with two ladies: the first one is his wife, and the second one is his distant relation, a promising debutante, who had come from Saratov and is living in the apartment of Arkady Apollonovich and his wife. After the scene where the ladies got their new dresses, he interrupts the show by demanding that Woland exposes the technique of his tricks to the spectators without delay, "especially the trick with the paper money".

But instead Fagot reveals something else: he announces in public that Sempleyarov was not on a meeting of the Acoustics Commission on Чистые пруды (Chystye Prudy) or Clean Ponds the night before, but in Yelokhovskaya Street to visit an actress from the regional itinerant theatre, Militsa Andreevna Pokobatko, with whom he spent some four hours.

After the devil has left Moscow, Arkady Sempleyarov spends a very difficult evening in "a certain Moscow institution" (the NKVD at Lubyanka square). It was a difficult conversation, a most unpleasant conversation, for he had to tell with complete sincerity not only about this obnoxious scéance and the fight in the box, but along with that - as was indeed necessary - also about Militsa Andreevna Pokobatko from Yelokhovskaya Street, and about the Saratov niece, and "about much else, the telling of which caused Arkady Apollonovich inexpressible torments". But everything ends well for him. The testimony of "an intelligent and cultivated man" like Arkady Apollonovich, a sensible and qualified witness (…) "advanced the investigation considerably". The guilty never were caught, but yet...


The so called Acoustics Commission of the Moscow theatres did not exist in reality. Bulgakov based this institution very probably on the UTZP, the Directorate for Theatre Enterprises belonging to the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment.

Bulgakov situates his Commission on Чистые пруды (Chistye Prudy) or Clean Ponds. In the Soviet era there were, indeed, three organisations responsible for guarding - and especially censoring - a variety of arts. They all belonged to the Народный комиссариат просвещения (Наркомпрос) or the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment (Narkompros):

- the Управления театральных зрелищных предприятий Наркомпроса or the Directorate for Theatre Enterprises belonging to the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment (UTZP)

- the Управления Московских зрелищных предприятий Наркомпроса or the Directorate for Moscow Entertainment Enterprises belonging to the People's Commissariat of Enlightenment (UMZP)

- the Главный репертуарный комитет (Главрепертком) or the Central Committee for Repertoires (Glavrepertkom).

Arkady Sempleyarov lives, according to Bulgakov, at the Каменный мост (Kamenni Most) or Stone Bridge in the Дом на набережной (Dom na neberezjnoj) or the House on the Embankment. The real director of the Государственного объединения музыки, эстрады и цирка (ГОМЕЦ) or the State Union of Music-Hall, Concert, and Circus Enterprises (GOMEC), Yakov Stanislavovich Ganetsky (1879-1937), lived at the same address.

The UTZP was under command of M.P. Arkadiev - probably the source of inspiration for Arkady Sempleyarov's first name. The Glavrepertkom was, from 1930 to 1937, headed by Osaf Semenovich Litovsky (1892-1971), one of Bulgakov's major enemies, and the man who was probably the prototype for the Latunsky character.

According to the Bulgakov Encyclopaedia the surname Sempleyarov would come from the name of a good friend of Bulgakov’s, composer and director Alexander Afanasevich Spendiarov (1871-1928). But Spendarov was not as self-satisfied and arrogant as Sempleyarov in the Variety Theatre. On the contrary, he was rather anxious and absent-minded, like the Sempleyarov we meet later in the novel, in chapter 27 [he was unwell, had retired for the night, and could not come to the phone], when he is summoned to come to the office of the secret police.

For the more assertive, big-headed Sempleyarov in the theatre, Bulgakov was rather inspired by the character of Avel Sofronovich Enukidze (1877-1937), a Georgian who, from 1922 to 1935, was chairman of the boards of the Bolshoi Theatre and the Moscow Art Theatre MKHAT. Enukidze was also member of the Narkompros, of which some departments had their offices at Chistye Prudy number 6, where Bulgakov situates the Acoustics Commission of the Moscow theatres. Enukidze was much attracted by the female beauty, and he was particularly interested in the actresses of the theatres submitted to his Commission. In June 1935 he was removed from his party functions, and in December 1937 he was sentenced and executed for terrorist acts against the native country and espionage. Together with him was sentenced and executed baron Boris Sergeevich Shteiger (1892-1937), the prototype of baron Meigel in the novel.

Both Semplejarov's intervention in the Variety Theatre and the situation with the niece from Saratov remind to Vsevolod Emilevich Meyerhold (1874-1940), an enthousiast activist of the Soviet theatre, but yet opponent to the Social Realism, who had worked in the Theatre department of the Narkompros until 1922, when he started his own Meyerhold Theatre in Moscow. In March 1936 he would have said in a discussion that “the masses of spectators ask for an explanation".

The link with the niece is made because Meyherhold had a close relationship with the Saratov region, and because his second wife, Zynaida Nikolaevna Rajkh (1894-1939) was twenty years younger than him. In 1939, when she was found dead in their apartment, Meyerhold was heavily tortured to make him confess that he had murdered her. He was sentenced to death and executed, probably on February 1, 1940.

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