Дом Грибоедова

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Context

In chapter 4 of The Master and Margarita, when Ivan Bezdomny, after the decapitation of Berlioz, is chasing the strange trio which he met at Patriarch’s Ponds, he suddenly thinks for some unclear reason that the strange professor must be at the Griboedov House, the home base of the writers' union Massolit. «To Griboedov's! Beyond all doubt, he's there». So he runs to Griboedov's in his underwear. He tries to explain his unusual dressing to the people present by telling the story of the day, but he got tied up, and transported to doctor Stravinsky’s psychiatric hospital.

Bulgakov was rather tough in his judgment about this club who was settled in the house: «Massolit had settled itself at Griboedov's in  the best and cosiest way imaginable.  Anyone entering Griboedov's first  of  all became involuntarily acquainted with the announcements of various sports clubs, and with group as well as  individual photographs  of  the members of Massolit,  hanging  (the photographs) on the walls of the staircase leading to the second floor. On the door to the very first room of this upper  floor one could see a big  sign: 'Fishing and Vacation  Section', along with the picture of a carp caught on a line'».


Prototype

Bulgakov describes his Дом Грибоедова [Dom Griboedova] or the House of Griboedov as a «two-storeyed,  cream-coloured  house» at the Moscow Ring Boulevard.

The real life person giving his name to the house is Alexander Sergeevich Griboedov (1795-1829), author of one of the most famous Russian theatre plays, Горе от ума [Gorye ot uma] or Woe from Wit. But the Griboedov house never really existed. When we follow Bulgakov's description, we arrive at Tverskoy Boulevard no. 25. There's a house which fully fits the description: the Дом Герцена [Dom Gertsena] or Herzen house, where Alexander Ivanovich Herzen (1812-1870), another Russian author, was born.

The role of the original Herzen house corresponds to Gribodeov's in the book. The Herzen house was the home of many literary organizations in the twenties.

The first one is the Российская Ассоциация Пролетарских Писателей (РАПП) [Rossiyskaya Assotsiatsiya Proletarskikh Pisateley (RAPP)] or Russian Association of Proletarian Writers. Furthermore, the house hosted the Московская Ассоциация Пролетарских Писателей (MAPP) [Moskovskaya Assotsiatsiya Proletarskikh Pisateley (MAPP)] or the Moscow Association of Proletarian Writers and the Литературный Организация Красной Армии и Флота(ЛОКАФ) [Literaturniy Organizatsiya Krasnoy Armiy i Flota (LOKAF)] or the Literary Union of the Red Army and the Marine. The names of these organisations are real: many hideous abbreviations were commonly used in the Soviet Union. Bulgakov based the fictive Massolit on the RAPP and the MAPP.

In The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov gives no explanation for the abbrevation Massolit. But it probably was the Мастера Социалистической литературы [Mastera Sotsialisticheskoy literatury] or Masters for Socialist Literature, which could have been inspired by the wtiters' union Мастера Коммунистической Драмы (Масткомдрам) [Mastera Kommunisticheskoy Dramy (Mastkomdram)] or Masters for Communist Drama, an organisation which really existed in Bulgakov's era.

Until 1931, there was also a restaurant for writers in the Herzen house. Vladimir  Vladimirovich Mayakovsky (1894-1930) criticized it heavily in his satirical poem Herzen house. From 1925 to 1931, this restaurant was headed by Yakov Danilovich Rozental (1893-1966), nicknamed the Beard, who was the prototype for the Archibald Archibaldovich character in The Master and Margarita.

Since 1930, the Herzen House is also the home of the Maxim Gorki Literary Institute, where aspirant-writers are trained. In this context, the words of Koroviev in chapter 28 can be explained: «It's pleasant to think how under this roof no end of talents are being sheltered and nurtured». To which Behemoth replied: «Like pineapples in a greenhouse». After these words, they have a discussion with the citizeness Sofya Pavlovna about their membership and about the fact that Dostoevsky is immortal, they are taken under fire by the NKVD, and they finally set everything on fire.

Metro: Маяковская (Mayakovskaya)



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