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Mikhail Bulgakov

Mikhail Bulgakov Born on March 15, 1891 in Kiev, from an early age Bulgakov had a way with language and satirical wit. As a child he was said to be “merciless with his tongue.” Bulgakov decided to study medicine as it supplied him with a stable job after the death of his father. He graduated in 1916 and spent some time working as a war doctor during World War I but was soon sent to an outlying village.

Finally, in 1918 he returned back to Kiev only to enter into civil war. Siding with the White Army, he fought against the Bolsheviks and fled Kiev in 1919 to the northern Caucasus. Once there, he worked as a doctor for the White Army, publishing his works in a local newspaper. In 1920, the Bolsheviks seized the town, Bulgakov unable to flee due to contracting a very bad case of typhus. After his recovery, he was on the run again. He eventually made his way back to Moscow around 1921 in hopes of pursuing a literary career. In Moscow, Bulgakov wrote many works including two science fiction stories: “Fatal Eggs” published in 1924 and “Heart of the Dog” in 1925. It is said his work of the 1920s reflected his time in Moscow and the period of the New Economic Policy. “Heart of the Dog” was Bulgakov’s first works to be completely banned due to its degree of satire and the political climate of the time. He was also heavily criticized for portraying too much sympathy for the White Army. After the ban in 1925, very few of his works were printed. Bulgakov fell into obscurity in 1929, when his theatrical works were also banned. In May 1931, Bulgakov sent a personal letter to Stalin denouncing his profession as a writer.

Mikhail Bulgakov died of an inherited kidney disease on March 10, 1940 in Moscow. Now, Bulgakov’s popularity has increased and his story “Heart of the Dog” was made into a 1988 film made for TV directed by Vladimir Bortko.

Heart of the Dog

Yevgeni Zamyatin

Yevgeni Zamyatin Yevgeni Zamyatin was born in Lebedyan on February 1, 1884. In 1908, he graduated from the Naval Engineering Department. While at school, he became involved in politics and joined the Bolshevik party. In 1906, he was arrested and imprisoned for his political views, ironically the same prison and same hallway he would be imprisoned in 16 years later under the Soviet regime.

In 1916 he went to England and worked as a supervisor to the construction of Russian icebreakers. Zamyatin returned to Russia for the revolution in 1917, and became a schoolteacher helping young writers find their way.

Among Zamyatin’s works, his longest, and most controversial novel was “We” written in 1922 demonstrating the destruction of love from a totalitarian system. It was banned immediately from being published due to its dystopian outlook of socialism and satire of the USSR’s future. A few chapters were published but led to such a violent campaign against Zamyatin, that he resigned from the All-Russian Writers’ Association in 1929. The novel was published in its English translation outside of Russia in 1924.

Unable to publish anything, Zamyatin was granted permission to leave the Soviet Union in 1931. He settled in Paris. Yevgeni Zamyatin died there March 10, 1937. His novel “We” influenced George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” and speculated to have also influenced Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World.”


Evgeny Shvarts

Evgeny Shvarts Evgeny Shvarts was born October 21, 1896 in Kazan. Their family soon moved to the Caucasus where Shvarts grew up. He studied for some time at Moscow University in law but joined an experimental theater group in 1919. The group went to Petrograd in 1921 where Shvarts left acting and began a career as an author of children’s literature. His stories were a combination of fairy tale and realistic characters, often writing clever but daring spoofs of tyrants. Several of Shvarts’ plays were based on Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tales, who was a Danish author that focused primarily on children stories in the 1800s. In the 1930s and 40s Shvarts had considerable success writing plays for puppet theater. His other plays were written for children but the satirical overtones also made them interesting for adult audiences too.

Shvarts was plagued by censorship by the communist party due to his portrayal of the abuse of power by rulers in his stories. His play “The Dragon” was written in 1943, derived loosely from the Arthurian Legend of Sir Lancelot. But after its premier at the Leningrad Comedy Theatre, it was banned until 1962 due to its satirical take on totalitarianism. Some of his other works like “The Naked King” written in 1934 and “The Shadow” written in 1940 also didn’t achieve success until the 60s.

During the 40s until Stalin’s death, Shvarts did not write very much in fear of extreme censorship. After 1953, interest in his work began to grow and Shvarts wrote the popular “An Ordinary Miracle” in 1954, which was made into a popular Soviet film in 1978. Evgeny Shvarts died January 15, 1958 in Leningrad.


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