Mikhail Bulgakov

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Mikhail Bulgakov

Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov (in Russian, Михаил Афанасьевич Булгаков; May 3july./ May 15 from 1891greg. – March 10, 1940) was a Soviet writer and dramatist of the first half of the twentieth century. His best known work is the novel El maestro y Margarita.

Mikhail_Bulgakov’s Biography

Mikhail Bulgakov was born on May 15, 1891 in Kiev, Ukraine, which was then part of the Russian Empire. He was the first-born of Afanasiy Bulgákov, an assistant professor at the Kiev Academy of Theology. His grandparents were both clerics of the Russian Orthodox Church. From 1901 to 1904 Bulgákov attended the First High School of Kiev, where he showed interest in Russian and European literature.

In 1913 Bulgákov married Tatiana Lappa. At the outbreak of the First World War he volunteered at the Red Cross, and was immediately sent to the war front, where he was seriously injured on at least two occasions. In 1916 he graduated from the Department of Medicine of the University of Kiev and then, along with his brothers, enlist in the White Army.

After the Civil War and the rise to power of the Soviets, much of his family emigrated into exile in Paris. Meanwhile, Mikhail and his brothers were in the Caucasus, where he started working as a journalist. Despite his relatively privileged status during the regime of Joseph Stalin, when he was invited to work as a doctor by the governments of France and Germany he was prevented from emigrating from Russia due to typhus. It was then the last time he saw his family.

Bulgakov suffered because of his war wounds, which had a serious effect on his health. To alleviate chronic pain, especially in the abdomen, morphine was given. It is believed that during the following year his addiction was increasing. In 1918 he stopped injecting himself with morphine and never again would do so in the future. His book entitled Morphine, published in 1926, testifies to the state of the writer during these years.


Portrait of the 1930s signed by Bulgakov himself.

Although his first attempts to write fiction were made in Kiev, he would not decide to leave medicine to devote himself to his love for literature until 1919. His first book was an almanac of folletines called Future Perspectives, written and published that same year. In 1921, Bulgákov moved to Moscow where he began his career as a writer. They lived near the Patriarch’s Ponds, where a large part of his later novel El maestro y Margarita would be located. Four years later (in 1925) he would divorce his first wife, to marry Lyubov Beloziórskaya. He published a series of writings during the first half of the 1920s, but since 1927 his career began to suffer due to the constant criticism that he was too anti-Soviet. By 1929 his career was ruined, and the government had censored and banned the publication of any of his works and the staging of any of his works.

In 1932, Bulgákov married for the third time, with Yelena Shílovskaya, who would be the inspiration for the character Margarita in her most famous novel. During the last decade of his life, Bulgakov continued working on The Master and Margarita, wrote plays, reviews and stories and made several translations and dramatizations of novels. Many of them were not published and others were destroyed by the critics.

Bulgakov never supported the regime, and mocked his shortcomings in several of his works, which would mean ten years of ostracism. Most of his writings remained in the drawers of his desk for several decades. In 1930 he wrote a letter to Stalin requesting permission to emigrate from the Soviet Union if he refused to value it as a writer. In response he received a personal call from Stalin himself, asking for explanations about his request. The writer would tell in his autobiography how this was one of the most dramatic moments of his life because, shocked, he did not dare to reiterate his request at that time, only reiterating that a writer can not live far from his homeland. Stalin, however, had enjoyed one of his works, so he found work at the Moscow Workers’ Theater (Театр рабочей молодёжи or, abbreviated, TRAM), and then at the Moscow Art Theater.

In the theater, where he premiered some of his works, he had to endure a constant harassment by the NKVD, which came to register his home and arrest him on more than one occasion, the publication of his works being boycotted. Bulgákov died of a hereditary kidney problem in 1940 and was buried in the Novodevichy Muscovite cemetery.

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