One cannot travel to Kiev and not visit the museum dedicated to the author Mikhail Bulgakov. Number 13 Andreevsky Spusk is his former home, situated in one the most beautiful streets in the city. This attraction offers those willing to get out and use a little shoe leather the luxury of a walk from their Kiev apartment or hotel while relishing many of the surrounding buildings that were first built in the 18th and 19th century.
The museum was founded in 1989, with many friends and relatives donating valuable and unique heirlooms. These range from the writer’s personal belongings and books to autographs, and a fascinating collection of photographs. This gives it the feel of a living museum in that everything is authentic. It tries and succeeds in preserving the spirit of both the man and his times, with all the decorations in the rooms having been carefully recreated from old photos and drawings of the period.
Mikhail Bulgakov was a journalist, playwright, novelist and short story writer whose major work was a Gogolesque fantasy titled: The Master and Margarita. This tells a tale of the devil disguised as a professor who goes to cause havoc in Moscow. The work was almost instantly suppressed, because the author adamantly refused to make any of the changes required by the authorities – the first Soviet edition was eventually published only in 1967.
Born in Kiev and the eldest son of a theology professor at Kiev Theological Academy, Bulgakov first studied medicine and actually served as a doctor from 1916-1918 in front line and district hospitals. A witness to the occupation of Kiev by the Germans and then by the Red Army, he became addicted to morphine as a means of escape, in the end giving up his medical practice in favour of a career as a writer.
His mainly autobiographical book ‘The White Guard’ was an account of those turbulent years spent in Kiev and it brought him overnight success, but it also generated some hostile reviews. It was then banned in 1929, and only fully published in 1955.
If anyone seriously wishes to get the real feel of the City of Kiev then purchasing ‘The White Guard’ is an excellent way to go, for this is a man who dearly loved his city. He passes on his sheer passion for a time and a place to the reader through his myriad of characters and exacting descriptions of life at that time. Any Kiev hotel should be able to point you to a bookstore for a copy. Take it with you, and read it on Andreyevsky Spusk and then visit the museum, but do get a guide when in the museum as that truly enhances the entire experience. Bulgakov managed to survive through Stalin’s purges till his natural death. Many believe this was because none of his novels were published in full during his lifetime, also Stalin seemingly appreciated the merciless honesty that his characters in the novel displayed to all sides – and in a world of treachery, doubt and rumour which Bulgakov captures so well that even the sides have sides, this may well have been something Stalin secretly admired.
The museum is open daily except Wednesday from 10pm to 6pm in summer and from 10am to 5pm during the winter months and is easily accessible from most Kiev apartments and hotels.