Moscow mystical

What are the most mystical places in Moscow? Historian Boris Meleshko knows the answer and takes us around Moscow of Mikhail Bulgakov.

Let us start our walk with the famous Pigit's house, a masterpiece of art Nouveau, Bolshaya Sadovaya St., 10 (1) . It was here, where the «odd apartment» from the novel «Master and Margarita» was located, and now it houses the Bulgakov Museum. The millionaire tobacco manufacturer, the owner of «Dukat» Ilya Davidovich Pigit, planning to build a tobacco factory, bought a plot of land. But it was near a temple and at that time the Church opposed tobacco smoking. Pigit did not want to conflict with the Church, so he decided to build an apartment house instead of the factory. But the project was not very profitable, so Pigit began to rent the apartments to artists. Workshops of avant-garde artists Pyotr Konchalovsky, Aristarkh Lentulov, Georgy Yakulov were located here. By the way, in this house in Sadovaya street Yesenin and Isadora Duncan for the first time met in one of the workshops.

House 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya was built in 1902-1903. The room in apartment 50 is the first Moscow address of Mikhail Bulgakov.

It was in Bolshaya Sadovaya street, 10, where having arrived to Moscow in autumn of 1921, Mikhail Bulgakov rented a room in the apartment No. 50. He wrote to his sister: «... The most horrible question in Moscow is the apartment ... The room is bad, the same as the neighbors, I do not feel settled. Getting the room has cost a lot of trouble...» Bulgakov managed to settle only with the help of Nadezhda Krupskaya, who headed the magazine, where he worked part time writing satirical articles. The interesting fact is, that the apartment No.50 had a bad reputation even before it was described in the novel «Master and Margarita». In the summer of 1917 Fanny Kaplan, a member of the Socialist-Revolutionary party lived in it — she was a friend of Pigit's niece. Fanny had a love affair with Lenin's brother Dmitry Ulyanov.

But back to Bulgakov. He has mentioned the house in Bolshaya Sadovaya street in his article «Moonshine Lake», in the story «To a Secret Friend» and the essay «The First Commune for Children». And everywhere it appears as a terrible place. In the novel «Master and Margarita» Woland stops here, in this apartment Satan's ball takes place — the walls move apart, the time decreases ....

By the way, do you know why one of the novel’s characters was named Koroviev? The reason is that Ermolaevsky lane, which was seen from Bulgakov's window (2), had a second name — Koroviev lane. There were cows grazing nearby leaving plenty of excrements their «emissions» in abundance. And, by the way, what is the origin of the names Kozya Sloboda, Kozikhinskiy lane, the Patriarch ponds (3)? All these names are connected with the Church of St. Hermolaus (1610) (4). It was founded as a local church in the Patriarch's Sloboda by the second Patriarch of Moscow and all Russia Hermogenes (in the world — Hermolaus). Sloboda is a part of the land, exempted from taxes. And the Patriarch had developed quite a decent business there — goat breeding. The goat down was used to make church vestments and royal clothes. So the Patriarch's Sloboda, goats and cows pastures gave the name to the streets and lanes.

House 10 on Bolshaya Sadovaya. Our days.
AIF/Eduard Kudryavitsky

In «Master and Margarita» Berlioz gets under the tram, it happens at the Patriarch's ponds. But there was no tram route at Patriarch's ponds. So why did it appear in the novel? The fact is, that for a short time a night summer parking for trams was located there. And in the novel the wagon was empty — it was a tram that went for an overnight stay.

Next to the Pigit house the Aquarium park is located since the late XIX century. The building of the Mossovet Theatre is standing in the park now (5). In Bulgakov's time there was a Variety building here. In the novel, in the «Variety» theater «a black magic session» takes place on the night from Good Friday to Holy Saturday. All the events of the novel occur in the days before Easter. In this week people usually go to the church, but in this case they went to look at the devil ... Bulgakov, when he wrote the novel «Master and Margarita», was a deeply religious man.

Patriarchal ponds are named in honor of the patriarch Hermogenes.
AIF/Eduard Kudryavitsky

The next point of our trip — an apartment house of Veshnyakov (Malaya Bronnaya street, 32) (6), which «looks» at the Patriarch's ponds. In this house in the apartment No.24 Bulgakov, participating in a spiritualistic session, evoked the spirit of Napoleon. Together with his first wife Tatyana Lappa the writer, visited Ivan Pavlovich Kreshkov. Bulgakov jokingly suggested that they rotate the table. Thus was born the feuilleton «Spiritistic Session ». Plot: the hosts invited friends to evoke the spirit of Emperor Napoleon, who was supposed to answer the burning question, for how long the Bolsheviks would be in power. The session was unexpectedly interrupted. The representatives of the Cheka appeared in the apartment. When the «Spiritistic Session» was published, Kreshkov was furious and was going to stuff Bulgakov's face. The writer was rescued by his friends.

Occultism on Malaya Bronnaya, 32, is described in the feuilleton.
AIF/Eduard Kudryavitsky

Now, let us go to Maly Kozikhinskiy lane, 12 (7). It is the apartment house of a wealthy widow Volobueva, mentioned in the feuilleton «About Good Life» (8) . In the apartment No. 12 friends of Bulgakov lawyer Komorsky and his wife Zinaida Vasilievna used to live. Bulgakov, who lived in a small room in a communal apartment in Sadovaya street, wrote: «Zina miraculously settled. Somehow in the centre of Moscow she has not just a flat, but a bonbonniere with three rooms, bathroom, phone, husband.» In 1923 the Moscow literary men met here the «red count» Alexei Tolstoy, who had just returned from exile.

Small Kozikhinsky lane, 12. Here they met the "red graph" of Tolstoy.
AIF/Eduard Kudryavitsky

Bulgakov met his third and the last wife Yelena Shilovskaya, in one of the first skyscrapers of Moscow, 11-storey building in Bolshoy Gnezdnikovsky pereulok, 10 (9) which had a cinema theater and an observation deck. Elena became the guardian angel of the writer. She was married to a friend of Tukhachevsky, military chief Shilovsky, therefore she was a member of the Soviet elite. Many times she helped Bulgakov, managed to keep him afloat.

View of the house Nirnsee (Gnezdnikovsky lane, 10, in the background) from the Passion Square, 1920s.

But the beginning of their love story was dramatic. Elena suffered from the flood of love to Bulgakov, but not to part with her two sons she did not want to divorce Shilovsky. During almost 2 years she did not allow herself to see Bulgakov. But finally she left her husband. Subsequently, one of her boys lived with them, and the second stayed with her ex-husband.

And we will finish our walk at the Novodevichy cemetery (10). Bulgakov died very early, at the age of 48. But even after his death, Elena went on worrying about him. At the request of the widow a stone was installed at the grave of the writer, which was given the name «Golgotha» (11). Previously, it was laying at the tomb of Gogol.

Stone from the grave of N. Gogol on the grave of M. Bulgakov.

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