The son of a theology professor, Mikhail Afanasyevich Bulgakov was born in Kiev on May 15, 1891, and was reared in a middle-to upper-middle-class family among the intelligentsia of that city. Characters like the ones he must have known as a child show up in his drama frequently and are usually portrayed sympathetically, indicating, perhaps, a comparatively happy childhood in an affluent milieu that was to be radically altered during the Revolution and the following civil war. From 1901 to 1909, Bulgakov attended Kiev’s Aleksandrovsky High School, where his main interest seemed to be theater. Nevertheless, though renowned in childhood as a storyteller and mimic, Bulgakov enrolled in the College of Medicine at Kiev University, from which he was graduated with distinction in 1916. Bulgakov declared a specialty in venereology and, taking his first wife, Tatiana Lappa, to whom he had been married in 1913, with him, practiced medicine in the rural villages of Nikolskoe and Vyazma, primarily curing infections and amputating limbs. Returning to Kiev, where he spent the Civil War residing in the formerly placid family apartment, he witnessed fourteen changes of government in Kiev. He later chronicled this instability and its effects on Kiev’s citizens in the novel The White Guard and in his first major play, Days of the Turbins.
In 1920, Bulgakov abandoned medicine for a career as a writer, penning several no longer remembered plays for the provincial theater in Vladikavkaz, where he also did some acting. While beginning work on The White Guard, which in 1927 would establish his reputation as a writer, Bulgakov moved in 1921 to Moscow, the city that would be his home until six months before his death. During the next few years, Bulgakov worked on his novel and made a living writing stories for Communist magazines and newspapers. These first stories, some clearly autobiographical, mainly depict the cruelty and violence of the Civil War and the low-life characters struggling to exist in the first years of the New Economic Policy, which went into effect in March, 1921. Among the best-known of these pieces are “Diavoliada”...
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