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Rare Facts About Mikhail Bulgakov

The grandson of two Russian Orthodox priests, Mikhail Bulgakov was one of seven children born to father Afanasiy Ivanovich Bulgakov, state councilor and assistant profess at Kiev Theological Academy, in Kiev, Russia. His mother, Varvara Mikhailovna Bulgakova, had been a teacher prior to his birth.

Like most authors and artists of his time, despite his great works, little is known of him. Here are some interesting facts about the Russian-born author:

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1. Rumored Ties To The Tartar Hordes

The tartar hordes were the moniker given to the nomadic Mongolic tribes of the Middle Ages. This group spent three centuries invading the continent of Europe, later being assimilated by the Mongols, becoming part of the larger horde.

While the group sounds fierce, there is no definitive source to verify the rumor. The rumor itself stemmed from author Edythe C. Haber, who states that Bulgakov himself made the claim in autobiographical works.

But none of his literature makes any mention of such a connection.

2. He Served in World War I

Most people are unfamiliar with the previous positions an unassuming author has worked in. When World War I broke out, the author volunteered as a field surgeon for the Red Cross.

While on the front lines, he was injured badly at least twice. These injuries led to lifelong chronic pain, most of it centered around the abdomen. This pain began manifesting sometime in the year 1913.

3. He Was Addicted to Morphine For A Time

The pharmaceutical known as Morphine is used to treat severe pain, the majority of the time given after a large surgical procedure. For example, if you broke your leg to the point you needed surgery to reset the bone, you would likely be given morphine afterwards.

Bulgakov became addicted to the drug after returning home to nurse the injuries he sustained during deployment. The addiction arose due to his injuries causing severe pain in his abdomen, the addiction lasting a good 4 years. In 1918, through what seemed sheer willpower, the author turned away from the drug and even wrote a book, Morphine (1926), detailing the events of that part of his life.

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Considering how easily people can become addicted, it’s admirable that the author did it without medical help.

4. Typhus Barred Him from Leaving Russia

After being enlisted and mobilized like an army physician in the Ukranian People’s Army in 1919, Mikhail came down with typhus, an illness that caused fevers, headaches, and rashes. Because the illness is so contagious, the Russian government did not allow the author to leave with other fellow physicians who were invited back by the French and German governments.

5. Illness Motivated Him to Write

It wasn’t just the fact that the majority of education he received was in literature, but because typhus hit him so hard, Mikhail Bulgakov had decided he no longer wanted to practice medicine and instead became an author. An excerpt of his explains his ‘origin story’ as an author: “Once in 1919 when I was traveling at night by train I wrote a short story. In the town where the train stopped, I took the story to the publisher of the newspaper who published the story.”

After moving to Vladikavkaz, he wrote two plays which were met with great praise by the viewing audience and critics alike.

6. Joseph Stalin Helped Him on a Personal Level

Stalin personally banned Bulgakov’s work, The Run, citing “the glorification of emigration and White generals” as his reason. While the dictator banned one of his works, Stalin’s came to the author’s defense when a theater director had harsh words for the Russian-born playwright. “His works are above words such as ‘left’ and ‘right,’” Stalin explained.

7. He Had No Hope for His Last Novel

During his last years, the author wrote in a letter to his wife about The Master and Margarita, “… ‘What’s its future?’ you ask? I don’t know. Possibly, you will store the manuscript in one of the drawers, next to my ‘killed’ plays, and occasionally it will be in your thoughts. Then again, you don’t know the future. My own judgement of the books is already made and I think it truly deserves being hidden away in the darkness of some chest…”

8. The Master and Margarita is What Made Him Truly Famous

While publishers during his life scoffed at this particular work, it was published in 1966 by his third wife, nearly three decades after his death. It is one of his best-known works, and likely the first title you will come across when looking for information about Bulgakov.

9. He and His Father Died of The Same Disease

Bulgakov’s father had died because of nephrosclerosis, or hypertensive kidney disease. The author died on March 10, 1940, of nephrosclerosis as well.

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