The Dalhousie University Russian Studies Society acknowledges that all scholarship at Dalhousie and the University of King’s College takes place in Mi’kma’ki, the ancestral and unceded territory of the Mi’kmaq People. This territory is covered by the “Treaties of Peace and Friendship” which Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik/Wəlastəkwiyik (Maliseet) People first signed with the British Crown in 1726. The treaties did not deal with surrender of lands and resources but in fact recognized Mi’kmaq and Wolastoqiyik/Wəlastəkwiyik (Maliseet) title and established the rules for what was to be an ongoing relationship between nations. Мы, участники Общество студентов русского университета Далхаузи, признаем, что всё учение в университете Далхаузи и университете Кингс Колледж осуществляется в Микмаки, исконной и не переданной территории микмаков. Землевладение этой территории находится в рамках «Договоров о мире и дружбе», которые микмаки и уоластокийки/уэластекуийки (малесити) подписали вместе с британскою корелевскою властью в 1726 г. В договорах речь не идет о сдаче территории и природного богатства а об имущественном
(малеситей) и об основании правил того, что должны бы были постоянные межнациональные отношения.
Contents Clare FitzPatrick, “A Brief Analysis of the Domestic Policies of Catherine II”...................................1 Jessica Wilton, “Laughing at Everyone: An Analysis of Satire in Ilf and Petrov’s The Little Golden Calf”..................................................................................................................................................4 Mercedes Bullock, “Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita as a Commentary on the Age”...........................4 Mhairin Ratushny, “The Echoes of the Cold War in the 21st Century”...............................................17 Andrei Rodionov, “5” and “Ilya” from the 2013 collection Zveriniy Stil’ (trans. Justin Wood)................................................................................................................................................17 Justin Wood, Closing Photographs ............................................................................................................18
A Brief Analysis of the Domestic Policies of Catherine the Great Clare FitzPatrick This investigation evaluates Catherine the Great of Russia’s emphasis on social affairs during her reign from 1762- 1796. To fully understand the subject, it must be noted that Catherine II took the throne from her husband, Peter the III, who was thought unfit to rule. Though many of her people supported her actions, not all Russian thought she should rule. Her reign was long and relatively prosperous. Under her supervision Russia gained a large amount of land (Kort 17). However, this investigation exclusively evaluates Catherine the Great’s role within the borders of Russia proper. The investigation mostly focuses on Catherine the Great’s stress on education and culture, and on her manner of dealing with social reforms. The investigation does not evaluate Catherine the Great’s role in religious affairs of her time. Catherine the Great reigned from 1762 until her death in 1796. During this time period, the Seven Years’ War ended. The Seven Years’ War took a large toll on some of the greater European powers of this time, France and England. Thus, Catherine II’s rule came at the perfect time (Kort 17). With the dominant powers in the West occupied with the war, it was the perfect moment to make Russia a great European power itself — and Catherine did so, especially through her cultural reforms and social policies. By prioritizing education in Russia, Catherine the Great made the empire well respected as a European nation. Catherine II took over as ruler of Russia when it was a “vast country, 90 percent rural, with a low level of literacy and tenuous communications,”(Dejevsky, Milner-Gulland 109). Hence, when she took over, Russians were generally not very well educated. Catherine prioritized education, instituting policies to change this. Under her command, the Russian rate of literacy rose dramatically (Dejevsky, Milner-Gulland 107). The historian Bokova argues that this was important for Catherine because she wanted to make Russia a center of civilization. Raising the basic level of education of the Russian people made it more esteemed in the eyes of the other great nations, thus building it a foundation to become one of these great nations. Furthermore, an increased rate of education created an increased rate of social criticism and debates (Russia - Early Imperial Russia.). With the Russian people more educated and aware of their political and cultural surroundings, they questioned and argued more, offering their opinions and allowing the Russian government to build off of them. Thus, the increased level of education raised other nation’s opinions of Russia in addition to boosting Russia’s overall morale. Moreover, Catherine shaped her nation culturally so that it would, again, resemble one of the great countries of its er. Dejevsky and Milner-Gulland describe Catherine’s reign as a time as “ an outward- looking age, in which Russia culturally came of age,”(107). One aspect of Catherine’s cultural project was the diversification of the Russian Empire’s culture through colonial expansion: in the course of Catherine’s rule, Russia gained an immense amount of land (Dixon), and as the country expanded it became more diverse (Kort 17). Included in these new peoples were Poles, Ukrainians, and Belorussians and (Russia - Early Imperial Russia.). Catherine had to find a way to connect her newly diverse population, and she decided to do it culturally. Catherine ordered the Hermitage Museum be built (Kort 17) and increased the Imperial art collection from a
dozen to 3926 pieces (Dixon). She tried to connect her people through the arts, having fairs and even writing some plays herself (Dejevsky, Milner-Gulland 113). In addition, Dixon believes Catherine’s “great love for Russia and pride in her adopted country comes through to us when we look at this beautiful collection of paintings done by the world's greatest masters, acquired not for personal indulgence, but as an effort to make Russia respected”. Catherine inherited Russia when its people were still illiterate and their culture was still grounded in folk traditions that, while they are recognized as valuable in their own right today, were not considered respectable to other European nations at the time. Catherine decided to change the way Russia appeared to other nations by giving it more access to “high” (mainly Western European) culture than it had ever had, thus giving it a good reputation with the larger powers of its time. It was not only through arts and education that Catherine made Russia into a European power, however; it was through her social reforms, as well. Catherine’s greatest success in the realm of social policy was her improvement of the Russian education system, outlined above. However, she also, at times, had to set aside her own ambitions in this area in favour of maintaining order in the country. For example, it was Catherine’s personal goal to abolish serfdom in Russia, but she never did so for fear that serfdom would have alienated the upper class, who were the key to her own ability to maintain a stable rule (Russia - Early Imperial Russia.). Therefore, Catherine never abolished serfdom, even though she wanted to, because doing so would not help her one main goal: making Russia a dominant European figure. It is for that reason that Dejevsky and Milner-Gulland claim that “her reforms were unspectacular, not aimed at changing the appearance of things, but at transforming their essence” (108). Catherine the Great’s impact on Russia was largely social and cultural, yet it paved the way for Russia to become one of the largest European authorities of its time. Her stress on education lead to her people becoming more like those of the western civilization and freethinkers, a people ready to act as politically engaged citizens of a great nation — perhaps setting the precedent for the direct involvement of citizens in, for example, Alexandr II’s referendum on serfdom. In addition, Catherine’s specific emphasis on spreading foreign culture throughout Russia lead to its being considered a centre of civilization. And by controlling her social reforms, Catherine created a Russia that was ready to join the other western nations and become one of the greatest powers of its time. WORKS CITED Barton, Tom. "Of Russian origin: Serfs." Serfs – Russiapedia Of Russian origin. N.p., n.d. http://russiapedia.rt.com/of-russian-origin/serfs/. Bokova, Yulia. "Prominent Russians: Catherine II the Great." Russiapedia, 1 Jan. 2011. http://russiapedia.rt.com/prominent-russians/the-romanov-dynasty/catherine-ii-the-great/. Dixon, Ursula. "Catherine the Great - Page 7." Nevermore., n.d. http://nevermore.tripod.com/Cgreat7.htm. Kornilov, Alexander. Modern Russian History. Russell & Russell, 1970. Kort, Michael. Russia; Nations in Transition. Facts on File, 1995. Milner- Gulland, Robin, and Nikolai Dejevsky. Cultural Atlas of Russia and the Soviet Union. Facts on File, 1991. "Russia - Early Imperial Russia." Russia - Early Imperial Russia. Country Studies US, n.d. http://countrystudies.us/russia/4.htm.
Laughing at Everyone: An Analysis of Satire in Ilf and Petrov’s The Little Golden Calf Jessica Wilton
INTRODUCTION In 1931 the famous satire-writing duo, Ilya Ilf and Evgenii Petrov, published The Little Golden Calf, a sequel to their popular satire The Twelve Chairs. In the former novel, Ilf and Petrov narrate Ostap Bender’s odyssey across the Soviet Union in search of a secret millionaire to scheme; however, the road to this millionaire is dotted with ridiculous occurrences, caricatures and irony. Ilf and Petrov were both born in Odessa as Ilya Fainzilberg (1897) and Evgenii Kataev (1903). As the younger brother of another famous writer (Valentin Kataev) it was necessary for Evgenii to adopt a pen name as to not be overshadowed (Milne 130). Although both writers had separate writing careers, did not meet until 1927 and were both married, Ilf and Petrov are always remembered together as a single writer since they co-authored their most famous works (Milne 129). Over the years, some scholars have argued that their satirical books were simply written to amuse—and nothing more. However, since much of the humour in The Little Golden Calf is in a political context (or directed towards a political policy), it appears the novel deserves more analysis than simply being considered a funny book. Satire is a device widely thought of in a political context, one often employed as a way to reveal the stupidity of a political party’s, or individual’s, actions. Cited by Anatole Lunacharsky in the introduction to The Little Golden Calf, a young investigator from the Communist Academy defined satire as “the application of laughter with the object of degrading, annihilating an opponent” (Lunacharsky 11). This approach to satire places literature into a dichotomy of either “for” or “against” where there must be a particular opponent to defeat, and implies that complete annihilation is the end goal. The issue with this definition, particularly in regards to an analysis of Ilf and Petrov, is that it does not account for satire directed at non-enemies nor does it include satire meant to strengthen instead of destroy. The Little Golden Calf laughs at many things, both in the realms of socialism and capitalism, and therefore an explicit opponent is unrecognizable. Although scholars tend to depart from this restrictive understanding, some continue placing Ilf and Petrov into a neat socialist box. For example, Karen Ryan-Hayes considers these authors as “moderate proregime satirists” who recognized the problem and attempted to expose it, while at the same time provoke public amusement (Chapple 60). As well, Milne states that the authors had no issue with socialism (140). Lunacharsky maintains that Ilf and Petrov were true socialists who were “cutting off that dirty hem” of revolution’s clothes (14). These scholars acknowledge the satirized depiction of the Soviet Union in Ilf and Petrov’s books, but consider the duo to be ideologically socialist and only criticizing the darkened edges of socialism that should be trimmed. However, their use of satire in The Little Golden Calf is complex and therefore requires a more engaged analysis that reaches beyond “socialist writers satirizing the aspects of the state they dislike in order to return to the pillars of the ideology” or “secretly capitalist writers—hiding under the guise of true socialism—criticizing the state” (Chapple 60). By analysing references to the New Economic Policy (NEP), the Five-Year Plan(s), religion, socialism and the millionaire through a satirical framework, I will argue that Ilf and Petrov cannot be categorized within the aforementioned dichotomy, but instead, laugh at everything to encourage a middle ground and perhaps even imply an inherent criticism of the dichotomy itself. NEW ECONOMIC POLICY In 1921, Lenin began introducing various reforms to the Soviet Union in order “to bring social peace and foster economic recovery” after war communism.These new laws, classified as the New Economic Policy (NEP), permitted citizens to participate in some free market activities, allowed free trade and ended food requisitioning.
However, many communists believed this policy “compromised socialist principles” as they were associated with capitalistic restoration instead of socialist reconstruction (Shearer 5-6). Ilf and Petrov, in The Little Golden Calf, appear to mimic this common communist response with their depiction of the NEP. In the first chapter, the chairman Ostap, while imitating a son of Lieutenant Schmitt for a con, blames the “pernicious NEP” for why people cannot remember the names of heroes “nowadays” as “old enthusiasm is lacking.” Pernicious is synonymous with destructive or detrimental, therefore the chairman is explicitly characterizing the policy as injurious. One must assume that he is implying it is injurious to the socialist cause, due to the historical context in which many felt the new policy was a step towards capitalism (and therefore why the “old enthusiasm” would be lacking). Ilf and Petrov use a humorous lens to emphasize this point, but the satire is not within the actual quote. Instead, the entire situation that surrounds the chairman’s comment is steeped in ridiculousness and dramatic irony. Firstly, the events immediately preceding this quotation include two more sons of Lieutenant Schmidt walking in to ask for money, which is simply an absurd situation. Secondly, the dramatic irony comes into play when the masquerading son of Lieutenant Schmidt “did not know the name of his father” and the chairman had also “forgotten the name of the Ochakov hero,” but the reader knows of both characters’ inability to remember (Ilf and Petrov 27). In creating such a ridiculous, far-fetched situation where dramatic irony highlights zany twists (that could ultimately lead to disaster, but do not), Ilf and Petrov emphasize the absurdity that overwhelmed the NEP era. However, this situation does not just negatively depict the NEP; it simultaneously satirizes the old regime. Essentially, the “old enthusiasm” for knowing the names of heroes, and respecting them, is what lead to this situation in the first place. If the state, prior to the NEP, had not placed as much emphasis on praising heroes of the revolution, then con men like Ostap (and the thirty sons of Lieutenant Schmidt) would have no reason to impersonate the sons of heroes for money. Essentially, Ilf and Petrov paint the entire situation as humorous and, within it, strategically slight the NEP with a depiction that parallels the arguments of the policy’s main communist opponents. However, this satire also targets the old state prior to the policy by including the situation of multiple sons of Schmitt in the first place. In this sense, Ilf and Petrov are not simply satirizing the NEP era (which, historically speaking, communists commonly criticized), but are also humorously attacking the era prior to the policy, which those communist critics wished to return to. FIVE YEAR PLAN(S): BUREAUCRACY AND RED TAPE In The Little Golden Calf, Ilf and Petrov emphasize the extensive bureaucracy and “red tape” integrated into the Five-Year Plan era of the Soviet Union. The Five-Year Plan was part of Stalin’s Great Leap Forward, introduced after Lenin’s death. It was comprised of multiple Five-Year Plans, the first of which began in 1928, and these were meant to place the Soviet Union back on the path of revolution (after the pernicious NEP) by propelling the Soviet Union towards industrial advancement and economic modernization (Shearer 8). According to Chris Ward, the plans “had become a symbol of revolution rekindled” (45). These plans did instigate rapid industrialization, but it was enacted by means of extensive bureaucracy in the economy (Shearer 75). The state declared the first plan a success, but historians argued that none of the actual targets had been reached, although advancements had been made (Ward 47). These scholars also contend that the plans were characterized by their inconsistencies, incoherency, and imperfections—evident by the incompetence and high staff turnover, chaos, confusion and delays in Soviet bureaucracy (Ward 54-55). Ward also argues that officials attempted to bury their mistakes under mountains of paperwork (68). Ilf and Petrov reflect on these issues in The Little Golden Calf by using the term “red tape” in relation to the bureaucratic processes of the Five-Year Plan era. Ostap says he could go through the local executive committee to ask for paint, but decides against it because “before you could cut through the red tape you’d waste several days” (103). The chief of Hercules also says to forget the requests and orders because “you’re just starting a lot of red tape” (126). In both instances Ilf and Petrov depict the committees and paperwork that make up bureaucratic processes in the Soviet Union as very slow, and essentially ineffective. This is furthered by
Ostap’s comment on the Antelope-Gnu’s need to “race against aimlessness, slovenliness and even against bureaucracy,” which essentially equates bureaucracy to being aimless and slow (83). Beyond this, the Aachen engineer and Polikayev at Hercules exemplify the ineffectiveness of the bureaucracy (on the level of a business). The Aachen engineer wants to work, but has nothing to do and says “I’m being paid for nothing? I’m not doing any work” (214) and Polikayev is so useless his secretary replaces him with a rubber stamp that “proved an excellent substitute for the man. The rubber Polikayev was in no way inferior to the living” one (223). Each situation is drenched with parody and absurdity, which emphasizes these criticisms. Essentially, not only was the era of the plans slow and bureaucratic (characterized by mass amounts of paperwork), but it was also filled with useless people who could just as easily be replaced with a rubber stamp. These previous examples highlight the unnecessary mountains of paperwork and bureaucracy in the Five-Year Plan era, but Ilf and Petrov also criticize the Five-Year plan itself and its rapid industrialization. After Ostap successfully schemes Koreiko out of his millions, they travel to “a little city that is no worse than Baghdad” (336). Here, Ostap becomes disillusioned when all the quaint sites and activities he remembers have been overtaken by socialist developments. For example, an innkeeper from Baku was replaced with a “City Museum of Fine Arts” and a street which once had tympani, flutes, and a popular cellar was replaced with “Socialist Avenue” (338-39). The locals seem quite enthused by these rapid developments, but they displease Ostap, who misses the eastern flair, and it is evident that he interprets the industrialization as inherently negative. Essentially, Ilf and Petrov do not just critique the “red tape” of the Five Year Plans—which was more universally disliked—but extend their criticism further to critique the actual effects of the plan (industrialization), which was significantly less hated. Therefore, the common interpretation that Ilf and Petrov are simply attempting to rid the fraying edges from “pure” socialism seems incorrect because they appear to take issue with a plan whose purpose was to restore socialist aspects lost in Lenin’s NEP. RELIGION While Ilf and Petrov’s depiction of both the NEP and the Five Year Plan seem to portray a lack of support for both Lenin and Stalin’s reign, aspects of The Little Golden Calf do support the socialist leaders. In 1928, there was a significant increase in anti-religious activities which saw the destruction of many Christian churches and artefacts, as well as thousands killed (Ward 23). The Communist Party introduced “scientific atheism,” which links to Marxist thought and, for some historians, almost became a church of its own (Froese 35). Despite Ostap Bender’s boredom with socialism, he too promotes this anti-religious attitude. Ilf and Petrov write that “the great schemer did not like Catholic priests” (195) and on multiple occasions says “there is no god” (199). Two Catholic priests take the driver of the Antelope-Gnu, Kozlevich, hostage and the authors write “he was pale. His conductor’s moustache was limp, and dangled tearfully below his nostrils” (198). This description illustrates the perceived ill effects of religion on one’s body. In fact, when Ostap begins spouting nonsense of all the miracles he has performed (essentially taking the power away from the priests) “life returns” to Kozlevich. Through the technique of parody, Ilf and Petrov depict the priests as absurd; they write that Priest Kuzakowski “went away, lifting his black skirts with both of his hands and jumping across puddles that looked like foaming beer” (195). The nature of this depiction paints the priests as ridiculous, which affirms the true communist view that religion itself is silly “seeing as it is meaningless in the new Communist world” (Beeman 236). I argued before that Ilf and Petrov’s work cannot be interpreted as fully supporting socialist leaders as they satirize both Lenin and Stalin’s policy, but this book also cannot be read as fully anti-socialist either because this priest parody can be seen as reiterating the basic atheistic belief of the socialist state. OSTAP BENDER The main character of The Little Golden Calf is a con artist, but a con artist who believes in the law; more than
once Ostap references his “respect for the criminal code” (42). He is also staunchly against the state as “the building of socialism bores” him and, evident by his intense interest in becoming a millionaire in a state that does not allow millionaires, he certainly appears to be a capitalist (41). In this way, Ostap seems to be a representation of the old order and, on first glance, it appears that Ilf and Petrov could also be on the same track. Ostap is in direct opposition to everything the Communist Party stands for, except atheism, and yet the authors on multiple occasions illustrate him as “the commander,”(158) quite intelligent and, ultimately, able to do the impossible: find a millionaire in a state where millionaires cannot exist. However, this interpretation can be easily dismissed due to the ending of The Little Golden Calf and Koreiko’s retribution. Firstly, Ilf and Petrov paint Koreiko in a definitively negative light, especially compared to Ostap. They write that Koreiko, physically speaking, has a “red sealing-wax face” with “squatted wheaten brows over white eyes.” While at work, he carries himself as “ever ready to serve, and somewhat stupid” (65). On the other hand, Ostap is described as a tanned “athlete with the regular features of a face stamped on a coin” with eyes that “glisten[...] with austere joy” (40). Even down to their complexions, Ostap and Koreiko are in opposition and it is evident that Ostap is a symbol of health while Koreiko is not. They also contrast his morals with Ostap’s. While Ostap sees no point in robbing a collective, Koreiko has gained all his riches by scheming the state (42). Essentially, Ostap enacts retribution onto Koreiko’s crimes against the state by lawfully scheming him out of unlawful money. In this way, Ostap is supporting the aims of the state, and so Ilf and Petrov cannot be said to be entirely against the state. As well, the ending must be considered for a proper analysis because Ostap fails in crossing the border to Romania, and is instead robbed of all his riches by the guards and dumped in the icy water (383). Essentially, Ilf and Petrov spend much of the novel building Ostap and his anti-socialist beliefs up, but tear them down in the final pages, which appears as almost a warning against all that Ostap stands for. Milne argues that “the comparison with Koreiko presents Ostap in a positive light, and, paradoxically, turns his blackmail for the embezzler into an act of retribution for Koreiko’s robber of the Soviet socialist state” (182). Thus far, it is evident that Ilf and Petrov are not consistent in their satirical depictions and poke fun at all sides, but with the final message to the reader as a pro-socialist one, there is evidence to argue that The Little Golden Calf is closer to a leftist work. SOCIALISM AND IDEOLOGY Aside from Ostap’s character, Ilf and Petrov also satirize socialism and ideology. While the bookkeeper is in the asylum, another pretend patient says “the insane asylum is the only place where a normal man can live…I prefer to live here with genuine madmen. At least they’re not trying to build Socialism” (191). This entire situation is absurd; the only reason this conversation even happens is because completely sane men chose to commit themselves to an insane asylum, by acting insane, to escape their problems. This ridiculousness draws attention to the quotation, which is similar to a double-edged sword for criticism. The actual statement evidently paints socialism as the product of madmen, but simply by saying that he is willing staying in an insane asylum also criticizes the patient. The setting of the insane asylum brings the reliability of the fake patient into question—perhaps he truly is a madman—which therefore brings the entire opinion on Socialism into question. Another example is the situation with the old man Ostap meets while trying to hide the Antelope-Gnu. This old man was suffering from terrifying nightmares due to the socialist regime; he wanted to forget “the vulgar comrades with their meetings, wall newspapers, loans, socialist competition, shock brigades, five-year-plans in four, in three, in two and a half” (101-2). If, as I argued previously, Ostap is representative of the old world, then this old man is representative of the effects of the old world being dragged into socialism. Ostap is bored of socialism, but this man is literally haunted by it. The man is hilariously described as “an honourable gentleman, wearing a private soldier’s underwear with black tin buttons” (99). In this situation, Ilf and Petrov include another instance of double criticism, where the old man’s actual words critique socialism, but his depiction is crazed and so there is also a parody of those people who rallied against socialism. Finally, the older gentleman Sinitsky’s comments on ideology in puzzle making highlights the absurdity of integrating ideology into every aspect of life. Sinitsky “had become
politically illiterate” and new, younger, puzzle makers surpassed his abilities and “outstripped him.” Ilf and Petrov integrate humour into this situation by including an “arithmomodical problem” that is chock full of correct ideology (108). Arithmomodical is not a real word, but is formulated convincingly enough that it could be. This is a similar technique to the new words in “Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll; for example, the word “slithy” in the poem is also a made-up word, but Carroll created it in a way that it is still familiar (similar enough to other words). The hint of realism in this word, while still being entirely unreal and therefore ridiculous, makes the whole situation even more absurd. Sinitsky also directly addresses the absurdity in using ideology for all aspects of life when he asks “why [there should] be ideology in the puzzle-making business” (109). Essentially, Ilf and Petrov portray this integration of ideology into every aspect of life—including unimportant activities such as puzzle making—as utterly ridiculous. Overall in each situation, Sinitsky, the old man, and the insane asylum, Ilf and Petrov write direct criticism of the socialist state, but there is a double criticism in which the satirical elements highlight the comments, but also bring the speaker’s reliability into doubt. These examples particularly resonate with the concept that The Little Golden Calf cannot be read through either a dichotomy of either socialist or capitalist lenses because so much of their satire cuts both ways and they simply laugh at everyone. THE MILLIONAIRE AND THE GOLDEN CALF There are two millionaires in The Little Golden Calf: Koreiko and, briefly, Ostap. Previously, I compared Ilf and Petrov’s depictions of these two characters, as well as their personalities. However, another major difference between the two is their actions as millionaires. Koreiko made his millions by taking advantage of the state when the new economic systems “was only coming to life” and, once seizing his wealth, spends his life as a millionaire trying to stay under the radar by not spending money (74). He lives on “only forty-six rubles a month” (112)and “cannot take his bride to a cinema” even as a millionaire (114). He evidently does this to prevent the detection of his crimes because he is “saving himself for capitalism” (75). Essentially, Koreiko spends his time as a millionaire pretending he is not one in hopes the old system will return and he can truly be rich. Ostap, on the other hand, has the same wish to be rich, but wants to achieve millionaire status and then flee to a country that properly allows him to be rich. This concept manifests in his obsession with Rio de Janeiro to be “a legal millionaire in a well-organized bourgeois state with ancient capitalistic traditions” (42). However, when “the dreams of an idiot” finally come true by achieving his millionaire status, “suddenly Ostap [grows] sad” (328). After this moment he becomes critical of being a millionaire, asking “where is the respect, where is the honour, where is the fame, where is the power?” (346). As Milne puts it, Ostap comes face to face with “his real adversary: the place and time in which he lives” (184). The commander finds that he is unable to do anything with his millions; he cannot get a hotel room because he is “distinctly individualistic” and not part of a collective, (Ilf and Petrov 351) and the youth he meets on the train quickly disperse when he says he is a millionaire (366). For most of the novel, Ilf and Petrov place the status of a millionaire on a pedestal, but—in their depictions of Koreiko’s life as a millionaire and Ostap’s disillusionment after achieving his goal—they essentially burn this pedestal by the end. The role of the story of the “Golden Calf” is relevant to this disillusionment. The book’s title is a biblical reference to the story of the “Golden Calf” where Aaron makes a “visible god” at the request of people while Moses is away. The idol takes the form of a golden calf, which Moses burns when he returns (Lewy 319). The golden calf in the biblical reference is a false idol meant to be a god, but the false idol in The Little Golden Calf is the million dollars and the god it is meant to be is capitalism. Essentially, this association critiques the idea of the millionaire as a concept and capitalistic ideals by extension, which is inarguably a socialist view. Although, it should be noted that this in the context of a place that creates an atmosphere where a million dollars becomes a false idol. On the other hand, Ostap does say “the Little Golden Calf still has some power in our land,” so perhaps this is also a criticism of the Soviet Union’s not being quite socialist enough (341).
In conclusion, The Little Golden Calf contains many layers of satire and parody, and this humour is not exclusively directed at one particular side of the political spectrum. Many scholars based their interpretations of Ilf and Petrov’s novels on the idea that they are inherently socialist, and only criticize the Soviet Union by telling it to trim the dirty edges off. This interpretation has merit since much of the authors’ satire ultimately does laugh at aspects of the Soviet Union that are not quite socialist enough. However, with a full analysis of multiple satirized situations from the work, it is becomes evident that Ilf and Petrov are not consistent with the people or policies they make fun of. They criticize the NEP for not being socialist enough, but also criticize the old state and satirize those who disagreed with the NEP in the first place. As well, they take issue with Stalin’s Five-Year Plans as being overcome with paperwork and bureaucracy while simultaneously promoting the era’s atheist tradition with Ostap’s conversation with the catholic priests. Finally, Ostap’s failure at fleeing the Soviet Union, his disillusionment at becoming a millionaire, and his references to the biblical “Golden Calf” all reinforce a socialist mind-set while also implying the current state as not being quite socialist enough. With all these situations, there is an evident inconsistency in who Ilf and Petrov satirize, and—while they do seem to leave a mostly leftist impression upon the reader—for this reason they cannot be analysed only through a “true” socialist lens. Ultimately, in The Little Golden Calf, Ilf and Petrov laugh at everybody. WORKS CITED Beemans, Pierre J. "Scientific Atheism in the Soviet-Union: 1917-1954." Studies in Soviet Thought vol. 7, no. 3, 1967, pp. 234-42. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/20098288. Chapple, Richard L. Soviet Satire of the Twenties..University Presses of Florida, 1980. Froese, Paul. "Forced Secularization in Soviet Russia: Why an Atheistic Monopoly Failed." Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion , vol. 43, no. 1, 2004), pp. 35-50. JSTOR, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1387772. Ilʹf, Ilia, and Petrov, Engeniǐ. The Little Golden Calf: A Satiric Novel. F. Ungar, 1961. Carroll, Lewis. "Jabberwocky.” Poetry Foundation, https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems-and-poets/poems/detail/42916. Lewy, Immanuel. "The Story of the Golden Calf Reanalysed." Vetus Testamentum vol. 9, no. 3,1959), pp. 318-22. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/1516056. Lunarcharsky, Antole. Introduction to The Little Golden Calf. F. Ungar, 1961. Milne, Lesley. Zoshchenko and the Ilf-Petrov Partnership: How They Laughed. University of Birmingham, 2003. Ryan-Hayes, Karen L. Contemporary Russian Satire: a genre study. Cambridge UP, 1995. Shearer, David R. Industry, State, and Society in Stalin’s Russia, 1926-1934. Cornell UP, 1996. Ward, Chris. Stalin’s Russia. Oxford UP, 1999.
Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita as a Commentary on the Age Mercedes Bullock Mikhail Bulgakov’s masterpiece The Master and Margarita is an extremely complex and powerful novel whose literary and historical value has only increased in importance since its publication. The novel was written between 1928 and 1940 and was published unofficially through the process of samizdat for several decades, until it was able to be published officially in 1966, both abroad and in the Soviet Union. The novel was written in a particularly turbulent period of Soviet history (if such a comparative statement can even be made), which included the five-year plans, collectivization, the Great Terror, Stalin’s purges, the implementation of ‘Socialist Realism’ in literature, and the beginning of World War Two. It came after the Russian revolutions of 1905 and 1917, the First World War, the coming to power of the Bolsheviks, the Russian Civil War, the death of Lenin, the succession of Stalin, and the implementation of NEP (the New Economic Policy — a form of “state capitalism” introduced by Lenin) . Both Bulgakov and his magnum opus The Master and Margarita were influenced by these historical events and realities. Bulgakov, like many Soviet writers who remembered pre-revolutionary Russia, developed a relatively critical perspective on Soviet society and the country’s recent history, and Bulgakov wrote The Master and Margarita as a commentary on this troubled age. This commentary is not just about the history of the Soviet Union and the condition of 1930s society, but rather has a much grander scope, spanning two thousand years and incorporating both religion and philosophy into a moral reflection on human progress. Many epic commentaries were produced in the Soviet Union, such as Doctor Zhivago, but Bulgakov’s novel somehow seems bigger and grander in scope than such works, because Bulgakov comments on his age not only as a period in and of itself, but also as merely one small section of the tapestry of human history. Bulgakov’s commentary occurs in many of the central themes in the novel, in several satirical elements, and in his treatment of the Russian literary tradition. After the installation of Socialist Realism as the official literary doctrine of the Soviet Union in 1932, Bulgakov, who had first begun writing in 1919, encountered more and more problems publishing his work. Despite being protected by Stalin’s personal favor on several occasions, Bulgakov was increasingly at odds with the state, and his writing reflects this split. He made several requests to be allowed to emigrate to Paris, but these requests were denied and he was forced to remain in the Soviet Union. In addition to these struggles, his health was also failing. He suffered from bouts of depression and the belief that his masterpiece, The Master and Margarita, would not be published in his lifetime or in any near future. And this was indeed the case, for The Master and Margarita would not be published for over twenty five years. Bulgakov died in March 1940 from a hereditary kidney disorder, having only just completed what would become his most famous oeuvre. Official Soviet attitudes toward Bulgakov were such that his work was forbidden from publication for the following quarter century, and he was virtually unknown as a novelist. “Not even the standard western histories of Soviet literature were aware of Bulgakov as being someone other than the interesting literary craftsman of certain plays and short fiction” (Brown 187). Bulgakov had a hostile relationship with Soviet authorities, even though it may have been relatively passive compared to other Soviet dissidents such as Osip Mandelstam, Anna Akhmatova, or Isaac Babel. While his relationship to the state did not bring about his death or forced exile, it nevertheless played a prominent role in his writing and commentaries on the age, in his attempts at publishing, and in how he
was remembered by official Soviet histories for decades after his death. One level of Bulgakov’s social and historical commentary in The Master and Margarita is his use of satire and parody to comment on the politics and culture of the Soviet Union, and specifically Moscow in the 1930s. It is not incidental that the novel is set in Moscow, for Moscow was effectively the centre of all political, literary, and, to an extent, cultural activity in the Soviet Union. To comment on all of these aspects of the nation, it is easiest to follow them to their source; by setting the plot of The Master and Margarita in Moscow, Bulgakov can effectively comment on the ‘root’ of things Soviet, as they stemmed from the capital city. In writing this novel, he certainly had as one of his goals a demonstration of Soviet society as he perceived it, and the flaws to be found therein – he frequently shows the 1930s as corrupt, backwards, and paranoid. This negative commentary on Soviet policy and psychology is shown in how Bulgakov displays social behavior and norms, the presence of children and the implications of that presence, the existence of ideologically driven fear, and the roles of two different monetary currencies and their reception. The Master and Margarita presents a very unusual framework of social behavior and norms in Moscow, which is best exemplified by two things: the popular reception of Behemoth the cat and Satan’s ball. Behemoth is the feline henchman of Woland, the Devil, and works to wreak havoc in Moscow by acting out Woland’s wishes as well as his own. Behemoth is a large, walking and talking cat, who can alternately appear as a large black cat, or as a fat man who greatly resembles one. Woland has other, more human, acolytes who also do his bidding, and Behemoth is no more unusual to society than any of them. Woland’s witch assistant Hella, who works in his apartment and wears only an apron, is more appalling to visitors, because of her shocking choice of apparel, than Behemoth, who is barely human at all. The irony lies in that the Muscovites of the novel are practically unresponsive to the fact that Behemoth is a cat; rather, they are more preoccupied with and shocked by the things that he does. They do not notice, for example, that a giant cat is riding the tram, but rather they notice that he tries to pay for a ride: “Neither the conductress nor the passengers were struck by the essence of the matter: not just that a cat was boarding a tram-car, which could have been good enough, but that he was going to pay!” (50). The strange emphasis on the cat’s actions, rather than its appearance, is heightened by comments made by the narrator such as the one above, and makes the reader aware of Moscow’s apparent numbness toward the extraordinary. Lackluster reactions are often parodied by the narrator’s remarks. Later on in the novel, a group of men burst into Woland’s apartment to arrest him and his entourage, and when they enter, they see Behemoth sitting on the mantelpiece and repairing the primus. The men “contemplate[...] this cat for quite a long time in total silence,” and make comments such as “Hm, yes… That’s quite something…,” and “Exceptionally neat job…” (342). The scene quickly culminates in a shootout worthy of a Hollywood action film, with Behemoth successfully defending his colleagues and setting fire to the apartment. The ridiculousness of the scene is augmented by the fact that no one is even injured in the end. Social norms and propriety have been grossly distorted by Bulgakov in this respect – Moscow remains unimpressed by a giant, anthropomorphized cat. The extraordinary becoming ordinary is not a notion that Bulgakov himself invented. Rather, it stemmed from the official Soviet propaganda of ‘miracles becoming possible’, and the overall atmosphere of the early 1930s of superhuman production goals, the five year plans, the Stakhanovite movement, and the general hysteria of industrialization as a race. Bulgakov seems to be portraying this mindset at its most extreme to show how damaging it could be, and was, to society. This will be further discussed below. There is no better example of Bulgakov’s parody of Soviet social norms than the episode relating to Satan’s ball. Woland hosts an extravagant ball for various deceased and supernatural figures, during which he requests that the novel’s heroine, Margarita, be his queen and consort. The ball is a society affair that begins and ends at exactly
midnight, and is serviced by handsomely dressed servants and attended by people in glamorous clothes, where everyone lines up on the stairs to be introduced to Margarita and is allowed to kiss her hand and knee (266). In general, the ball has the feel of an old-world event whose description could almost be found in Anna Karenina or Pride and Prejudice, were it not for the fact that the guests are for the most part dead and the host is the Devil. Above all is the impression that everything is proper, courteous, and controlled. This scene is in direct, and deliberate, contrast to the events of the night before, namely the magic show put on at the Variété theatre. Woland, along with his assistants, puts on a magic show on a Thursday night so that he can determine whether “the city folk have changed internally” (123), just as they have changed outwardly through the revolution, the introduction of communism, technological advancement, etc. As events proceed, he comes to believe that the Muscovites are “ordinary people… in general reminiscent of the former ones…” (126), thereby answering his aforementioned question in the negative. The magic show itself is total chaos – Behemoth rips off the head of the master of ceremonies, there is a stampede for paper bills tossed into the crowd, women are given fashionable clothes which later disappear and leave them naked in the streets, and the entire spectacle is described as “a general agitation” (125). This scene has parallels to the ball scene in that they are both social events to entertain the guests and are conducted by Woland. The irony lies in the fact that the ball, which is an absurd gathering of the dead and of various fantastical creatures, is more civilized and orderly than a simple magic show in Moscow attended by the general, and as of yet still living, population. Both the contrast between the magic show and the ball, and the public’s reaction to Behemoth are indicators of what can be termed social norms in The Master and Margarita. In the first, society is shown as being strangely obsessed with details (the cat paying for a ride) instead of the overall picture (that Behemoth is a cat). Bulgakov’s descriptions of the elegance of Woland’s ball make the citizens of Moscow seem all the more barbaric and frenzied compared to a gathering of dead people at the Devil’s house. Bulgakov thus satirizes the behavior of Soviet society by presenting it as hysterical, irrational, and violent. This could reflect the hysteria surrounding the five-year plans and the Stakhanovism movement, the desperate and senseless denunciations which occurred during the Terror, or even the willingness with which people committed violent acts against one another during the Revolution and the civil war (this can also be seen in White Guard). As mentioned previously, this portrayal of social norms is Bulgakov’s response to the Soviet propaganda of ‘miracles are becoming possible’. In the 1920s, positivism and the obsession with the “little man” had ruled in both official ideology and literature (Clark 136). However, after 1931, there occurred a mass disillusionment with this perspective, because “…positivism leads to indifference of everything great, significant – a tendency to reduce these to the dimensions of banal phenomena” (137). What followed was an explosion of superhero literary characters that were unlimited in the feats they could accomplish and the heights they could attain. Also in response to the perceived hollowness of 1920s plotlines, writers turned once more to fairytale characters, and embodied them with the same superhuman abilities. This was yet another propagandistic device, which served to encourage and cultivate a Stakhanovite mentality. It sought to show that by seeking to achieve the superhuman, people could better themselves and their country, and easily accomplish incredible feats. This goal is parodied by Bulgakov in that his characters, also living in an anything-is-possible society, use this freedom and potential in totally the opposite way: they murder, denounce, criticize, and in general fail to strengthen or improve anything. Bulgakov comments on this propagandistic slogan of ‘miracles becoming possible’ by applying it to such an extreme that the population of Moscow is completely desensitized to the amazing and fantastic, and nothing has the power to astonish or inspire them anymore. Bulgakov essentially denounces the ideological cult of the superhuman and the impossible becoming possible, showing that if it were ever to work (and he does not necessarily believe it could), it would have an effect opposite to what Soviet officials expected, and would result in
chaos and anarchy instead of orchestrated miracles and selflessness. Bulgakov also provides a commentary of 1930s Moscow through the lack of children in The Master and Margarita. Children are a demographic that is essentially absent from this novel: they have only very minor roles, and there is only one child who speaks in the novel. This child lives in the ‘Dramlit’ House where the literary critics responsible for the fate of the Masters’ novel dwell. Margarita, having destroyed a great deal of the house and broken much of the inhabitants’ property, suddenly comes across a frightened little boy, who is huddling in the wreckage of his apartment (240). Margarita immediately tries to soothe him and put him to bed, an act of gentleness and docility which, as well as reaffirming the connection between her and the Virgin Mary, is also in complete juxtaposition to her violent and carefree behavior before she saw the child. The presence of the child makes her realize her folly, and she instinctively reverts back to her true nature by caring for the boy. The child tempers her actions. However, as has already been noted, children are altogether not common occurrences in the novel. Instead, there are many adults imbued with childlike characteristics, and above all with a childlike innocence which they never seem to lose. Margarita, the Master, and Ivan Homeless all act in a way which is best described as childish, which is reinforced by such descriptor words as “мальчик” (“little boy”) (Naiman 658). They view the world in very simplistic, unassuming, and even naïve terms. For instance, when Margarita meets Woland for the first time, she trusts him blindly and is happy to spend time with him and his entourage, not for a second considering that she might be in grave danger (which she is not, but the point is that it never even crossed her mind). Ivan Homeless is treated condescendingly by the Master, and becomes some sort of schoolboy understudy to him when they meet each other in the psychiatric hospital. Ivan is extremely innocent and easily manipulated, first adopting Berlioz’s ideals wholesale, and then the Master’s, once Berlioz is no longer around to shelter and guide him. The Master himself is childlike in that he babbles incoherently about his problems to Ivan at the psychiatric hospital, and he seems hesitant and afraid of taking action in any way. It is because of this attitude that he loses his lover Margarita, even before his book fails to be published. While this childishness and gullibility certainly does emphasize the element of the fantastic, which will be discussed later, it also creates the impression that Moscow of the 1930s was an age of blind faith and naiveté. This was certainly not a false impression, and in fact was historically accurate– the 1930s were, after all, the age of the Great Terror. This impression of mass ignorance can be seen as a reflection of the years of the Terror, when the people in the Soviet Union lived in state-enforced ignorance of the reasons behind the arrests, exiles, and executions of their loved ones. They were not permitted to know the true nature of these purges or of the existence of gulag prisoner camps all across the country. This orchestrated ignorance is reflected in the naiveté of many central characters in The Master and Margarita, who think and function more like children than adults. Bulgakov, like everyone else, was kept in ignorance about these events, but he and many others (writers especially) sensed that the state was manipulating them and concealing information about its activities. Bulgakov comments on this aspect of Soviet society by imbuing the characters of The Master and Margarita with childlike qualities of innocence and blind faith. Bulgakov also makes a commentary on his age through his use of fear in The Master and Margarita. Characters in the novel often experience fear after some sort of perceived failure, almost as if they are afraid that their failure will result in them being punished somehow. The characters also feel fear in relation to ideology; that is to say they are afraid of doing or saying things that will draw attention to them as being subversive or dangerous to the state. The Master, for example, after having failed to publish his book, tells Homeless that “fear had become [his] constant companion,” and that he lived in a state of paranoia and was always expecting something terrible to
happen to him (149). But the best example of ideologically driven fear is the description of the audience at Woland’s black magic show. At first, the audience is unresponsive and seems distinctly unimpressed, but after they are eventually amused by the buffoonery of Behemoth and Korovyev, and tempted by money and luxury items being given away, they begin to enjoy themselves. The guests conceal their enjoyment for fear of “appearing non-Soviet in front of other fellow-citizens” (Arnold 7). Nobody wants to be the first to openly condone the show, because it would draw attention to them from the entire audience. Only as a group are they comfortable expressing their feelings, for it means that they will not stand alone. Fear and mistrust drive characters to self-censorship and hollow human interaction. This fear is often seemingly unfounded and has no direct cause, lending an aura of suspicion and paranoia to the entire city; characters seem to fear some sort of divine retribution that even they themselves do not understand. Bulgakov is surely alluding to the Great Terror and Stalin’s purges, and reproduces the atmosphere of Moscow in those years in The Master and Margarita. There is a fear of standing out and of becoming the target of an unknown process of ideological examination, which paralyzes the characters of The Master and Margarita. Fear for one’s personal safety is especially prominent among the bureaucratic characters, which is interesting because demographically, it was these same bureaucratic types who suffered the most during Stalin’s purges. This ideological fear is only ever overcome when a sense of community is felt between characters, and often this unifying element is humor, or, as Yanina Arnold, after Mikhail Bakhtin, terms it, the presence of carnival (11). Money is another element through which Bulgakov comments on the Soviet Union of the 1920s and 1930s, and in this case he is quite caustic. In general, money makes the characters of The Master and Margarita very uncomfortable; they do not like accepting it from people, they do not like talking about it, they are uncomfortable with personal wealth. However, Bulgakov’s true satire lies in the treatment of the two different currencies that are used in the novel; rubles and chervontsy (червонцы). The ruble was the old Russian currency, and the chervonets was a currency introduced by the government in the 1920s. Although many translators have, according to Jan Vanhellemont, failed to translate the distinction between these two currencies into English-language versions of the novel, they are prominent in the original and serve to parody the Soviet attempts to stimulate and influence the economy (5-6). For instance, during Woland’s show at the Variété, various magic tricks are performed where people find money in their pockets or money is thrown out into the audience, inducing a mad scramble to collect as many paper bills as possible. Bulgakov calls these bills chervontsy, and not rubles, although most translations do not preserve this distinction. These bills circulate among the crowd, and after the end of the show, the spectators return to their normal routines and try to pay for things with these bills. However, the bills soon disappear and turn into things like water bottle labels, thus enraging many retailers and taxi drivers (who have been swindled, albeit unintentionally). The rubles never disappear, though. The chervontsy are “hypnotic… but an illusion created by a higher authority” (3). This new Soviet currency is more problematic than useful, and Soviet meddling with the economy results only in disaster and an increased paranoia surrounding the new currency. When it is introduced in The Master and Margarita, it seems to be like regular money, but the next day it all transforms into useless pieces of paper that, unlike the ruble, are useless to society. The Soviet reform has completely failed and has resulted in chaos, upset, and disappointment. The traditional Russian ruble wins out, which implies that a complete break with the Russian past is impossible, certain aspects can never be forcibly removed or replaced, and deliberate intervention against remnants of Old Russia are futile. Through this treatment of money in The Master and Margarita, Bulgakov makes a cutting remark about such inane reform measures introduced by the Soviet government in the 1920s and 1930s. The Master and Margarita, while being primarily a commentary on the Soviet ideology and realities of
life, is also heavily influenced by the Russian and Soviet literary traditions which surround it. Both the style of the novel and many of its devices are in conversation with this literary tradition. The Master and Margarita is a reflection of the Soviet literary tradition in several ways. It follows the literary shift which occurred around 1931, from featuring the ‘little man’ to the extraordinary superhuman (as discussed previously), while distorting this message and turning it into a poignant commentary on Soviet propaganda. The Master and Margarita also follows the Soviet trend of using an excess of violence, to the extent that violence is trivialized and serves as amusement both for the characters and for the reader. This trend can be seen among other Soviet works such as Vvedensky’s Christmas at the Ivanovs, Platonov’s The Foundation Pit (specifically the incidents with the bear), and Bulgakov’s own Heart of a Dog. This trivialization of violence is not a uniquely Soviet phenomenon, and occurred concurrently in the West with cultural icons such as Charlie Chaplin films. The Master and Margarita also has many elements in common with other Soviet literary works due to the fact that literature is always to an extent a product of its time. For example, the parents of characters in The Master and Margarita are never mentioned, and the protagonists seem to lead a rootless and drifting existence due to this lack. That the ‘parent generation’ of the 1930s had been decimated by the revolution, the civil war, and the First World War was a fact of everyday life. Elements such as these produce a certain Soviet literary pattern which The Master and Margarita, among many other literary works of the time, inevitably tends to follow. However, The Master and Margarita operates primarily within the classical Russian literary tradition from before the era of Bolshevism. Certain elements of the novel reflect a centuries-old literary tradition which is grounded in Russian folk tales. The existence of magic and witches, age-reversing creams, death being reversed, and death being correctly predicted all allude both to Russia’s folk tales and traditions and to Russia’s canonical authors Alexander Pushkin and Nikolai Gogol. Magic and its absurd occurrences remind one of stories such as The Nose, The Overcoat, and The Queen of Spades. The Queen of Spades in particular plays a prominent role in the book, namely in the predicted death of Berlioz for having doubted and insulted Woland (just as Herman abuses the magical powers of the three playing cards and brings about his own untimely encounter with mystical retribution). The scene of Berlioz ridiculing Woland’s prediction, and the later scene where Woland unveils Berlioz’s head at his ball and drinks from it, both have their origins in even older Russian literary history, that is to say from the story of Oleg the Wise, and the divine retribution that his horse enacts against him. Gogol was one writer who greatly influenced Bulgakov, and The Master and Margarita, as mentioned previously. Gogol’s writings, like Bulgakov’s, deal heavily with the supernatural and the grotesque, but they often end on a note which is strangely grounded in reality and hugely contrasting to the rest of the story. For example, in The Overcoat, the story ends with a return to the banal, as police patrol the streets of Saint Petersburg, as if Akakii Akakievich had never existed at all. This return to the mundane is imitated in Bulgakov’s epilogue, as Bulgakov describes the aftermath of Woland’s presence in Moscow. This type of conclusion “retreats from the awesome realm of the supernatural into the comic inconsequentiality of the familiar world” and “reverses the apocalyptic expectation generated by the preceding narrative” (Barratt 304). It forces the reader to be aware of the gap between this ordinary existence and the fantastic realm of the main characters. Moscow seems quiet and mundane after Woland leaves, suggesting that Woland’s presence was actually beneficial to the city as a whole, despite all the chaos which resulted, because it made life interesting and helped many characters overcome their previous situations. This reflective epilogue is a distinct mark of Gogol’s influence on Bulgakov. Many of Bulgakov’s supernatural themes can also be found in Gogol’s works, and his penchant for naming characters after famous, and often German, figures may also be inspired by Gogol’s Petersburg Tales (313). Names such as these include Rimsky (from the composer Rimsky-Korsakov), Berlioz, Doctor Stravinsky, Archibald Archibaldovich (referencing Akakii Akakievich, a device frequently used by Russian writers to allude to The Overcoat), and Professor Kuzmin.
The central themes in The Master and Margarita of God and the Devil, and of good versus evil, are out of place in a twentieth century Soviet context. In fact, they almost seem to stand in defiance of the Soviet Union; it was an atheist state, and yet The Master and Margarita features the Devil in Moscow, and Jesus being sentenced to death by Pontius Pilate two millennia earlier. God and the Devil, and good versus evil, are literary themes which have their origins in pre-Revolution Russian literature, and feature prominently in the works of writers such as Dostoevsky or Griboedov (who is the namesake of a house in The Master and Margarita). The Master and Margarita is also greatly influenced by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Many elements of Dostoevsky’s writing can be found in Bulgakov’s texts, and Bulgakov’s work is often in conversation with the themes, scenarios, and characters of Dostoevsky’s works. Dostoevsky is referred to by name at several points in the novel, clearly indicating the important position that he holds for Bulgakov. For example one point the characters are asked to show their writers identification cards to an official, and Korovyev makes a remark about how Dostoevsky’s identity would never have been questioned in the street. The official says it does not matter, because Dostoevsky is dead, to which Behemoth replies “I protest!... Dostoevsky is immortal!” (354). This statement reveals Bulgakov’s opinion of Dostoevsky and his works. The portion of The Master and Margarita which takes place in Jerusalem during the time of Christ is especially reminiscent of the old Russian literary tradition, not only because it is set in the distant past, but also because it is the second work of Russian literature to show Christ being interrogated by antagonistic forces, during which Christ listens to various accusations laid against him. The first occurrence of this scene is of course in The Grand Inquisitor, in the fifth book of The Brothers Karamazov. Bulgakov puts his interrogation of Christ by Pontius Pilate in dialogue with Dostoevsky’s famous scene between the Grand Inquisitor and Christ, set during the time of the Spanish Inquisition. However, in The Brothers Karamazov, Christ remains silent against the charges laid to him by the Inquisitor, whereas in The Master and Margarita, Yeshua talks incessantly and answers every question asked of him and more, ultimately making the Hegemon want to save Yeshua’s life. In The Brothers Karamazov, Christ’s silence is sad, and accepting of blame, while remaining noble and stoic. In The Master and Margarita, Yeshua’s behavior is the opposite; he genuinely tries to defend himself and says he knows nothing of the destruction of the temple of Yershalaim, and his honesty and good nature win over the Hegemon. This is a very different image of Christ from The Grand Inquisitor, but clearly Bulgakov’s Christ is in conversation with Dostoevsky’s. The fact that Christ is portrayed so positively in a novel written during a period of state atheism is especially interesting, and would suggest that Bulgakov himself continued to believe in God during the 1930s (after all, his father and grandfathers were theologians). Bulgakov’s magnum opus The Master and Margarita is an extremely complex and intricate novel. Bulgakov dedicated the last twelve years of his life to it, although he knew his novel was not publishable in the current political climate, or in any foreseeable political climate for that matter. The novel is Bulgakov’s philosophical commentary on the human condition, with a primary focus on the turbulent years of the 1920s and 1930s in the Soviet Union. This is done through satire of social norms, the presentation of characters without parents or children (in other words, without roots or hope for the future), exploration of fear and its defeat, and the parody of official Soviet reforms of finance. Bulgakov also plays heavily on both his Soviet literary environment and Russian literary tradition; he is heavily influenced by both Dostoevsky and Gogol, and borrows many of the macabre and grotesque elements of his novel from Pushkin and his contemporary Soviet writers. Scholarly literature written about The Master and Margarita is disproportionately abundant compared to other classics of Russian literature precisely because the novel is so complex and subtle; practically half of this scholarship seems to have been in response to pre-existing literature, and there are debates about the novel which
have existed for fifty years without having been resolved. That The Master and Margarita is a highly complicated novel is undeniable, and so too is the fact that it is not only an example of great Soviet literature, but it is also a masterpiece of Russian literature as a whole. It is certainly a commentary on the times which preceded it and those which accompanied it, but it is also much more than a simple commentary – it is Bulgakov’s examination of human history and faith as they evolved over two thousand years. For the reason of its huge scope and depth, and also due to its style and humor, The Master and Margarita will continue to occupy a revered place in world literature.
Works Cited Arnold, Yanina. “Through the Lens of Carnival: Identity, Community, and Fear in Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita.” Toronto Slavic Quarterly, no. 11, 2004, pp. 1-14. Avins, Carol. “Reaching a Reader: The Master’s Audience in The Master and Margarita.” Slavic Review, vol. 45, no. 2, 1986, pp. 272-285. Barratt, Andrew. Between Two Worlds: A Critical Introduction to The Master and Margarita. Oxford UP, 1987. Belenkiy, Ari. “Master and Margarita: A Literary Autobiography?”Literature & Theology, vol. 20, no. 2,2006, pp. 126-139. Brown, Clarence. The Portable Nineteenth-Century Russian Reader.Penguin Books, 1993. —-. The Portable Twentieth-Century Russian Reader. Penguin Books, 2003. Bulgakov, Mikhail. The Master and Margarita. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Penguin Books, 2007. Bulgakov, Mikhail. White Guard. Translated by Marian Schwartz. Yale UP, 2008. Clark, Katerina. The Soviet Novel: History as Ritual. Indiana UP, 2000. Dostoevsky, Fyodor. The Brothers Karamazov. Translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990. Ericson, Edward. “The Satanic Incarnation: Parody in Bulgakov’s Master and Margarita”. Russian Review, vol. 33, no. 1, 1974, pp. 20-36. Fieseler, Margret. Stilistische und motivische Untersuchungen zu Michail Bulgakovs Romanen „Belaja gvardiya“ und „Master i Margarita“. Georg Olms, 1982. Kisel, Maria. “Feuilletons Don’t Burn: Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita and the Imagined ‘Soviet Reader.’” Slavic Review, vol. 68, no. 3, 2009, pp. 582-600. Milne, Lesley. Bulgakov: The Novelist-Playwright. Harwood Academic Publishers, 1995. Milne, Lesley. Mikhail Bulgakov: A Critical Biography. Cambridge U P, 1990. Naiman, Eric. “Children in “The Master and Margarita””. The Slavic and East European Journal, vol. 50, no. 4, 2006, pp. 655-675. Proffer, Ellendea. Bulgakov: Life and Work. Ardis, 1984. Suny, Ronald. The Soviet Experiment. Oxford UP, 2011. Vanhellemont, Jan. “Chevrontsi or roubles – does it matter?” The Master and Margarita Archives, 2007, pp. 1-6. http://www.masterandmargarita.eu/estore/pdf/emen040_vanhellemont.pdf. Vyleta, Daniel Mark. “City of the Devil: Bulgakovian Moscow and the Search for the Stalinist Subject”. Rethinking History: The Journal of Theory and Practice, vol. 4, no. 1, 2000., pp. 37-53. Weeks, Laura. The Master & Margarita: A Critical Companion. Northwestern UP, 1996. Wielenga, Bastiaan. Lenins Weg zur Revolution. Kaiser, 1971.
The Echoes of the Cold War in the 21st Century Mhairin Ratushny This paper aims to analyse the major events between the United States and the Soviet Union from 1961 – 1962, looking for parallels with events of the 21st century, followed by an interpretation of the significance of those parallels. My research focuses especially on the role of nationalism in tensions between the two countries. To begin with, most scholars agree that the peak of Cold War tensions took place during the years of 1961 – 1962. This is due to the accumulation of events – the major ones in discussion being the nuclear arms race, the Bay of Pigs, and the Cuban Missile Crisis – all of which must be discussed in order to answer the research question I have posed. Firstly, the nuclear arms race. This arms race was not unique to the years of 1961 – 1962; however, it was aspect of the Cold War era, contributing to later events. The race began at the end of World War II, specifically with the American bombing of the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This one event set in motion a battle for supremacy in nuclear warfare, in which the United States and the Soviet Union held the most interest. As both nations raced to compete against one another – amassing nuclear technology, refining production methods, and building arsenals –they both became a deadlier threat to one another. By the 1950s alone, both sides had acquired enough power to obliterate one another should they have fired on each other, which coined the term ‘Mutual Assured Destruction.’
Figure 1 However, that did not mean, statistically speaking, that this was a fair fight. As we can see from the figure above, with statistics provided by the Federation of American Scientists, the United States held the upper hand in the sheer number of nuclear weapons. This is because in the years directly after the Second World War the
United States held a monopoly on the knowledge and materials required for nuclear weaponry, which did initially slow down the Soviets, as they had been faced with a lack of uranium during the war. However, they quickly found new sources in Eastern Europe which allowed them to catch up on the technology. This contributed to the other major events of the years of 1961 – 1962, as it played a part in the mounting tensions between the two nations, affecting their foreign policies and their relationship with one another. The second event worth discussion is the colossal failure of the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. To give a brief summary of events, during the 1950s, the United States gained a great deal of power and interest in Cuba, leading them to influence the Cuban political system with the goal of putting Fulgencio Batista in power, which later allowed him to seize control as he proclaimed himself president, establishing his one-man dictatorship. By the end of the 1950s, however, Batista had fallen out of favour, and a man by the name of Fidel Castro rose to overthrow him, taking his place as president. Castro quickly established strong economic ties with the Soviet Union, which was not to the liking of the United States. Tensions mounted further as Castro chose to nationalize American property in Cuba, which lead the Americans to end their agreement with Cubans to buy their sugar, which was the main export out of Cuba and the backbone of their economy. Castro then turned to the Soviets, who agreed to buy Cuban sugar, solidifying the end of Cuba’s relationship with the United States. This of course upset the Americans; the Central Intelligence Agency’s Director, Allen Dulles, decided to begin planning the overthrow of Castro, as he was now believed to be contributing to the spread of international communism. Toward the end of President Eisenhower’s administration, the CIA’s plans to overthrow Castro were approved, leading to many attempted assassinations of Castro, with methods ranging from poisoned pens and cigars to compromising his diving suit. Castro was well informed of the CIA’s intentions to kill him and avoided these attempts. As Eisenhower left office at the end of 1960, Presidents Kennedy stepped in and was immediately contacted by the CIA ,who had concocted a new plan to overthrow Castro: Operation Pluto. This operation held the same basic structure as the Bay of Pigs, as it was a ship borne invasion carried out by a guerilla army; however, the details involved, such as location and numbers, differed, and it has been argued by many that this original plan would have potentially been more successful than what happened in reality. Kennedy, afraid that this operation would be too ‘noisy,’ had the CIA adapt it, in order to insure plausible deniability of the United States. This plan was executed in April 1961 and became regarded as one of the greatest failures of the CIA, as Castro was well informed of the Americans ‘plans, and had an army at the ready when the invasion washed up on the shores of the Bay of Pigs. This event was crucial to the mounting tensions of 1961 – 1962, as it directly spurred the final event in this discussion, which was the Cuban Missile Crisis. After the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion – in addition to all of the other failed assassination attempts – Castro choses to further strengthen his ties to the Soviet Union, reaching an agreement with Khrushchev in July of 1962 which began the construction of Soviet ballistic missile sites in Cuba. Months later, in an aerial flyover of Cuba, the United States discovered the missile sites and was set into a flurry of action. On the morning of October 16th, 1962, Kennedy was implored to make a decision on what to do, with the options on the table being negotiation, air strike, invasion, or naval blockade. He chose to proceed with a blockade in the interest of quarantining Cuba and intercepting the Soviet missile transportation. This created a thirteen-day confrontation between the Americans and the Soviets and has been regarded as the closest the world came to a full scale nuclear war during the Cold War. The aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis led the Soviets to remove their Cuban missiles, while the United States agrees not to invade Cuba. Soviet – Cuban relations were greatly damaged as Castro accused the Soviets of backing down from the Americans too easily. This same thought also caused conflict within Soviet leadership, as it later became one of the factors that pushed Khrushchev out of his position as Secretary. Though the Cold War still went on, the United States and the Soviet Union both signed an agreement that ended above ground nuclear
testing in 1963, and a non-proliferation agreement was later signed in 1968. Lastly, the Moscow-Washington Hotline was created, as a way for both nations to have a fast and direct line of communication in case of conflict. This brings us to the next step, which is comparing the leadership and motivations involved in the Cuban Missile Crisis. Beginning with Kennedy, both he and his family were very popular in media culture and were treated more like celebrities than political figures. This led to their becoming an iconic administration, associated with the term Camelot, due to the charismatic nature of the president and his family. When he was presented with the issues surrounding the Bay of Pigs in 1961, Kennedy was barely beginning his term in the White House. This brings us to Khrushchev, who came from a peasant background, yet was well regarded as highly intelligent. Khrushchev was not only dealing with the mounting competition of the Cold War and the Nuclear arms race but was also working to bring the Soviet Union out of the instability they faced after the death of Stalin. Khrushchev is mainly associated with the historical period of the ‘Thaw,’ as he looked to implement reform and change to the system after the rule of Stalin, yet he also wanted to preserve the basic institutions of the Soviet Union. When confronted about the Cuban Missile Crisis, his response was that the weapons were defensive and that the Soviets were also assisting Cuba because they wanted American missiles in Turkey to be removed. Next is the review of the historiography of both the leadership and the Cuban Missile Crisis. There are two major schools of historiographical thought: Orthodox and Revisionist. Orthodox historiography is the view of history as it is written by scholars at the time of the event in question, while Revisionist historiography is the view of history as it is written by scholars a generation later, and most often conflicts with the Orthodox view. When it comes to the Kennedy administration, the Orthodox view was that he was a leader and a pragmatist. They argue that he was an agent of worldwide social reform and that he was an effective president. However, the Revisionists argue that he was not a leader, that he had more style than substance, that he was a traditional “cold warrior,” and that he was not an effective leader. It is important to note that the view of Kennedy in history is also greatly impacted by the nature of his death. With regard to Khrushchev’s motivations to put missiles in Cuba, Orthodox scholars argue that it was out of the Soviet sense of inferiority, and it was a way of re-addressing the nuclear imbalance of power . They also argue that Khrushchev saw Kennedy as a weak president. On the other hand, the Revisionist scholars argue that Khrushchev truly did want to defend Cuba against the invasion of Americans after the Bay of Pigs and the CIA’s attempts to kill Castro. They believe that Khrushchev thought that the West was winning the Cold War, making Kennedy strong in the eyes of Khrushchev. Lastly, regarding the Cuban Missile Crisis, Orthodox scholars claim that the events that took place did indeed change the balance of power between the Soviet Union and the United States. They argue that Kennedy was a pragmatist, that he was not influenced by domestic politics, and that the American response to the crisis was credible. To them, the legacy left behind was a positive one. However, the Revisionist scholars argue the opposite. They argue that there was no change to the balance of power and that the United States’ response was not credible. They argue that Kennedy was influenced by domestic politics and that his motivations were ideological. To summarize, the Orthodox view claims that the Soviet Union was more responsible for the Cuban Missile Crisis, as the United States responded defensively to the Soviet provocations of Khrushchev sending missiles to Cuba, while the Revisionists claim that the United States was more responsible, as the Soviet Union responded defensively to American provocations, being the heated competition of the nuclear arms race. What are the parallels of these events in the 21st century? The first parallel is within the leadership of both nations. With the United States, President Trump and his family are similarly treated more like celebrities then political figures. In addition to this, we see President Putin as another Russian leader faced with the challenge of
bringing his country out of unstable times with the fall of the Soviet Union and the leadership of Boris Yeltsin, not unlike Khrushchev bringing the Soviet Union out of the instability caused by the death of Stalin. Trump and Putin are also incredibly nationalistic leaders at the head of two countries who place a great value on national pride, similar to how both nations were during the Cold War, as they competed against one another for the sake of their pride during not only the nuclear arms race, but during the Space Race as well. Another parallel that can be observed is the issue of political interference. With the Russian interference in the 2016 American elections now confirmed by the Muller Report, we can see the Russian influence of the positioning of Trump in leadership as a way of securing their interest isn the United States. This echoes the American influence over the Cuban government in the 1950s that put Batista in power, and later indirectly put Castro in power as well. Yet another parallel is the continued superiority of both nations in the development of nuclear technology. Even after limitations were set on nuclear arsenals after the Cuban Missile Crisis, both countries still far
Figure 2 outmatched the rest of the world’s nuclear capabilities – as can be seen in the figure above, with estimated statistics provided by the Arms Control Association. Out of the five-major nuclear-weapon states – China, France, Russia, United Kingdom, and the United States – it is clear that both Russia and the United States hold the upper hand in nuclear arsenals. That being said, this parallel differs a bit from the 1960s, as instead of the United States being superior in their success of creating nuclear weapons, both nations now sit fairly evenly matched, according to the estimated data. The last parallel present is that the state of global tensions in relation to nuclear warfare is again at an all time high. As was seen in the mistake with the Hawaiian emergency alert system in January 2018, humanity is just as terrified of capabilities of nuclear warfare, if not more so now due to the development of nuclear technology by not only the United States and Russia, but also other nations looking to rise to power on the world stage. When the Hawaiian mistake took place, the news initially shocked the world, as many believed this was the tipping point that we had been waiting for with the mounting tensions that were presented in the media. Many saw video clips of university students running for cover, saw the panic over social media feeds as the incident was taped on smartphones, and made desperate calls to loved ones in the area. The entire world waited the four hours to hear news of the missile impact, which thankfully turned out to be false. However, that does not take away from the emotions that were displayed during the alert, which clearly demonstrated that this new century had not left behind
the same fragile vulnerability humanity felt during the Cold War. We live in a time when world leaders make jokes on Twitter about the big red buttons they have on their desks that could launch a nuclear war, truly inciting a feeling of dread and uncertainty similar to that which was seen in the Cold War era, as we realize the potential for global destruction. However, this investigation was not for the purpose of analysing whether or not the world is headed for nuclear devastation, but rather of analysing what has happened before in comparison to what we are seeing now in hopes that perhaps it will change how we think about history and the history that is being made today. Works Cited Albanese, David C.S. “’It takes a Russian to beat a Russian’: The National Union of Labour Solidarists, nationalism, and human intelligence operations in the Cold War.” Intelligence and National Security, vol. 32, no. 6, 2017, pp. 782-796. Cocola, Jim. “Lorine Niedecker “After the Bay of Pigs.” College Literature, vol. 2, 2014, 79-96. Corke, Sarah-Jane. “Kennedy and CIA.” HIST 2373: Spying on the World - The CIA in American History. Goldberg Computer Science Building, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. 1 March 2018. Lecture. —-. “Presidents, DCI’s and the history of the CIA.” HIST 2373: Spying on the World - The CIA in American History. Goldberg Computer Science Building, Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia. 25 January 2018. Lecture. Dunne, Micheal. “Perfect Failure: The USA, Cuba and the Bay of Pigs, 1961.” Political Quarterly, vol. 82, no. 3, 2011, pp. 448-458. Karol, K. “Russia’s Bay of Pigs.” New Statesman, vol. 76, 1968, p. 160. Kort, Michael. “Soviet Russia: Reform, Decline, and Collapse (1953 – 1991).” A Brief History of Russia , pp..94 – 229. Infobase, 2008. Kristensen, Hans M. and Robert S. Norris. “2017 Estimated Global Nuclear Warhead Inventories.” Arms Control Association, 2018, https://www.armscontrol.org/factsheets/Nuclearweaponswhohaswhat. Radchenko, Sergey. “The Cuban Missile Crisis: Assessment of New, and Old, Russian Sources” International Relations, vol. 26, no. 3, pp. 327-43. Roser, Max, and Mohamed Nagdy. “Number of nuclear warheads in the inventory of the nuclear powers.” Our World in Data, https://ourworldindata.org/nuclear-weapons (2010) Web. Mar. 25, 2018.
poems from Zveriniy Stil’ (2013)
Andrei Rodionov (trans. Justin Wood) 5
В Перми жестокая метель афиш не держит клей к нам в Пермь приехала Матье! приехала Мирей!
5 In Perm there’s a terrible blizzard the glue on the poster won’t hold Mathieu has come to us, to Perm! Mireille has come!1
и чтобы Пермских чуваков собою соблазнить Матье училась много слов по-русски говорить
and in order to seduce the Permian guys Mathieu’s learned many words she’s learned to speak Russian
слова твои как мед в бадье ты — русская, Мирей, и твою мать Мирей Матье ебал гиперборей
your words are like honey in a jar; Mireille, you are Russian, and your mother, Mireille Mathieu, was fucked by a Hyperborean
здесь немцы строили дома свой мини-Нюрнберг и в центре города тюрьма и валит валит снег
here Germans were building homes their mini-Nuremberg and in the centre of the city there is a prison and the snow falls and falls
Илья Родина, родина, речка Смородина, ночью — серебряный нож нефтью к Конфуцию, газом для Одина, все ты куда-то течешь
Ilya Homeland, homeland, river Currant, at night a silver knife with oil for Confucius, gas for Odin, you’re always flowing somewhere
мерзостным хохотом, дьявольским посвистом встретит меня соловей на берегу обвалившемся, охристом крови напьется моей
with a horrible laugh, a demonic whistle, the nightingale will meet me on the eroding shore and get drunk on the ochre of my blood
скроюсь теперь я во тьму катакомбную в Киеве мягче земля лягу по смерти замедленной бомбой для будущего соловья
now I hide in the catacomb darkness in Kiev the earth is softer I’ll lie down on death by delay-action bomb for the future nightingale
The reference is to Mireille Mathieu, a French singer who is well-known in Russia. -Ed.
Top: A rainbow over Admiralteysky Raion; Bottom: Nevsky Prospekt at sunset. St. Petersburg, Russia, May 2017. Photographs by Justin Wood.