Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, 1966

Master and Margarita Book cover
Mikhail Bulgakov, The Master and Margarita, 1966, Readings.

This masterclass will explore Mikhail Bulgakov's masterpiece, The Master and Margarita – a fantastic story of the devil coming to Moscow and wreaking havoc on the Soviet literary elite. Written in Stalin's Soviet Union between 1928 and 1940, the manuscript was initially destined for the desk drawer, but was eventually published in strongly curated excerpts in the 1960s in a Soviet literary magazine. An uncensored version was only published in 1969 in Germany.

Part biting satire on life in the land of the Soviets, part meditation on the meaning of life, part religious philosophy, and part fantasy novel, The Master and Margarita is hard to classify. This masterclass explores the historical context of its creation under pre-war Stalinism, its narrative and multiple messages, and what it can tell us as a historical source about the Soviet Union in the 1930s.

Headshot of Mark Edele

Professor Mark Edele

When travelling to Russia as a student in the 1990s, Mark Edele raised the eyebrows of a customs official because his luggage contained a copy of Mikhail Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. Today, Professor Edele is a historian of the Soviet Union and its successor states, in particular Russia. He holds the inaugural Hansen Chair in History at the University of Melbourne and also serves as Deputy Dean in the Faculty of Arts. He was trained as a historian at the Universities of Erlangen, Tübingen, Moscow and Chicago.

He is the author of seven books, including Soviet Veterans of the Second World War (2008), Stalinist Society (2011), Stalin’s Defectors (2017), The Soviet Union. A Short History (2019), Debates on Stalinism (2020), and Stalinism at War. The Soviet Union in World War II (2021). He is a Chief Investigator on two current Australian Research Council Discovery Grants: KGB Empire: State Security Archives in the former Eastern Bloc and Aftermaths of War: Violence, Trauma, Displacement, 1815–1950. He teaches the histories of the Soviet Union, of the Second World War, and of dictatorship and democracy in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.