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by Mikhail Bulgakov
The snow storm from the north howled and howled, and now they themselves could sense a dull, subterranean rumbling, the groaning of an anguished land in travail. As 1918 drew to an end, the threat of danger grew rapidly nearer.
In May of 1918, in Kiev, the matriarch of the Turbin family died, leaving behind her children: Aleksei, 28, a doctor just returned from the war; Elena, 24; and Nikolka, 17 and a half. Their mother's death was a hard blow for the family, which had just been reunited and expected a return to some sort of normalcy. Now it was December. Snow is piling up, and life is getting worse.
A cold, snowy night. Aleksei and Nikolka go to the yard and discover that someone has been stealing firewood from their shed. They retire indoors, where their stove, faced with Dutch tiles telling the story of Peter the Great, keeps the apartment warm and comfortable. Nikolka has scribbled pro-tsarist graffitti on the stove.
Elena is worried because her husband, Sergei Talberg, a White officer, has not returned from his mission accompanying the Hetman Skoropadsky's money train. The family is surprised as they hear shooting from Svyatoshino, just eight miles outside the city. Elena is disgusted with the Germans, who, she says, could have squashed the despicable Petlyura long ago if they wanted to.
Simon Vasilevich Petlyura
( 1879 - 1926 )
One of the founders of the Ukrainian Social-Democratic Party. After the February Revolution of 1917, he was made a member of the Rada, or government council of independent Ukraine. Following German occupation of Ukraine and establishment of a puppet White regime, he became ataman of the Ukrainian resistance army. The Germans withdrew, and the Whites were defeated, but Petlyura opposed Soviet control of Ukraine, and to this end he concluded a treaty with Poland. He efforts ultimately failed and he fled to Paris, where he was assassinated by a Jew in retaliation for pogroms committed by his army.
A friend of the family, Lieutenant Viktor Myshlaevsky, a former artillery officer who is currently serving in the infantry, arrives, covered with lice and suffering from frostbite. He curses his superiors who travel in first-class trains and let him and other soldiers stand in the frozen snow all night, without proper boots or clothing. There had been an attack during the night near Myshlaevsky's position, probably just some local peasants, "Dostoevsky's Holy Russia", as Myshlaevsky disparagingly refers to them. It's a good thing the attack wasn't on Myshlaevsky's position--they would've been overrun. It was just 40 men strung out at 200 yard intervals. Two men died of frostbite and two others will have to have their legs amputated.
Myshlaevsky has particularly harsh words for a certain Colonel Shchetkin, who only occasionally leaves of the comfort of his train car and his brandy to make speeches to the troops about the noble cause. The Turbins put Myshlaevsky in the bath, and he falls asleep.
Talberg finally returns, and Elena is elated. But he says he must leave immediately again. The Germans are withdrawing, and Talberg is going with them. There is a good chance that Petlyura will take the city once the Germans are gone. It would be dangerous for Talberg to stay, because of an article he published once saying, "Petlyura is an adventurer who threatens the country with destruction from his comic-opera regime." Talberg plans to eventually join up with Denikin and return when the General comes to recapture the city, probably by spring. And so, Talberg departs.
In the apartment downstairs from the Turbins lives an engineer named Vasily Lisovich. But everyone calls him Vasilisa, the feminine form of the name. Making sure that his wife is asleep, Vasilisa covers the windows and hides some tsarist bonds in a secret cache behind the wallpaper. Tsarist rubles and gold and silver items are already there in hiding. And Vasilisa has two other hiding places. Unbeknownst to him, his actions are observed by a wolflike stranger looking in through a small gap in the window covering.
Looking like Taras Bulba, with drooping mustaches, Vasilisa then sits down and counts his Ukrainian money. He is disgusted to find several forgeries among the lot. He plans to use those in the market on the next day.
Two friends come to visit the Turbins--First Lieutenant Leonid Shervinsky, an aide to Prince Belorukov, and Second Lieutenant Fyodor "Karas" Stepanov, an artilleryman. Shervinsky brings roses for Elena and is secretly happy when he hears that Talberg is gone. Both visitors also bring drinks, vodka and wine. Soon they are all drunk, singing and talking.
Shervinsky says that Serbian troops have already arrived to aid in their cause, and that Greeks and Snegalese have just docked in Odessa. Aleksei angrily curses the Hetman, particularly because six months ago he forbade the loyalist Russians to form an army and only now, when the enemy is practically at the door, does the Hetman change his mind. If the Russians had formed an army at the beginning, Aleksei says, not only would Petlyura have been defeated, but they would have been able to march to Moscow to swat those Bolsheviks. He continues, "Now, we have something much worse on our hands, much worse than war, worse than the Germans, worse than anything on earth--and that is Trotsky."
Shervinsky defends the Hetman, saying that the Hetman's plan was to get the Germans to aide in the defeat of the Bolsheviks, and that once Moscow was taken, the Hetman would have pledged the allegiance of Ukraine to Tsar Nikolai II. The others remind Shervinsky that the tsar is dead. Shervinsky denies it, saying the tsar escaped through Asia and by sea back to Europe. Now the tsar and the Empress-Dowager Maria Fydodorovna are both safely enscounced with Kaiser Wihelm...in Denmark, because the Kaiser has also been deposed. The others aren't sure they should believe this, but the drink a toast and loudly sing the tsarist national anthem---which has been officially banned. They drink almost to the point of stupor before deciding to go to sleep.
Elena sits on her bed, feeling lonely and abandoned. She misses Talberg, but realizes that she has never really respected him. Aleksei, in his bedroom, is also thinking dark thoughts about Talberg: "He's a wax dummy withouth the slightest conception of decency!
When Aleksei finally falls asleep he dreams of a nasty little man in baggy checked from Dostoevsky's "The Possessed", who sneers: "Better not sit on a hedgehog if you're naked! Holy Russia is a wooden country, poor and...dangerous, and to a Russian honor is nothing but a useless burden." In his dream, Aleksei tries to shoot this man.
They hated the Bolsheviks, but not with the kind of aggressive hatred that spurs on the hater to fight and kill, but with a cowardly hatred which whispers around dark corners.
Kiev was teeming with refugees from Moscow and Petrograd. Merchants, bankers, industrialists, lawyers, actors, landlords, prostitutes, ex-members of the State Duma, engineers, doctors, and writers. And all of them hated the Bolsheviks. During the summer, shops, restaurants, and cafes were kept busy.
The city was also filled with officers who drifted in from the front and from the two capitals, where they could not possibly stay. Some found positions with the Hetman; others, with rich ladies. Still others wandered around unshaven, drinking, sleeping wherever they could find a place. It was these latter officers who boiled with the direct rage and hatred that could spur them on to fight the Bolsheviks.
And there were also officer cadets, who were turned out of their academies before graduation. Nikolka was one of these.
A general and rich landowner, Pavel Petrovich Skoropadsky, had been elected Hetman in April 1918. The election took place in a circus. The election was over before most people even knew about it. But they didn't care. As long as there was bread in the shops and no looting.
Although there were various newspapers, people didn't really know what was going on in the city. And their ignorance about events in the rest of Ukraine, outside the city, was profound. Rumors of Germans robbing the peasants and mowing them down with machine guns elicted only grunts of approval, "Serves the peasants right...They're nothing more than a bunch of animals."
There were three ill omens during the summer. First, a ammunition storehouse on Bare Mountain exploded--no one ever learned why. Second, Field Marshal Eichhorn, the commander of German forces in Ukraine, was assassinated by a socialist worker. And thirdly, Yavdokha, the busty milkmaid Vasilisa had fantasies about, delivered milk to Vasilisia and announced that the cost of milk was 50 kopecks...the third price hike in three days.
And there were omens in autumn. In September, a piece of paper arrived at the city prison ordering the release of the prisoner in Cell #666--Petlyura, about whom no one seemed to know anything definite.
Among the peasants--who vastly outnumbered the Germans--hatred and malice was growing, spurred on by the requisitioning of horses and grain and the brutal mistreatment at the hands of the Germans and the Hetman's Cossacks. The peasants saw the Hetman's belated land reform as merely a swindle in favor of the landlords. And there were tens of thousands of Ukrainian soldiers returned from the war, hating their Russian officers. And they brought with them rifles, machine guns, and bullets, which went into hiding.
Then came the crushing news of Germany's defeat. Machine guns were heard as the peasants began to run amok. The monied interests fled south to Odessa. By November, the name "Petlyura", previously unknown, was on everyone's lips.
Elemental peasant fury ran amok through the cold and the snow, a fury in torn bast shoes, straw in its matted hair; a fury which howled. It held in its hands a huge club, without which no great change in Russia, it seems, can ever take place.
After the night of drunken carousing, Nikolka and Shervinsky were the first to awaken. Shervinsky returns to his duty at General Headquarters. Nikolka takes a mysterious red bundle and tiptoes out to join his infantry detachment.
Aleksei and the others awaken after noon. Aleskei and Myshlaevsky decide to go with Karas to join his Mortar Regiment. Karas reassures Elena that the regiment will remain in the city, particularly because they have no horses or ammunition.
The three men go to Madame Anjou's Parisien Hat Shop, which has been turned into a headquarters for the Mortar Regiment. The colonel in charge is happy to have Myshlaevsky, a former artillery officer. But he is reluctant about Aleksei. He asks Aleksei if he's a socialist. Aleksei blurts out that he's a proud monarchist, and continues, "I can't even bear the very word `Socialist'. And of all socialists I most detest Aleksandr Kerensky." The colonel says he's been told not to recruit monarchist elements. Nonetheless, he decides to take Aleksei as regimental medical officer and orders him to report to the parade grounds in front of the Aleksandr I High School in one hour.
Aleksei returns home, puts on his uniform, and sets out for the high school. On the way, he buys a newspaper, which contains reports that Petlyura's army is suffering desertions and that the peasants fear him. Unexpectedly, Aleksei encounters a funeral possession with the coffins of many, many officers. All of them had been ambushed by peasants and Petlyura's men. The officers were murdered and mutilated. Aleksei burns with fury.
Aleksei reports to the high school, the very school which he, Myshlaevsky, and Karas attended not so many years ago. Aleksei is given two orderlies to supervise. The troops practice with mortars outside, then march inside to a grand assembly hall. Myshlaevsky leads them in singing an artillery man's song. The hubbub terrfies the rats in the building.
SONG OF THE ARTILLERY MENWashed in a shell-case spent
Christened with a charge of shrapnel
Swaddled in an army tent!
In my cradle made of trace-ropes
The gun crew would rock me to sleep.
In the assembly hall, the executive officer, Captain Studzinsky, a Pole, orders some cadets to to remove the drapes which have been covering up the portrait of Tsar Alexandr I since October 1917. The regimental commander, Colonel Malyshev arrives and asks for a report. Studzinsky says that they have 125 cadets and 80 students who have never before held a rifle. But there are some good officers, especially that new one, Myshlaevsky. Malyshev tells Studzinsky that without horses or ammunition, there's not much chance they'll get to use the mortars, so tomorrow should be spent in rifle practice. Malyshev then addresses the troops, telling them that they certainly will defeat Petlyura, "God rot his stinking little soul!"
Afterwards when most of the troops have been sent home, Myshlaevsky tutors a cadet in how to blow the bugle. This, again, reduces the school's rat population to terror. Malyshev tells Aleksei to go home and return at 2:00 P.M. tomorrow. He also reminds Aleksei to remove his shoulder-straps, so as not to draw attention to the regiment.
Malyshev tells Myshlaevsky to get the electricity working in the building. Myshlaevsky immediately gets to the task and, in a few minutes, returns with Maksim, who was hall monitor of the school when Myshlaevsky, Aleksei, and the others were students. There was a time when Maksim held Aleksei and Myshlaevsky in his powerful grip, dragging them off for punishment for fighting. Now Maksim is old and doddering. Acting humbly, he leads Myshlaevsky over to the electric control panel and hands over the keys. Impressed with how rapidly Myshlaevsky dealt with the electricty, Malyshev orders him to do something about the heating. By night, Myshlaevsky has the stoves working, burning old literary magazines and chopped-up school benches.
At two o'clock in the morning, Malyshev is at Madame Anjou's still working. A man arrives on a motorcycle and sidecar and delivers a package wrapped in cloth. Malyshev puts it in the safe.
by Georg Filatov
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In the coal-black gloom of St. Vladimir's Hill, in the snow and biting cold, some mysterious figures--named Kirpaty and Nemolyaka--are lurking about, planing to wait till dawn and slip down into the city below. But it's too cold. They decide to risk it and try to slip down into the city now.
At the Hetman's palace, the Hetman dresses in a German major's uniform and wraps his head in bandages so that only his one crooked eye is visible. He is then placed on a stretcher and loaded into a military ambulance.
At 7 AM, the Mortar Regiment gathers in the high school. They are 20 men short. Malyshev addresses the troops and tells them: "This regiment is disbanded." They are to remove all insignia and badges of rank and go home. The troops are incredulous and murmur, "Treachery". Studzinsky tells Malyshev, "You're under arrest". Malyshev just snorts angrily and demands silence. He announces that the Hetman Skoropadsky and their commanding officer, Belorukov, have abandoned them and fled in a German train. He denounces them as swine and unspeakable rogues. Petlyura will probably take the city today.
Myshlaevsky asks for permission to burn down the school, but Malyshev says no. The troops dismantle and break up the mortars and rifles and hide the ammunition. Myshlaevsky smashes the electrical control panel.
Like a burst of flame the vodka poured out of Kozyr's gray army canteen and through his veins.
At daybreak, Colonel Kozyr-Leshko, in charge of a regiment of Petlyura's cavalry, awakens in the village of Pelyukha, and receives the order to advance. He doesn't like milk or tea, so he has vodka for breakfast, as do many of the troops. The cavlary, infantry, and artillery march on to the outskirts of Kiev.
Colonel Shchetkin has been missing from his headquarters since early morning for the simple reason that the headquarters no longer existed. At daybreak, his aides disappeared without a trace. Shchetkin ripped up some papers, then, in civilian clothes, went to a cosy but well-furnished apartment in Lipki, where he was greeted by a buxom, golden-haired woman. It's all over, he says before falling asleep.
It's a pity that the cadets of the 1st Infantry Detachment didn't know about Shchetkin's activities. If they did, they might well have dragged him out of his bed and hung him from the nearest lamppost. But they didn't know. In fact, on this 14th day of December 1918, with fighting only three miles from the city, no one in the city knew anything about the Hetman, the Germans, or headquarters.
At midday, Bolbotun, one of Petlyura's commanders, enters the city from the south. He encounters no resistance until he reaches the Nicholas I Military Academy, where he is met by machine gun fire from a handful of cadets and four officers. And, of course, all sorts of wild rumors fly around: "Bolbotun is the Grand Duke Mikhail Aleksandrovich...No, he's the Grand Duke Nikolai Nikolaevich...There'll be a pogrom...No, there won't...Bolbuton's against Petlyura...No, he's for the Bolsheviks...No, he's for the tsar...."
Yakov Grigorievich Feldman, a well-known military contractor, is hurring down Millionnaya Street. It's crazy for anyone to be on the street, but he has to be there...his wife's in labor and he's rushing for the midwife. He is stopped by a reconnaissance troop of Bolbuton's force led by Sergeant Galanba. They demand to see Feldman's identification and he accidentally gives them the wrong paper, a pass from the Whites identifying him as their supplier. Feldman offers a bribe, but no luck. Galanba slices off Feldman's head with one blow of his sabre.
Bolbuton's forces pursue the retreating cadets up to Reznikovskaya Street. There the cadets are met with reinforcements, including one of the four armored cars under the Hetman's control. If all four armored cars had been there, it might have made a difference. And the reason that three of the cars were missing was: Lieutenant Mikhail Shpolyansky, whom Aleksandr Kerensky had personally decorated with the St. George's Cross in May 1917.
When Shpolyansky arrived in Kiev from Petrograd, he made quite a splash. Looking just like Evgeny Onegin, he read his poems quiet elequently in the poetry club, played cards, dallied with several ladies, and was acknowledged leader of a school of poetry called the Magnetic Triolet. He also spent a lot of money.
While treating the other members of the Magnetic Triolet to dinner in a club on 2 December 1918, Shpolyansky announces, "They're all swine, the Hetman and Petlyura, too....But that's not the real trouble. The fact is, I'm bored because it's been so long since I've thrown any bombs."
In the group that night was Ivan Rusakov, who had syphilis and wrote atheistic poetry. Shpolyansky had used his influence to get Rusakov's verse published in a Moscow journal. At home that night, Rusakov falls into despair over his syphilis. He reads over his published atheistic poem, then spits on it and falls to his knees begging God's forgivness. He wrote the poem, he claims, while drunk on brandy and drugged on cocaine.
DIVINE RAVINEHeaven's above --
by Ivan Rusakov
And there in heaven,
Deep in a vaporous
Like a shaggy old bear
Licking his paws,
Lurks the daddy of us all --
Time to shoot the hairy old
In his lair:
When the shooting stars
Use my words as bullets,
Crimson with hate.
Two days later, Shpolyansky is enrolled in the Hetman's armored car troops and given command of one of the cars. One day, in conversation with other commanders and their crews, Shpolyansky wonders aloud if a battle between the Hetman and Petlyura is inevitable and that a third force will eventually come to claim victory. On 12 December another conversation took place, the subject of which we will never know. On the evening of the 13th, Shpolyansky arrives at the garage with a package wrapped in paper. "Sugar?" asks Kopylov, one of the commanders.
Shpolyansky and the mechanics get to work, readying the three armored cars there for the next day's action. After finishing at 4AM, Shpolyansky and another commander, Shchur, ride off to Pechorsk on a motorcycle and sidecar.
In the morning, the three armored cars are immobilized, with some strange dirt stuck in the carbureators. Shchur arrives, without Shpolyansky. Shchur reports that Shpolyansky went out to reconnoitre around the railroad tracks in the dark. Shchur heard shots and is convinced that an enemy patrol had found Shpolyansky and killed him.
As the day of the 14th wears on, drivers, mechanics, and gunners keep disappearing from the armored car troops. By noon, the commander has disappeared, too.
In early December, Colonel Nai-Turs had been ordered to form an infantry company and, astonishingly, he had the job done by December 10. He obtained an order requisitioning 200 pairs of felt boots for his troops, although the general signing the requisition warned Nai-Turs that the suppy house was a mess and that actually getting the boots would be difficult. Nai-Turs arrived at the supply house and after receiving an initial rebuff, he succeeded--with the help of 10 of his armed soldiers--in intimidating the commanding officer there, General Makushin, into handing over the boots.
On December 14, Nai-Turs's unit was positioned on the Southern Highway leading into the city. At about 3 o'clock in the afternoon, the Reds under Kozyr-Leshko began their attack. Sensing something ominous, Nai-Turs pulls back his troops for a few miles, then sends some runners to ascertain exactly where the reinforcing White forces are. The runners return with bad news. The White forces are nowhere to be seen. Also, there is machine-gun fire to the rear, and the enemy calvary seems ready to enter the city. Nai-Turs orders a hasty retreat.
The 28 cadets of the 1st Infantry Detatchment, 3rd company, are milling about in their barracks. The company commander and his platoon commanders left for headquarters that morning and have not come back, making Nikolka Turbin, a corporal, the person in charge. At 3 o'clock PM, Nikolka receives a phone call ordering his unit out onto the street and into action right away.
At 2 o'clock that afternoon, Aleksei woke up and got dressed. Perhaps it was a cowardly thing to do, but he decided to take his civilian doctor's identification card with him. Unfortunately, he forgot it and left it behind on his desk.
Aleksei arrives at the high school and adjacent museum square, where a disorganized assemblage of cadets and others are manning machine guns. Aleksei is shocked to see that his Mortar Regiment is not there and that all the mortars have been disabled. He assumes that the regiment has been marched off to fight as infantrymen. Desperate for information, he hurries to Madam Anjou's. There, he sees that the artillery insignias have been removed from the window. Inside is Malyshev, now clean-shaven and in civilian clothes, burning papers. Malyshev curses the generals and tells Aleksei that all is lost, that Petlyrua is in the city. Malyshev tried to disperse the crowd by the high school, but they wouldn't listen to him. He tells Aleksei to hide and save himself. After Malyshev disappears through the rear door, Aleksei burns his shoulder straps in the pot-bellied stove inside that shop which still smelled of perfume.
Nikolka's company deploys on a crossroads. However, there is no sign of the troops they were supposed to "reinforce". Also, the enemy is not there. There is shooting not only ahead of them, but to the right and the left and, most ominously, behind them.
Nai-Turs's detachment appears ahead, fleeing in disorder. The retreating cadets rip off their shoulder-straps, throw down their guns, and continue fleeing. Nai-Turs himself then appears and, on the run, rips the shoulder-straps off the coat of the stunned Nikolka. The Colonel then shouts to the rest of Nikolka's company to run for their lives, to flee along Fonarny Street to Podol. The confused cadets obey and start to run off. Nikolka, however, stays and watches as Nai-Turs grabs the machine gun. Nikolka holds the ammunition belt for Nai-Turs, who, while firing at the approaching enemy, urgently tells Nikolka to run away. Nikolka stays until Nai-Turs is shot and killed. Before dying, Nai-Turs enigmatically tells Nikolka to go to Malo-Provalnaya Street. Nikolka flees.
As Nikolka dashes through a courtyard, he is stopped and grabbed by an angry janitor with a red beard, who hisses that he can see Nikolka is a cadet even without his shoulder-straps. Nikolka pulls out his pistol and points it at the janitor, who immediately falls to his knees and begs for mercy. Nikolka tries to shoot the janitor, but his pistol doesn't work, so he just bashes the janitor in the teeth. The janitor runs away. Nikolka sees that the gate leading out of the opposite side of the courtyard is locked. He's trapped.
Climbing up a pile of wood, Nikolka manages to scale the wall and falls down into a second courtyard. As he falls to the ground, his pistol fires--apparently the safety had been on and the jolt of the fall disengaged it. The red-bearded janitor has summoned Petlyura's men, who fire at Nikolka as he clambers up another wall, his nails torn and fingers bleeding.
Nikolka finally makes it out to the street. He hears firing coming from the city center. He rips up his army papers and tosses away his army hat. He finds a too-small student's cap on the street and puts it on his head. As he heads toward Podol, he passes many people who are hurrying inside and slamming their doors. One woman is carrying a rooster that crows "pet-a-luu-ra!" As he reaches Podol, Nikolka sees an incongruous sight, young boys happily playing on a sled and laughing. Curious, Nikolka nonchalantly asks them about the shooting. The boys proudly answer, "It's our people beating the hell out of the White officers."
Nikolka reaches home, where Elena has been sick with worry. She curses the Germans, saying that they will pay for all of this. Aleksei has not returned.
Those swine at headquarters. It's enough to make one turn Bolshevik.
Five miles outside the city, at 9 o'clock PM, as a snowstorm howls, a staff captain at an artillery emplacement receives a call, ordering him to open fire. But he can't--all the men have deserted. So he hides the gun breech-locks and walks back toward the city. A party of pig-tailed horsemen come upon him, kill him, and take his boots and watch.
Another gun emplacement is ordered to open fire. They do so, but are quickly attacked by a squad of Petlyura's cavlary. With his last breath, the battery commander curses the swine at headquarters.
The next morning at 11 AM, Nikolka awakens to see a strange man standing before him, holding a birdcage and jabbering on about some woman who betrayed him. Nikolka is utterly baffled, so the man hands him a blue letter of introduction. He is Illarion "Lariosik" Surzhansky, Talberg's nephew from Zhitomir. The letter, from Lariosik's mother, says Lariosik's wife turned out to be a snake in the grass and she begs the Turbins to take Lariosik in, promising to pay for his lodging.
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Elena screams, and Nikolka runs into the dining room where he sees Aleksei, dressed in a strange overcoat and with a severely wounded left arm. Nikolka runs for a doctor, who bandages the arm and puts it in splints. The doctor is cryptic in his assessment of the wound. He will return in the evening and administer morphine if needed for the pain.
Aleksei lies in his bed and discusses Lariosik with Elena. They decide that Lariosik can stay, but the bird is on probation. When Elena returns to the library Lariosik again apologizes for having knocked over the stack of dinner plates and smashing almost all of them. He offers to rush out and buy new plates, but under the circumstances, that's impossible. Lariosik then presents Elena with 8 thousand rubles for his upkeep. Elena thinks that maybe Lariosik isn't such a booby after all.
Lariosik was 11 days on the train, trying to get to Kiev from Zhitomir. Before he left, his mother sent a telegram to the Turbins, but they never received it. During the trip, Lariosik's train was taken over by Petlyuta's troops, who threatened to kill him as a White officer. Lariosik pointed to his birdcage and convinced Petlyura's troops that he was only an ornithologist, so they let him go.
"The hands on Elena's face were showing the most depressed and hopeless time on the human clock-face--half past five. The hands of the clock were formed by two sad folds at the corners of her mouth which were drawn down towards her chin, whilst in her eyes, depression and resolution had begun their struggle against disaster. Nikolka's face showed a jagged, wavering twenty to one, because Nikolka's head was full of chaos and confusion. The hands on Lariosik's face were pointing to the zenith of strength and high spirits--twelve o'clock. Both hands overlapped at noon, sticking together and pointing upwards like two sharp sword-blades."
Aleksei's temperature rises to 40.2 degrees C. He becomes delirious, imagining that his room is crowded with a giant mortar. The doctor comes and administers morphine.
Nikolka rubs all the pro-tsarist graffiti off the stove. He then examines Aleksei's gun and sees that six of the seven shots in it have been fired. With Lariosik's help, Nikolka puts their two guns into a tin box along with their shoulder-straps, chevrons, and a picture of the tsarevich. They then hide the box in a small gap between this building and the next, a gap invisible from the street.
A man only has to be chased with firearms for him to turn into a cunning wolf. In place of his weak and, in really desperate situations, useless intellect, the wisdom of animal instinct will suddenly take over.
"There is a kind of power which sometimes makes us turn and look over a mountain precipice, which draws us to experience the chill of fear and to the edge of the abyss."
So it was with Aleksei back on December 14. When he left Madam Anjou's, instead of sneaking home through back alleys, he felt he had to see what was going on by the museum. Some of Petlyura's men spotted him and, with the glee of a hunter who sees a rabbit on his path, they chased Aleksei. They fired at Aleksei, and Aleksei fired back six times, saving the last bullet for himself if need be. It was in this chase that Aleksei received his wound. He feared that it was the end, but a mysterious woman reaches out and pulls him into a narrow alleyway, then leads him up and stairway and into her apartment. She puts a tourniquet on his arm.
As Aleksei lies down to rest, the woman identifies herself as Julia Aleksandrovna Reiss and tells Aleksei that he killed--or at least wounded--one of his pursuers. They had identified Aleksei as an officer because he forgot to remove the badge from his hat.
As his fever rises, Aleksei gazes at Julia, fascinated. Why, Aleksei wonders, is she alone? And who is the man in sideburns shown in the portrait on the table? Julia bends down, and Aleksei kisses her. She lies down next to him, keeping him warm and peaceful all night. The next morning, Julia takes Aleksei home in a cab.
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Aleksei develops typhus. Myshlaevsky, Karas, and Shervinsky all show up at the Turbins. Myshlaevsky has shaved his moustache and is wearing a student's coat and cap. Shervinsky is dressed in an immaculate black coat and bow tie. His new calling card identifies him as an "Artiste of Kramsky's Opera." Myshlaevsky sneers angrily at Shervinsky, as if holding him responsible for the Hetman's and Generals' betrayal and for the fact that a thousand Whites are Petlyura's prisoners, cooped up in the museum. Karas makes peace between them.
Voices are heard from downstairs. It sounds like Vasilisa is having a party. At the Turbins', they all play whist. Lariosik is a horrible player. There is a knock at the door. They fear a search, but it is just a messenger finally delivering the telegram from Lariosik's mother. A few moments later there is a more furious knocking. It is Vasilisa, looking wildly disheveled. He collapses.
Earlier that evening, Vasilia and Wanda tacked bank notes to the underside of the dining room table. Then there was a knock at the door. Three rough men enter, waving two pistols and bearing an order to search the apartment. The leader, appearing somewhat wolflike, taps on the walls and finds Vasilia's secret hiding place, then gleefully pulls out the box with the hidden money. The invaders then help themselves to a pair of Vasilisa's boots, some socks, pants, a jacket and a globe-shaped clock. They order Vasilisa to sign a receipt for the "confiscated" items and threathen to shoot him if he makes a report about this to anyone. After they left, Vasilisa ran up to the Turbins'.
Soon everyone from the Turbin apartment, except for Shervinsky, Elena and, of course, Aleksei, are down in Vasilia's place, looking around. They advise Vasilia that there's no point in making a report. Firstly, the crooks will never be found and, secondly, he'd have to admit that he was hiding tsarist money. Nikolka reacts with horror when he hears the description of the guns the crooks used--it sounds just like the two guns he hid in the gap on the side of the building. He hurries and goes to see that the tin with the two pistols is in fact missing. The crooks apparently had been crawling along the side of the building looking for a way to break into Vasilisa's.
Karas spends the night in Vasilisa's apartment for added protection. Vasilisa prattles on, saying he understands the reasons for the revolution, but it's degenerated into savagery and chaos. He remembers the English proverb "A man's home is his castle", and says that property must be respected. Vasilisa reveals that he was a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party, but now he's in favor of the most ruthless authocracy.
Join the Cheering Mob.
St. Sofia's Cathedral
Petlyura's forces hold a massive parade through the streets of Kiev and on into St. Sofia's Square. Two men in the crowd are identified as White officers. They are dragged off and shot.
An orator rises to address the crowd. He starts off by celebrating the new independent Ukrainian republic. Then he drifts into slogans about the toiling masses, the workers and peasants, the Red Army soldiers, and even, Workers of the world, unite! The crowd suddenly realizes that the orator is not a Ukrainian nationalist, but a Bolshevik! "Kill the Bolshevik! He's a traitor!" the mob shouts as they chase after the orator.
Both Shpolansky (who's not dead after all) and Shchur are in attendance. Shpolansky has to stop Shchur from singing the Internationale. Karas and Myshlaevsky, disguised as students, have also been in the crowd watching. They walk away in disgust, Myshlaeavsky still mumbling angrily about the treachery of the Hetman and the White generals. Myshlaevsky admires the daring of the Bolshevik orator, however. Myshlaevsky says, "You have to hand it to those Bolsheviks. They really know their stuff. . . . They're tough and by God they're clever. That's why I admire them--for their brazen impudence, God damn them."
In the corner of the vast black room stood several huge metal drums filled to overflowing with lumps and scraps of human flesh, strips of skin, fingers and pieces of broken bone. . . . Piled one upon another like logs of wood lay naked, emaciated human bodies. The stench of decay was intolerable. Rows of legs, some rigid, some slack, protruded in layers. Women's heads lay with tangled and matted hair, their breasts slack, battered and bruised.
With great difficulty, Nikolka manages to learn Nai-Tur's address. Nikolka goes there and informs Nai-Tur's mother and sister that Nai-Turs is dead. Both the mother and Nikolka sob. Nikolka and the sister go to the mass mortuary, bribe their way in and find Nai-Tur's body. They take the body to a chapel, clean it up, and place it in a decent coffin.
Aleksei began dying on December 22. On hearing this dire news from the doctor, Elena goes into her room, lights the lamp in front of the icon of the Virgin, and gets on her knees. She prays for a miracle and, astonishingly, Aleksei regains consciousness.
Petlyura's days in Kiev numbered 47. By 2 February, Aleksei, who had recovered enough to receive patients, was standing looking out the window. He could again hear gunfire in the distance. A patient comes, it is Rusakov, seeking treatment for his syphilis. While Aleksei examines him, Rusakov prattles on about God and how the syphilis is a punishment for his evil ways. Rusakov would have silently endured the disease as God's will, but the priest told him to see a doctor. Rusakov curses his former evil companions, specially the precursor of the Antichrist, Shpolansky, who has now flown away to the kingdom of the Antichrist (Moscow) to give the signal for the horde of fallen angels (Bolsheviks) to descend on the city. Even now, Rusakov says, you can hear the war trumpets of the legions of evil, led by the countenance of Satan himself, that is to say, Trotsky. Aleksei prescribes medicine. He also tells Rusakov to stop obsessing about religion. He should pray less and rest more.
Aleksei walks over to Julia's place on Malo-Provalnaya Street. He forces her to accept his mother's bracelet as a gesture of thanks. Unable to control himself, Aleksei kisses her several times on the cheeks. He asks for permission to come see her again, and she grants it. Aleksei also asks who is the man in the portrait on the table. She says it is her cousin, Shpolansky, who has left for Moscow.
Walking home, Aleksei runs into Nikolka, who was visiting the Nai-Turs family, which also lives on Malo-Provalnaya Street.
The Turbins and their friends are all gathered for lunch when Vasilisa enters to deliver a letter which has just arrived for Elena. Nikolka notes that Vasilisa has become much more pleasant since he lost all his money. Perhaps money stops people from being nice, Nikolka reflects.
The letter is from Elena's friend Olga in Warsaw. She saw Talberg at the embassy. He had plans to leave soon for Paris and marry some woman named Lydia Hertz. Reading the letter, Aleksei angrily clenches his teeth and says he would like to punch himself in the teeth for having kissed Talberg when he left. Elena moans like a peasant woman.
On the night of 2 February - 3 February, as the last of Petlyura's Cossacks withdraw across the Dneiper on the Chain Bridge, they beat to death a Jew they found skulking about. And then they are gone from the city, leaving behind the Jew's corpse.
And the corpse was the only evidence that Petlyrua was not a myth but had really existed. But why had he existed? Nobody can say. Will anybody redeem the blood that he shed? No. No one. The snow would just melt, the green Ukrainian grass would grow again and weave its carpet over the earth. The gorgeous sunrises would come again. The air would shimmer with heat above the fields and no more traces of blood would remain. Blood is cheap on those red fields and no one would redeem it. No one.
In a train station outside the city sits an amored train, The Proletarian. The guard outside the train, with a five-pointed red star on his chest, looks up at the five-pointed red star of Mars in the sky. In Kiev, the Turbins and their friends all sleep and dream. Even Petka Shcheglov, the little boy next door, dreams. But his dreams are not of Bolsheviks or Petlyura or any sort of demon. His dream is of running in a green meadow, as simple and joyful as the sun.
Bulgakov, Mikhail Afanasievich. Born on 3 May (15 May, new style) 1891 in Kiev, the eldest son of a professor at the Kiev Theological Academy. He had two brothers and four sisters. From 1901 to 1909 he attended Aleksandrovsky High School and enjoyed the theater. His father died in 1907. In 1909 he enrolled at the Medical School of Kiev University. In 1913 he married Tatiana Lappa. After graduating from medical school in 1913, he moved to the village of Nikolskoe and later to Vyazam for his obligatory medical service. He returned to Kiev in February 1918 and opened a private medical practice at his home. In the confused political situation of revolutionary Ukraine, he was drafted by the Whites as a field doctor and sent to the Caucasus. Toward the end of 1919 he left the military. This was also the year he began writing. He recalls:
"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."He settled in Vladikavkaz and undertook journalistic work. It was here that he wrote his first plays, Self-Defense and Turbin Brothers, which were staged at the local theater and enjoyed considerable success. Beginning in May 1921 he began moving around, looking for a job in Tbilisi, Batum, again in Kiev, then finally landing up in Moscow.
Bulgakov wrote humorous sketches and feuilletons for various papers, most notably Gudok and Krasnaya Panorama. In 1922 he became associated with the Berlin-based Russian paper Nakanune. Many of his early works are semi-autobiographical such as The Extraordinary Adventures of a Doctor (1922), Notes on the Cuffs (1922-23) and Notes of a Young Country Doctor (1926-27)
In 1924 his first marraige ended and he married Lyubov Belozersky. This was also the year of his novel White Guard, which concerns the fate of Russian intellectuals and officers of the tsarist army during the civil war in Ukraine in December 1918 and early 1919. Bulgakov's second marriage ended in 1932 and he married a third time to Elena Shilovsky. Between 1924 and 1926 Bulgakov published two collections of short, satirical stories, Diaboliad and A Treatise on Housing. Two noveletes, The Fatal Eggs (1924) and Heart of a Dog (1925) are concerned with the fate of a scientist and the misuse of his discovery, a theme which appears again in the play Adam and Eve (1931). He also authored The Adventures of Chichikov, in which the hero of Gogol's "Dead Souls" arrives in the middle of the Soviet Union of the New Economic Plan (NEP) years.
On 5 October 1926, the Moscow Art Theater premeried Bulgakov's play The Days of the Turbins, which was an adaptation of his novel The White Guard. The play Flight (1927) was rehearsed but never staged in Bulgakov's lifetime, since officials decided that it glorified emigration and White generals. He had two other theatrical success during this period, Zoika's Apartment (1926) and The Crimson Island (1928). However, press reaction to Bulgakov's work was generally hostile. As Bulgakov himself noted:
"When I carried out an analysis of my album of cuttings, I discovered that there had been 301 references to me in the Soviet press during my ten years of work in the field of literature. Of these, three were complimentary and 298 were hostile and abusive."One reviewer in "The Life Of Art", Number 44, 1927, suggested that they should take Bulgakov and "just bash him over the head with a basin" and that Soviet citizens have no more need of Bulgakov's work "than a dog needs a brassiere."
All of Bulgakov's plays were banned in 1929. In 1930, he wrote a letter to the Soviet government, requesting permission to go abroad. Instead, he received a personal telephone call from Stalin and was sent back to work at the Moscow Art Theater, adapting Gogol's "Dead Souls", which opened in November 1932.
Bulgakov turned to the theme of a writer struggling for independence in several works: the plays A Cabal of Hypocrites (1930) and Aleksandr Pushkin, later renamed The Last Days (1935), and the novel Life of Monsieur de Moliere (1933). The novel was rejected for publication, and A Cabal of Hypocrites, which premiered on 15 February 1936, was reviewed negatively in Pravda and canceled after seven performances. Productions of Aleksandr Pushkin, the fantastic comedy Ivan Vasilievich, and Don Quixote were also canceled.
Bulgakov's A Theatrical Novel (1937), describes some of his experiences in the Moscow Art Theater and takes a jab at Stanislavsky.
In 1936 he went to work for the Bolshoi Opera Theater as a librettist. He attempted to return to the stage with a play called Batum (1939), about the revolutionary years of Joseph Stalin, but it was banned before rehearsals began.
He began work on his most famous novel, The Master and Margarita, in 1928 and did the last editing on it two weeks before his death. The action of the novel plays out on three different levels. First level: Historical narrative set in Jerusalem where Pontius Pilate condemns Yeshua, a man he knows to be innocent; Second level: Set in contemporary Moscow where the Master has written a novel about Pilate; and Third level: fantanstic level where the devil and his retinue step into Moscow to do some good.
Bulgakov died on 10 March 1940 and was buried at the Novodevichye Cemetery.
References: Bulgakov's Letter to the Soviet Government
Terras, Victor. "Handbook of Russian Literature", Yale University Press, 1985.