Mikhail Bulgakov started as Ingush playwright-1

Mikhail Bulgakov started as Ingush playwright-1

Oleg Kusov, exclusively for Vestnik Kavkaza

Manuscripts don’t burn, Mikhail Bulkakov stated. The phrase was voiced by Voland in “The Master and Margarita.” But it appears that the phrase was written earlier in “Notes on the Cuff”, when he spoke about a desire to burn his play which was written for Vladikavkaz theatres. The novel which attracted the attention of Voland was about Pilate, while the play of the Vladikavkaz period was about the family of a Muslim clergyman. It was titled “Sons of the Mullah.” Bulgakov wrote it in April 1921 and soon decided to tear it apart… “But he stopped. He suddenly clearly understood that a written text cannot be destroyed. To tear, to burn, to hide from people. But it cannot be hidden from you – ever!” he wrote in “Notes on the Cuff.”

And recently I’ve realized that Bulgakov’s phrase is right. I took the manuscript of “Sons of the Mullah” which is kept in Pashkov’s House, the most beautiful building of the Russian State Library. I can see a literary mystery in the fact. Voland met Levi Matthew on the porch of Pashkov’s House. Bulgakov would be surprised if he knew where his play “Sons of the Mullah” would be kept for successors. Not only the life of the writer, but also the fate of his works are full of mysteries.

The play is simple. It was written by Bulgakov together with a local lawyer Taudjin Peyzulayev. In “Notes on the Cuff” Bulgakov says that a third co-author was the hunger of the dark ages of the Civil War. The co-authors wrote the play in seven days. In a few weeks, on Bulgakov’s birthday, the play was successfully staged by Vladikavkaz theatres.

The manuscript of the play cannot be taken out of the library. But one can read it in the reading room. The copy was written for a prompter and contains a director’s notes. It was sent to Bulgakov’s widow Yelena Sergeyevna in 1960 from Grozny by Victor Korzun, a writer and journalist. According to some information, he found it in local archives.

I don’t want the play to be read by fans of Bulgakov. It has nothing in common with the master. It is a bad example of a crude propaganda approach to complicated historical events. The overthrow of power takes place in the play with the wave of a wand. The power of a flaming word and infinite dissatisfaction with “blood-suckers” solve all problems in a second. Due to such works, a Soviet person had a corrupted idea about the character of the political changes in 1917. However, Bulgakov would later genially present the essence of the processes in “Heart of a Dog.” I will tell you the plot of the revolutionary play, hoping you won’t have a desire to read it.

A young Ingush officer comes home from the front. His father is a mullah who likes gathering neighbors and friends in his house to eat meat and chat. The officer wants to marry a girl from a wealthy family, but he cannot pay a huge sum of bride-money. The officer is all at sea. Suddenly the young son of the mullah comes home. He is a student at one of Moscow's universities. Nobody expected him to arrive. The parents feel something strange in his behavior, but the son doesn’t answer questions directly and says that he will work as a teacher. It turns out he has left the university and plans to spread Bolshevik propaganda among the Ingush people. The parents don’t know that their young son is hiding from arrest. Later his friend comes to the village, who is also a revolutionary. He suggests his friend should hide in the mountains. But the former student rejects the offer, but in a few days an area commander and guards come to the house. The reason is an attempt to arrest the young man in front of his parents. The incident could become a tragedy, as the Bolshevik is armed. Suddenly his friend appears and says that there is a revolution in the country. In the town (obviously Vladikavkaz) former commanders are being arrested, as power is changing. The conclusion is clear – the area commander should be arrested. Free Ingushetia forever!

The separatist motto was popular among local Bolshevik revolutionaries for some reason. Probably comrades from the center used it to exploit the energy of the common people in their interests. However, the Vainakh people considered the motto to be about freedom from the white Cossacks rather than from wealthy people.

Bulgakov touched on the topic in the play. An old Ingush complains to the mullah that the Cossack chieftain oppresses the local population. The finale of the play is optimistic – the revolutionaries and their supporters achieve their goals. The area commander is arrested. The guards are set free, being recruited as Bolsheviks’ supporters. Their guns are taken away. One of the guns is taken by a neighbor, who promises to fight for the freedom of Ingushetia.

To be continued



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