The Variety Theater in The master and Margarita : a portrait of Soviet life in 1930s Moscow
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Mikhail Bulgakov’s satirical novel The Master and Margarita offers a humorous and caustic depiction of 1930s Moscow. Woven around the premise of a visit by the devil to the fervently atheistic Soviet Union, it is directed against the repressive bureaucratic social order of the time. In chapter 12 of the book, the devil appears onstage at the Variety Theater and turns Moscow on its head. By appealing to their greed and desire for status, he turns the spectators into the spectacle. A close reading of the text confirms that the Theater is much more than a fictional setting for the chapter. Instead, it serves as a backdrop for a disturbing portrait of human frailty, a scathing criticism of Soviet bureaucracy and hypocrisy, and unmistakable references to real-life Moscow institutions and to the author’s personal experiences during the tumultuous 1930s.