Install

Get the latest updates as we post them — right on your browser

. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Portrait of Bulgakov in Bronze

Russians take their literature pretty seriously, so it comes as no surprise that Moscow is filled with statues of writers. There is one popular author, however, who deserves a monument and still doesn't have one. Mikhail Bulgakov, whose satirical works were suppressed by the Soviets, is nowhere to be found.


Not for long. The Tetris Theater of History wax museum has commissioned artist Salavat Shcherbakov to sculpt a bronze statue of Bulgakov to be placed in the park at Patriarch's Pond in the center of Moscow. The statue is scheduled to be unveiled in September, despite some artistic difficulties and complications with city authorities.


"To each Russian, Bulgakov represents the apex of Russian culture", Shcherbakov said. "After him, everything fell apart".


Victor Zharkov, art director at the Tetris Theater of History, agrees completely, although his interest in the project goes beyond paying homage to Bulgakov. The sculpture will serve as a kind of permanent billboard for the wax museum. Somewhere on the monument, written in small letters, will be the word "Tetris".


"The idea is to make it as hidden as possible", Zharkov said. "Bulgakov will have a book with him, and perhaps we'll put 'Tetri's on that".


For Zharkov and Shcherbakov, one obstacle remains - red tape. Zharkov applied for a permit to erect the monument with the city council and the mayor's office, but neither was enthusiastic about the project.


"They told me the same thing at both places", Zharkov related. "They said that Moscow already had too many monuments, and if we put one up for everyone, there would be no more room".


Patriarch's Pond is the obvious choice for the site of the Bulgakov statue. The writer lived around the comer on the Garden Ring, and the memorable opening scene of his most famous book, "The Master and Margarita", takes place on a summer afternoon there.


Shcherbakov has already finished the clay mold of the statue, which depicts the author sitting on a park bench with a book on his knee. He appears relaxed, legs crossed, right hand raised to his cheek.


For now, the sculpture resides in Shcherbakov's basement studio; after he does the final touches on the clay, he will make a plaster cast and then cover that with bronze.


Sculpting Bulgakov has been a challenge for Shcherbakov, who has had his work exhibited and sold all over the world. For one thing, if the subject is not alive, a portrait sculpture has to be modeled after photographs. The pictures Shcherbakov has are difficult to work with because Bulgakov looks different in each one. The sculptor has had a difficult time conceptually.


"Blok and Mayakovsky have well-known, distinctive faces", Shcherbakov said. "With Bulgakov, it's more difficult. I have to make a realistic portrait of the man, but it can't just be a man sitting on a bench. I have to combine his appearance with the great, mysterious world he created".


To do that, Shcherbakov plans to place Behemoth, the devil's sinister cat in "The Master and Margarita", somewhere on the bench with Bulgakov. He has not decided yet whether to sculpt a normal cat or do something more cartoonish.


Regardless, Zharkov plans to unveil the statue on schedule, even if it means putting it in place without authorization.


"Of course it is possible that the authorities will dismantle the sculpture", he says, "but I don't think they will. and I think Bulgakov's fans would defend it".