Bulgakov in Moscow
Bulgakov, left with no way to make a living, did what many writers in a similar position did: he wrote a letter to the government. In reply he received a telephone call from Stalin, who offered to appoint him to the Moscow Art Theater. This was the period when Bulgakov began work on the Master and Margarita.
Increasingly, Bulgakov worked on adaptations and historical fiction, which can be less ideologically dangerous than original works. For example, he adapted Gogol's Dead Souls and Cervantes' Don Quixote for the Russian stage. He wrote a biography of the French playwright Moliere. Bulgakov's play about Moliere, The Cabal of Hypocrites, deals with the position of a writer in an autocratic dictatorship. Rehearsed at the Moscow Art Theater for 4 years, the play was banned after only 7 performances. Another play, Pushkin (The Last Days), treats the same theme and suffered the same fate. Again Bulgakov was in despair, and this time he moved to the Bolshoi Opera as a librettist.
Bulgakov hoped to regain favor with the government by writing a play in honor of Stalin's 60th Jubilee. The play, Batum, was set in the Caucasus and portrayed Stalin's early years as an activist. Bulgakov was on his way by train to begin rehearsals in Batum, when he was called back by telegram to Moscow. The play was banned. This final blow may have contributed to Bulgakov's ill health. He died in March of 1940.
Bulgakov in his cap