Some of the official antireligious propaganda was more subtle, or at least more literary. Two journals were devoted to such propaganda: Bezbozhnik [Godless] and Ateist [The Atheist]. They contained articles by literary figures as well as scholars. Bulgakov consulted them before writing Master and Margarita.

Here is a passage from Bulgakov's Diary from 1925 (it was confiscated by the secret police in a raid on Bulgakov's apartment):

 5 Jan, 1925

Today I went specially to the editorial office of Bezbozhnik [Godless]. It is located in Kozmodemyanovsky Lane, not far from the Mossovet building. I was with MS and he charmed me from the outset.

'Don't your windows get smashed?' he asked the first young lady sitting at a desk.

'What do you mean?' (Perplexed).

'No, they don't' (Hostile).

'What a pity.'

I wanted to kiss him on his Jewish nose. They did not have a full set of the journal for 1923. With pride they announced that they were all sold out. I managed to get 11 issues for 1924. The twelfth has not come out yet. The young lady (if she can so be called) who gave me them, did so reluctantly when she discoverd that I was a private individual.

'I'd rather give them to library.'

It turns out that 70,000 copies of each number are printed, and that all copies are sold . Some indescribable dregs work there, and more come in and go out; there is a small stage with curtains and sets. a holy book of some sort, maybe a Bible lies on a table on the stage. Two heads were bent over this book.

'Like in the synagogue,' said M as we left.

'I'd be interested to know how far this was said specially for me. Of course one ought not to exaggerate, but I have the impression that several people who have read The White Guard now talk to me differently, with a kind of timid, oblique respect.


In the evening when I leafed through the issues of Bezbozhnik I was shaken. Not by the blasphemy, of course it knows no limits, but it is only an external feature. The heart of the matter lies in the idea, which can be proved with reference to actual documents: Jesus Christ is depicted as a swindler and a scoundrel: the attack is directed at him. It is not hard to see whose work this is. This is a crime like no other.

from NKVD files published in Ogonek, Dec. 1989
tr. Lesley Milne

The full selection from Bulgakov's diary (unfortunately with many scanning errors) can be found on the Digital Freedom Network.