Sunday, April 15, 2012

Foreigners in Master and Margarita

In Master and Margarita we increasingly see the progression of Soviet territorial isolation and increased animosity against foreigners. When Soviet Union was established many foreign countries were mostly hostile to the country and mostly because divisional differences in ideologies. For Stalin the presence of foreigners in USSR represented as a capitalist threat to the communist ideals. Every country and every foreigner that was not a communist was potentially an enemy. As very few foreigners were granted to enter and travel in the USSR, very few Russians were not allowed to travel abroad. The whole process was carefully watched and monitored. 
In Master and Margarita we see a progression of this isolation and people’s paranoia of foreigners. Thus, it was logical to portray the only foreigner, in this case Wolland as the Devil. From the beginning of the novel, we see how characters are very cautious not because they sense that Wolland is devil but rather they were suspicious of him being a foreigner. Wolland introduces himself as a German professor of black magic and as it was expected he was accepted with hostile looks, questions and treatments.  
Additionally, foreigners also presented a danger that they would bring chaos or they might potentially sway “fellow communist citizens” into capitalism. This situation is presented in the Turgsin Store. The Turgsin for the reader is the only foreign currency established store with complete chaos such as stealing food, and demolishing displays. The whole scene changes when the manager arrives and Koroviev gives an impassioned, controversial and “politically dangerous,” speech. He starts off by comparing, poor, thirst and hunger wracked Behemoth to a fat foreigner with Russian salmon.  Koroviev’s speech results in “a miracle”, which causes another customer to attack the foreigner, and screaming, ‘‘He’s right!’’ This scene shows how absurd the whole situation actually is, but looking at it closely, the scene presents a highly politically daring speech against foreign powers.  


  1. In general I agree with your assessment. I am curious, still, about how another theme interacts with your assessment. That is, the notion that the devil is present is Moscow and thus not present in Jerusalem (aka god is in jerusalem). Given this, would you say that Jerusalem and the politics that Bulgakov writes about there serve as a better system? Does the devil's absence in Jerusalem make it any better/less corrupt of a city?

    1. You pose a very interesting question. I dont think that Bulgakov wants to portray Jerusalem as a "perfect" or the politics were better but rather he wants to show the simple reality of that time. I think the only purpose of us knowing about stories about Jerusalem was to see extreme contrast between "modern and socialist" world and the world of Jesus.

      I dont remember correctly but Wolland at the beginning of the novel mentions that he could have been there but he chose not to and not to intervene because he just did not want to.

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