The Reception of Western Literature in Stalin's Russia: Dante Alighieri's 'Divine Comedy' and Mikhail Bulgakov's 'The Master and Margarita'

  • Alessia Benedetti

Student thesis: Phd


The Italian medieval author Dante was extremely popular in the literary circles of which Mikhail Bulgakov was a member, and the 'Divine Comedy' and 'The Master and Margarita' present interesting analogies. However, a comparative analysis of these two works has rarely been attempted in the past. This thesis explores the connections between them by using a framework which combines two elements: close reading, and the study of the historical and political contexts in which Bulgakov wrote his novel. In doing so, the thesis intends to push the boundaries of Bulgakov scholarship, which since the 1990s has mainly focused on the writer's biography as an instrument for literary interpretation, and has not sufficiently engaged with the historical and social context in which Bulgakov's literary activity was embedded. Particular attention is dedicated to examining the reception of the 'Divine Comedy' by the Soviet government between 1921 and 1940. Crucially, the thesis looks at how the 'Divine Comedy' was read and interpreted in the Soviet press by focusing on a few case studies that have not been analysed by Western criticism before. In doing so, this research intends to shed new light on Bulgakov's approach to literary classics and to make an original contribution to scholarship on the reception of Dante in Russia.
Date of Award1 Aug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorRachel Platonov (Supervisor) & Guyda Armstrong (Supervisor)


  • Soviet culture
  • Reception
  • Stalin
  • Translation
  • Divine Comedy
  • Master and Margarita
  • Dante
  • Mikhail Bulgakov

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