Mikhail Bulgakov (1928)
Prototypes of the main characters and events in the novel
Bulgakov loved Goethe's Faust, and, coming from the family of priests and theology professors, he knew the New and Old Testaments well. In Master and Margarita you can see numerous references to these books, the other important source of inspiration was his life in Moscow and the people he met.
Woland. In the book Woland personifies the Devil himself on his voyage to Moscow. Although the name for the character is taken from the Faust and his figure seems more to be a part of the folklore to us, Bulgakov's friends who were invited by the author on his first reading of Master and Margarita were terrified – they had another association in their heads and it had nothing to do with the Faust or European legends.
Marietta Chudakova, one of the most important researchers of Bulgakov, says that in the figure of Woland Bulgakov's friends saw Joseph Stalin. They were scared that this book could have been published the way it was, as everyone in the Soviet Union in the 1930-s was afraid of Stalin – it was the time of the Great Terror and mass repressions, when many people were taken from their homes never to return.
Stalin who had his own entourage just like Woland did in the novel, had complex relations with Bulgakov. Although he personally banned his first major work, Run, as, in his own words, it was idealizing the figures of White generals and emigration, he let Bulgakov's consequent work, The Days of the Turbins (1926), that also deals with the horrors of the Civil War from the point of view of those who lost it, the tsarist officers, to be published and staged by the major theatre of Moscow at that time, the Moscow Art Theatre. Stalin turned out to be a great admirer of this play - he visited it no less than 15 times and personally protected its author from the critics' attacks!
In a couple of years everything turned upside down - Stalin withdrew all Bulgakov's plays from the theatre's repertoires just before their productions should have been premieres and he initiated an accusatory campaign against the writer. Bulgakov lost his job at the Moscow Art Theatre.
When Bulgakov was on the verge of a nervous breakdown he wrote a letter to Stalin asking at least let him leave the country. In response Stalin called him personally over the phone and asked him if they really should let Bulgakov go? Bulgakov was so shocked by the call that he did not say yes, besides, Stalin promised him to return his work at the Moscow Art Theatre, which he did. The call was made on the Good Friday of 1930, the day that surely had an important meaning for both Stalin, the former student of the Church School, and Bulgakov, the son of the theology professor. As you might have noticed, the action in Master and Margarita also goes around the Good Friday.
This complicated relationship between Stalin and Bulgakov, where the former had an absolute power over the fate of the latter certainly influenced the writer when he created his Woland.