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Days of the Turbins


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AT: The White Guard A: Mikhail Bulgakov Pf: 1926, Moscow Pb: 1955 Tr: 1935 G: Hist. drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: Kiev, winter 1918–19 C: 24m, 1f, extrasKiev, capital of the Ukraine, is, before their defeat in the First World War, temporarily in the hands of the Germans, who have appointed Skoropadsky as Hetman (Commander-in-Chief). Colonel Aleksei Turbin and his younger brother Nikolai of the Russian White Guard have come to Kiev to defend the Hetman against the nationalist Cossacks in the east and against the Russian Red Army in the north. As the Germans withdraw, some of the White Guard leaders desert. Aleksei's sister Yeliena is treacherously abandoned by her husband, and the Hetman flees to Berlin. As the Cossacks enter Kiev, Aleksei finds himself isolated. Refusing to despair, the Turbins hold a party, at which Yeliena becomes engaged to an opera singer. Aleksei encourages his brigade of cadets to disband, but he and his brother fight bravely to cover the retreat of the Whites, Aleksei falling in battle and Nikolai being wounded. As the Red Army approaches singing ‘The Internationale’, Nikolai recognizes that it is with them that the future lies.

AT: The White Guard A: Mikhail Bulgakov Pf: 1926, Moscow Pb: 1955 Tr: 1935 G: Hist. drama in 4 acts; Russian prose S: Kiev, winter 1918–19 C: 24m, 1f, extras

This stage adaptation by Bulgakov of his novel The White Guard of 1925 is the most significant dramatic treatment of the Russian civil war and one of the few that gave a sympathetic view of the White Army. Despite a successful premiere by Stanislavsky at the Moscow Art Theatre as the first new Russian play since 1917, the subject matter caused considerable controversy and led to frequent banning of the play. However Stalin, who had seen it 15 times, intervened, praising it as showing that the adversaries of the Revolution were ‘intelligent and powerful’.

Subjects: Literary Studies (Plays and Playwrights).


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