The White Guard

The White Guard (Russian: Белая гвардия) is a novel by 20th-century Russian writer Mikhail Bulgakov, famed for his critically acclaimed later work The Master and Margarita.

The White Guard / White Guard
First Russian edition
AuthorMikhail Bulgakov
Original titleБѣлая гвардия
CountrySoviet Union
PublisherХудожественная литература (Russian)
Publication date
Published in English
Media typePrint


The White Guard first appeared in serial form in the Soviet-era literary journal Rossiya in 1925,[1] but the magazine was closed down before the serial was completed. It was not reprinted in Russia until 1966.

The Days of the TurbinsEdit

After the first two parts of The White Guard were published in Rossiya, Bulgakov was invited to write a version for the stage. He called the play The Days of the Turbins. This was produced at the Moscow Art Theatre, to great acclaim:

"The Day of the Turbins... became a theater legend... The production ran from 1926 to 1941, it had 987 performances... Stalin... saw it no fewer than 20 times".[1]

In fact, the play completely overshadowed the book, which was in any event virtually unobtainable in any form.

Since Bulgakov was refused permission to publish his most important works, he pleaded with Stalin to be allowed to leave the country. Stalin personally arranged for a job for him at the Moscow Arts Theatre.


His widow had The White Guard published in large part in the literary journal Moskva in 1966, at the end of the Khrushchev era. This was the basis for the English translation by Michael Glenny, first published in 1971. This lacks the dream flashback sections. In 2008 Yale University Press published a translation by Marian Schwartz of the complete novel, an edition which won an award.

Set in Ukraine, beginning in late 1918, the novel concerns the fate of the Turbin family as the various armies of the Ukrainian War of Independence – the Whites, the Reds, the Imperial German Army, and Ukrainian nationalists – fight over the city of Kyiv. Historical figures such as Pyotr Wrangel, Symon Petliura and Pavlo Skoropadsky appear as the Turbin family is caught up in the turbulent effects of the October Revolution.

The novel's characters belong to the sphere of Ukrainian and Russian intellectuals and officers. In the army of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadskyi they participate in the defense of Kyiv from the forces of Ukrainian Nationalists (led by Petliura) in December 1918. The character Mikhail Shpolyansky is modelled on Viktor Shklovsky.[2]

Editions in EnglishEdit

  • The White Guard, translated by Michael Glenny.
    • London: Collins and Harvill Press, 1971. ISBN 0002619059.
    • New York: McGraw-Hill, 1971. With an epilogue by Viktor Nekrasov. OCLC 844864323.
    • London: Fontana, 1973. With an epilogue by Viktor Nekrasov. OCLC 559136700.
    • Academy Chicago, 1987. With an epilogue by Viktor Nekrasov. ISBN 0897332466.
    • London: Collins and Harvill Press, 1989. With an epilogue by Viktor Nekrasov. ISBN 0002710269.
    • London: Harvill, 1996. Revised edition. ISBN 1860462189.
    • London: Vintage, 2006. ISBN 9780099490661.
    • Brooklyn: Melville House, 2014. ISBN 9781612193656.
  • White Guard, translated by Marian Schwartz, introduction by Evgeny Dobrenko. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008. ISBN 978-0-300-15145-9
  • The White Guard, translated by Roger Cockrell. Richmond: Alma Classics, 2012. ISBN 978-1-84749-245-6.

Autobiographical elementsEdit

The novel contains many autobiographical elements. Bulgakov gave the younger Turbin brother some of the characteristics of his own younger brother. The description of the house of the Turbins is that of the house of the Bulgakov family in Kyiv. (Today it is preserved and operated as the Mikhail Bulgakov Museum).



  1. ^ a b Dobrenko, Evgeny: Introduction to Bulgakov, Mikhail 2008. White Guard. transl. Marian Schwartz, Yale University Press, p. xix. ISBN 978-0-300-15145-9
  2. ^ Bulgakov, Mikhail Afanasevich; Schwartz (translator), Marian (2008). Dobrenko, Evgeny (ed.). White guard. Yale University Press. ISBN 9780300148190.

External linksEdit