SATANISTS and neo-Nazis have begun targeting a Moscow apartment famously used by writer Mikhail Bulgakov, terrifying local residents.
Swastikas, SS symbols and pentagrams cover the walls and stairwells of the apartment block where the writer set his most famous work, the Master and Margarita.
The appearance has triggered a real-life struggle between the forces of good and evil that mimics the battle of the novel.
For years, residents of the block, 10 Bolshoya Sadovaya, have put up with local youths arriving, with beer and guitars, to loll around outside apartment 50, where part of the text is set. They even tolerated their graffiti, featuring choice quotes and fantastical paintings of the book’s characters, including devils, enigmatic cats and sexual Margaritas.
"I am afraid to go out," said local resident Elena Sapronenkova, a film director. "I come out of my apartment and there they are: satanic symbols."
Devil worship has been thriving in Russia ever since the demise of Communism 14 years ago. Some blame the ideological vacuum left by the collapse of socialism, others say satanism is a front for racists.
It is a threat the authorities are taking seriously. Since 2003 Russia’s interior ministry has monitored devil-worship cults.
Last year an alarming rise in satanist graffiti saw many schools abandon Halloween celebrations.
Most of the 500 estimated hardcore members of satanist groups are teenagers and most of their activities are harmless, but several crimes and ritualistic murders have been linked to these cults.
The presence of the devil in Master and Margarita has been on seized on by these satanists, though Bulgakov himself was no glorifier of the devil.
"It doesn’t have to do with Bulgakov at all," said local orthodox priest, Father Alexander.