A TV adaptation of cult novel The Master and Margarita has become a ratings hit in Russia despite superstition that it was "cursed".
The story follows Satan as he causes mayhem in 1930s Moscow
More than 55% of Russians aged over 18 watched the first part of the 143 million roubles (£2.9m) TV series.
Mikhail Bulgakov started his satire in 1928 but it was not published until his death.
It was banned for 16 years until a government-edited version was published in a literary magazine in 1966.
It follows Satan as he causes murder and mayhem in 1930s Moscow.
Vladimir Bortko, director of the 10-episode series broadcast on Rossiya state television, said the book embodied freedom for several generations of Russians.
"It was like a breath of fresh air in the dead atmosphere of Soviet writing," he said.
It includes surreal scenes such as the devil's black cat riding a tram, Moscow women running around in their underwear and a naked Margarita hovering above the city on a broom.
Mr Bortko added that for many Soviet citizens, Bulgakov's novel was their first encounter with the Bible - a book discredited by the atheist communist government.
Previous attempts to film The Master and Margarita failed or adapted only limited sections of the story.
A 1994 movie version was completed but was never screened in public after disappearing from director Yuri Kara's home.
It later resurfaced in a private collection amid a copyright dispute between the director and producers.
Filming on the latest adaptation began in 2000 but was delayed after a descendant of Bulgakov sold the rights to the story to a US firm. They were subsequently bought back by TV channel Rossiya.
However, Mr Bortko said: "All these stories of a curse are absurd.
"The novel had never been filmed for banal reasons - in the Soviet Union it was ideology, and once the regime collapsed, there was no money."