Mayakovsky, Vladimir


Vladimir Mayakovsky (ВладимирМаяковский) (1893—1930) was born in Bagdadi, Georgia in the family of a forest ranger. In 1902, рe entered school in Kutaisi in 1902 but took little interest in studies.

His family moved to Moscow when he was 14. At this time he joined the Bolshevik faction of the Russian Social Democratic party, and was repeatedly caught with revolutionary proclamations and arrested. He wrote his first poems in solitary confinement in the Moscow Butyrka prison. In 1911, he abandoned his revolutionary activities and enrolled in the Moscow Institute for the Study of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture where he met David Burliuk, who promoted Russian Futurism. Futurists won fame for their experimental poetry and flamboyant behavior. In December 1912, manifesto “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste” coauthored by David Burliuk, Velimir Khlebnikov, Alexei Kruchenykh, and Vladimir Mayakovsky was published. This artistic group believed that the art of the past should be discarded: “Throw Pushkin, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, etc., etc. overboard from the Ship of Modernity….” (see discussion in Shklovsky 1974). A year later Mayakovsky’s first book of futuristic poems Me came out.

His infatuation with Maria Aleksandrovna Denisova led him to compose a poem A Cloud in Trousers (1915), which he dedicated to his lifelong friend Lilya Brik. As Mayakovsky told the story of unrequited love, he wrote his verses in a colloquial language full of juicy slang. He confessed in discontent with the world and admitted that writing poetry, coming from the “silly fish of imagination”, caused “blisters on the brain.”

In 1917, he became a vigorous spokesman for the revolution. He declaimed his agitational verses to “the broad masses.” Red sailors marched on the Winter Palace chanting one of Mayakovsky’s slogans: ‘Eat your pineapples, chew on quail. Your last day is coming, bourgeois!” By the 1920s, Maykovsky became a prominent literary figure with a distinct declamatory poetic style. In October 1919, Mayakovsky joined the Russian Telegraph Agency, further identifying himself with the Revolution. He created a series of agitprop posters and wrote: “Windows ROSTA was a fantastic thing… It meant telegraph news immediately translated into posters and decrees into slogans… It was a new form that spontaneously originated in life itself… It meant men of the Red Army looking at posters before a battle and going to fight not with a prayer but a slogan on their lips” (Jangfeldt 2014).

He worked as a journalist for numerous leading Soviet newspapers, collaborated with brilliant photographer, designer and master of the montage techniques, Aleksandr Rodchenko. In 1923, he led the leftist art group and magazine LEF, focusing on the link between leftist politics and progressive art. In 1924-1925 Mayakovsky traveled abroad visiting Latvia, Germany, France. Later he “came to America as an unabashed publicity agent for his fatherland” (see Moser 1966). My Discovery of America (1926), one of the first travelogues written by Soviet authors, contained insights on American urban life, on the creativity and advancement he had seen in the US and his comments on what can be the model for Soviet development. In the late 1920, the innovative Meyerhold Theater in Moscow produced his plays Misteriya buff (first performed 1921), the Bedbug (1928), and The Bathhouse (1930).

Not only Mayakovsky was a poet “on social demand”, he is famous for highly popular lyrical verses, in which he expressed his views on the essence of the feeling of love, submissiveness of a lover, searching for a soul mate. Mayakovsky imagery and his lyrical composition revealed Mayakovsky’s lyric ego — an insecure and emotionally vulnerable one. For example, Lilichka (1916), About That (1923), I Love (1926), Letter to Comrade Kostrov (1928)Letter Tatyana Yakovleva (1928) and many others. Disappointed in love, disillusioned with the Stalinist bureaucracy, Mayakovsky committed suicide in 1930, at the age of 37. Even though Soviet authorities “put forth a romantic disappointment, the truth, was more complicated” (for further discussion see Bengt).


Bengt, Jangfeldt. Mayakovsky: A Biography. Translated by Harry D.Watson. 2014.

Moser, Charles. Mayakovsky and America. Russian Review 25 (3).1966.

Shklovsky, Viktor. Mayakovsky and his Circle. Translated by L. Feiler. Pluto Press, 1974.

Mayakovsky, Vladimir

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