Velimir Khlebnikov

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Khlebnikov, Velimir


(real name, Viktor Vladimirovich Khlebnikov). Born Oct. 28 (Nov. 9), 1885, in the village of Malye Derbety, Astrakhan Province; died June 28, 1922, in the village of Santalovo, Novgorod Province. Soviet Russian poet.

Khlebnikov, the son of a biologist, studied between 1903 and 1911 in the department of physics and mathematics at the University of Kazan and later in the department of physics and mathematics and the department of history and philology at the University of St. Petersburg. He began to publish scholarly works on the natural sciences in 1905 and literary works in 1908.

During the 1910’s, Khlebnikov belonged to the Gileia literary society and contributed to futurist publications. His literary works were issued in separate collections entitled Selected Works and Works (both 1914). After the October Revolution of 1917, Khlebnikov worked for the Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) and the Glavpolitprosvet and published his writings in various periodicals. Most of his works were not published during his lifetime.

Many of Khlebnikov’s early minor works were purely experimental. His first works employed devices of romanticism, such as the grotesque and apocalyptic, folkloric, and mythological images of reality; typical examples are “The Crane,” “The Marquise Désesse,” and “The Shaman and Venus.” Khlebnikov evolved as an accomplished realist with his mature prose works, such as October on the Neva and Razin, and monumental narrative poems about World War I and the October Revolution, for example, The War in a Mousetrap (1915–19), Ladomir (1921), A Night in the Trench (1921), Night Search (1921), and The Night Before the Soviets (1921).

Khlebnikov attempted to prove mathematically the possibility of realizing the dream of man’s universal brotherhood, as well as his own poetic presentiments of a new cosmic consciousness. He also attempted a mathematical explanation of the laws of time. Such themes are typical of his The Teacher and the Pupil (1912), Time Is the Measure of the World (1916), and The Boards of Fate (1922). Striving for a synthesis of all knowledge and a reconciliation of science and art, Khlebnikov held the Utopian belief that it would thus be possible to create a “new mythology” and a “superlanguage” for the free man of the future.

V. V. Mayakovsky called Khlebnikov a “master of verse” and recognized the great significance of his experiments for the creation of a new poetic language.


Sobr. proizv., vols. 1–5. Leningrad, 1928–33. (Introductory article by Iu. Tynianov and N. Stepanov.)
Neizdannye proizvedeniia. Moscow, 1940. (Edited and with commentaries by N. Khardzhiev and T. Grits.)


Pertsov, V. “O Vladimire Khlebnikove.” Voprosy literatury, 1966, no. 7.
Khardzhiev, N. “Maiakovskii i Khlebnikov.” In N. Khardzhiev and V. Trenin, Poeticheskaia kul’tura Maiakovskogo. Moscow, 1970.
Stepanov, N. Velimir Khlebnikov: Zhizn i tvorchestvo. Moscow, 1975.
Duganov, R. V. “Kratkoe ’iskusstvo poezii’ Khlebnikova.” Izv. AN SSSR: OLIa, 1974, vol. 33, no. 5.
Duganov, R. V. “Problema epicheskogo v estetike i poetike Khlebnikova.” Izv. AN SSSR: OLIa, 1976, vol. 35, no. 5.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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