Vladimir Mayakovsky - Short biographies

Born 19 July (7 July, Old Style) 1893 in Bagdadi, Georgia (which was later named Mayakovsky in his honor). His father, Vladimir Konstantinovich, though of noble ancestry, was a forest ranger. The young Vladimir had two older sister--Olga and Lyudmila. He began school in Kutais in 1902, but took little interest in studies. By the time he was in third grade, Mayakovsky found himself thrilled by the excitement of mass meetings, demonstrations, and revolutionary songs. Lyudmila, now a student in Moscow, would bring home legal and illegal political pamphlets.

In 1906 the elder Mayakovsky died of blood poisoning. Mayakovsky's mother, Aleksandra Alekseevna, decided to move the family to Moscow to stay close to Lyudmila. To help support the family, Olga and the young Vladimir learned to fire and color wooden objects, such as boxes, caskets and Easter eggs, which Lyudimila would sell to stores.

Mayakovsky plunged himself into politics almost as soon as he arrived in Moscow. By the time he was 14, he was a full-fledged member of the Moscow Bolshevik Party, serving as a messenger, distributor of leaflets, and lookout. On 1 March 1908, Mayakovsky was expelled from school for non-payment of fees. And on 29 March 1908 he was caught with a stack of revolutionary proclamations and arrested. Mayakovsky was released on probation, and on 30 August 1908 he was admitted to the Stroganov School of Industrial Arts.

Mayakovsky was arrested again on 21 January 1909--this time by mistake. He was seen in the company of some Social Revolutionaries who were accused of exproriations (bank robberies). Mayakovsky's innocence was apparent, and was released.

However, by summer of 1909 Mayakovsky was back in the slammer, this time because he walked into a stakeout aimed at a Georgian revolutionary involved in expropriations and the organization of a successful prison break. Mayakovsky was an uncooperative prisoner. A warder's report in August 1909 states:

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky...by his behavior incites other prisoners to disobedience toward prison officers, persistently demands free access to all cells, purporting to be the prisoners' "spokesman"; whenever let out of his cell to go to the toilet or washroom, he stays out of his cell for half an hour, parading up and down the corridor.

Mayakovsky was moved from prison to prison and eventually wound up in solitary confinement in cell 103 of Butyrki Prison. It was here that he wrote his first poem.

Mayakovsky was tried in September 1909 and found guilty. However, being a minor, he again got off with probation.

Having already shown a talent for drawing, Mayakovsky dropped out of politics and decided to study art. In 1911 he gained admission to the Moscow Institute for the Study of Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture. And this time, his studies were successful. Here he met and fell under the influence of the avantgard painter David Burliuk, who introduced Mayakovsky to modernist painting and poetry. In September of 1912, after abandoning a boring program of Rakhkmaninov music, Mayakovsky penned and read for Burliuk a poem. Burliuk supposedly exclaimed, "Why, you're a poetic genius!" And at this moment, Mayakovsky claims, he decided to pursue only poetry.

In December 1912, Mayakovsky, Burliuk, Khlebnikov, and Kruchenykh published a Futurist manifesto entitled , A Slap in the Face of Public Taste. In it, they demanded that Pushkin, Tolstoy, etc., be thrown overboard. After all, "The Academy and Pushkin are less intelligible than hieroglyphics.". Blok, Gorky, Kuprin, Remizov, Bunin and others also come in for scorn, being labeled as "insignificant". The manifesto "orders" respect for the poets' rights:

* To enlarge the scope of the poet's vocabulary with arbitrary and derivative words.
* To feel an insurmountable hatred for the language existing before their time.
* To push with horror off their proud brow the Wreath of cheap fame that You have made from bathhouse switches.
* To stand on the rock of the word "we" amidst the sea of boos and outrage.

Mayakovsky's first two published poems, Noch ("Night") and Utro ("Morning") also appeared in 1912.

To advertise their "happenings", the futurists engaged in various stunts: Mayakovsky appearing in a yellow jacket, and Burliuk with a tree branch and bird painted on his cheek. These stunts got to the two expelled from the Institute. ...

Vladimir Mayakovsky: The Surrender of Lviv by the Austro-Hungarian Army to the Russian Army in September 1914


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