The Khlebnikovs Family Tree
There is a house-museum of poet Velimir Khlebnikov, situated in the former astrakhanian flat of his parents in the former Bolshaya Demidovskaya Street (nowadays Sverdlova, 53).
Before we start talking about Velimir (Victor Vladimirovich) Khlebnikov (1885-1922), we should trace the roots of the Khlebnikov’s family. We know that many of the Khlebnikovs were merchants and outstanding people. Kharlampi Nikolayevich Khlebnikov, uncle of the poet, was elected a leader of the Astrakhan nobility. Pyotr Alexeevich Khlebnikov, Velimir’s another uncle, was Professor of the St. Petersburg Medical-Surgical Academy. The poet’s father Vladimir Alexeevich was the organizer and the first director of the Astrakhan National Reserve in Volga’s delta. It was him who taught his children to love and understand nature.
The poet’s mother Ekaterina Nikolayevna (born Verbitskaya) studied at the Smolny Institute of Noble Maidens in St. Petersburg. She spoke three foreign languages, played the piano perfectly. She gave her children a sense of beauty and creativity.
The Sitting Room
This sitting-room has survived the time: you see the authentic parquet made of dark oak, the old-time Dutch tile stoves, and the stucco moldings on the ceiling. The feeling of authenticity is growing stronger when you see the family furniture, books, and household things. Giving them to the museum May Petrovich Miturich-Khlebnikov, the nephew of the poet, told us their stories.
Here you can see a pen, a little mirror, a comb for troop-horses, an ink-pot shaped as a small barrel, tweezers, a pencil holder with an image of a dragon, a taganok, Moser watch box, a set for papers in a shape of a lyre, a tool for stuffing birds. All children of Vladimir Alexeevich were fond of ornithology. In 1905, Velimir (his real name was Victor) and Alexander Khlebnikovs went together on an expedition to the Urals. Later they wrote an article for the magazine “Nature and Hunting”.
This green cup was Velimir’s present to his mother, and this water color portrait of Vladimir Alexeevich was presented to him by Vera, his youngest daughter, future famous artist. Here you can see the Certificate of Ekaterina Verbitskaya (mother of the poet), a Red Cross nurse. She went to the war between Russia and Turkey to help wounded. She was also associated with the “Narodnaya Volya” (revolutionary organization) and took part in actions in its work. It is from her Velimir inherited the love for history.
The Room of Vera Khlebnikov
In this room Vera Khlebnikov lived for eight years from 1916 to 1924. She developed her artistic talent learning much from such artists as Yuon, Tsionglinsky, and Van Dungeon. She was also greatly impressed by Nesterov and Vrubel. Later Vera took much interest in impressionism and cubism.
Here is a water color by Vera Khlebnikov entitled “The Still Life with Tangerines”. Here you can also see the Chinese cup of dark blue glass that belonged to Vera. We have this original cup in our display.
Here are her water colors which she made when she was a kid. Velimir liked them a lot and always had them with him.
These are belongings of Vera Khlebnikov: a painter’s case and Japanese water colors. Here you can see the images of Astrakhan (“The Kutum embankment”), an Oriental theme (“A Girl and a Swan”). On request of her brother Velimir, she made the drawing “Orpheus in Hell”.
We know that Velimir Khlebnikov much wandered, traveled on the roofs of trains during the Civil War, spent nights in the steppe by the fire, and found himself in barracks and hospitals. Wherever he settled, his dwelling was littered with sheets of paper and small paper fragments with sketches and drafts of his poems. Here we tried to show what his messed papers were like.
Since at the moment we are in the room of this man of genius and “Lomonosov of the 20th century”, it is the right moment for reading his verses.
When horses die, they sigh
When grasses die, they shrivel
When suns die, they flare and expire
When people die, they sing songs
When Velimir came to Astrakhan in 1911, Astrakhan was an ethnical museum under the open sky: there were thirty four Russian Orthodox churches, five Armenian-Gregorian churches, two Roman-Catholic cathedrals, eight Tartar mosques, two synagogues, a Lutheran church, a Persian mosque, and a Kalmyk Buddhist house of prayer called Khurul. Velimir fell in love with this city of his ancestors and became aware of its spirit. He was so deeply impressed by Astrakhan that for the next two years he was writing “Khadzhi-Tarkhan”, a poem devoted to old-time Astrakhan.
Hall of Velimir Khlebnikov
In contrast to the previous hall which was the poet’s creative laboratory, here we sought to comprehend Khlebnikov’s significance in Russian and world poetry. Velimir was the leader of a literary movement Futurism. The name stems from Latin FUTURUM meaning “future” but Velimir stubbornly called himself a Budetlyanin meaning the same, only stemming from Russian. He wrote with pride:
Russia, I give you my divine
Be me. Be Khlebnikov.
He gave his “divine brain” to many more lands than Russia alone: his verse is known in the UK, Germany, Poland, Hungary, etc. In our Museum alone, we have nearly seventy editions of his poems in foreign languages and foreign author’s books about Khlebnikov.
Now let us have a look at the poet’s personal belongings exhibited in this Hall. This tie was presented to Velimir by poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. These two wooden dolls were bought by Velimir from monks of the Serghiev-Posad. Here are some books from his personal library and his comb.
This is his chest, his pencil, a base of an inkpot, and a self-made pen of a willow twig he used to write the article “The Willow Twig”.
Here in Hall Five, we exhibit some unique editions by Khlebnikov provided with lithographs. The copy of the “Velimir Khlebnikov Vestnik №1” used to belong to Velimir.
Exodus of Velimir
In May 1922, Khlebnikov set out for Astrakhan, but he never reached it. The artist Pyotr Miturich persuaded him to stay in the village of Santalovo in Novgorodskaya province for two weeks. Khlebnikov had fallen ill there and died on the 28th of June, 1922. Miturich made two last portraits of Khlebnikov. The poet was buried in Ruchi village.
In 1960, the poet’s remains were re-buried in the Novodevichye Cemetery in Moscow. On his grave they put a “stone woman”, one of the major motifs of his poetry.
The glazed verandah borders the memorial part of the museum. It is a rest zone. It invites you to spend some spare time thinking over the impressions of the day. Besides, here come people who love literature to share their views and to read their poems or discuss latest events of the literature world. It is the place where poets, artists and musicians (“tvoryane”) come to meet.
Hall Of Paintings by Vera Khlebnikov
Here are exhibited the most famous paintings of the artist:
The Mermaids. The eyes of the mermaids are focused on an oriental prince who drowned; they are looking at him with curiosity and admiration. You see the rich color range of pearl and ash hues.
The Old and the Young. You can see a figure of an Old woman beetling like a kite over a tiny silhouette of a Girl. The painting is remarkable by its colors and the novel manner of painting.
An Artist’s Path. This painting has a theme of the Promethean’s destiny. It shows a woman artist with her head thrown back and being tormented by wild birds. An Artist’s path is thorny. Vera was making the painting during the Civil War when good quality canvases or paints were very hard to come by. Now the painting is doomed to die as its colors are getting darker and there is no way to save it.
Self-Portrait. Vera made it when she was nineteen and was educated at St. Petersburg studio of artist Tsionglinsky. The painting has an evident trace of cubism. The self-portrait was made before the artist left for Paris to become a pupil of Kess van Dungeon.
The Herring Flow. This five-meter picture has an Astrakhan theme but it was painted in Moscow for the Fish Department of Polytechnic Museum. Here you see how talented Vera was as a colorist.
Hall Of Drawings by Pyotr Miturich
He was fond of Velimir Khlebnikov’s poetry. He was the one to tell Velimir’s parents the bitter news about their son’s death. Later he became a part of the family marrying Vera Khlebnikov.
His drawings make up the majority of works displayed in this hall. They are: “Down The Volga River”, “The Portrait of Velimir” (with a deer’s antlers) and other works as well as copies of the sketches of his “volnoviks” (aircrafts).
Verandah Of May Miturich
The books by Marshak, Tchukovsky, Lewis Carroll, Kipling, Kharms etc. illustrated by May Miturich are displayed in this verandah. His water colors and white-black drawings are really impressing.
The artist was awarded a gold medal of the Russian Academy of Arts for his jubilee exhibition in Moscow in the year 2000 summing up his art for the last fifty years.
Hall Of Drawings by Stepan Botiev
Stepan Botiev, a modern Kalmyk sculptor and artist, woke up famous in 1993 when he made a monument of Velimir in the Kalmyk steppes near Malye Derbety, the poet’s birth place. The monument is made of bronze; its height is 3.20 meters. There is no pedestal, which creates an impression of the poet walking on the steppe. In this brilliant work awarded a silver medal of the Russian Academy of Fine Arts, Stepan Botiev sought to picture “not only a poet roaming the world but a wanderer of the spirit”.
Also exhibited in this hall is a fragment of Botiev’s series of drawings entitled “Khlebnikov Field”.
This room is a center of Khlebnikov studies intended for people far beyond Astrakhan. Here we work on requests of those who are interested in Khlebnikov and his poetry coming from other Russian cities and from abroad. Here you can meet a schoolboy and a student, a school teacher and a college professor. Here we collected some unique editions of Velimir’s works published when he was still alive, rarity collections of 1920s and 1930s as well as modern editions of Russian originals and foreign translations. Also, the Museum has a collection of videos and audios connected with the art of Velimir Khlebnikov.
director of the Museum of Velimir Khlebnikov in Astrakhan.