Victor Khlebnikov (Velimir) was born on October 28th, 1885 (according to the Gregorian calendar used in Russia in XIX century, on November 9th according to European calendar). His birthplace was so-called ulus – administrative unit of Kalmykia in the Lower Volga where his father was a head of the local authorities. Khlebnikov’s mother belonged to the Russian nobility.
Victor had two brothers and two sisters. At first they had a good education at home. Then Victor attended a school and left it with a good certificate, in which it was written that he studied mathematics with great interest. In 1903 he entered the Kazan University on mathematics.
After taking part in a student demonstration he was arrested and spent a month in prison. Soon after he left the University. Nevertheless next year he entered it once again this time on biology.
But his passion for literature was so great that in 1908 he left for Petersburg (then the capital of Russia). There he frequented poetic meetings, bohemian cafes. The symbolists Vjacheslav Ivanov and Mikhail Kuzmin became his teachers of poetry. There he took as a pseudonym a South-Slavonic name Velimir.
But symbolist’s view of the poetry was different to Khlebnikov’s view. Soon he drew closer to young poets and artists who dreamed about changes in the art. Khlebnikov together with Vasilij Kamenskij, Burljuk brothers, Elena Guro and Mikhail Matjushin took part in composing the manifestos and collections of the new literary school called futurism. Then Aleksey Kruchenyh and Vladimir Majakovskiy joined the group. The first collection of theirs works A Trap for Judges was published in 1910 and the famous manifesto A Slap in the Face of Public Taste in 1912. They cultivated the shocking behavior, they used a great number of coinages in their poetry. They enriched the Russian poetry by the new subjects, they renewed the whole poetry technique.
But Khlebnikov had his special subjects too. He interested in the archaic world (poem I and E), in relation between nature and civilization (poems The Crane, A Shaman and Venus), etc. Khlebnikov’s friends liked most of all his experiments with words such as famous The Incantation of the Laugh or Bobeobi.
After the beginning of the World War I the Futurist’s group activity reduced and after the Socialist Revolution in 1917 ceased at all. In 1916 Khlebnikov was conscripted into the army. He welcomed the Revolution as the realization of the idea of the World-wide Freedom.
At this time Khlebnikov discovered (as it seemed to him) the law that governed the whole events in human history. According to his theory the greatest battles on land and sea, downfall of empires, etc. took place in strict order with strict periodicity. And therefore if one could discover this periodicity it would be possible to predict the future and so there would be no need of wars in future. This idea can be retraced in all of his works including the last ones Zangezi and The Tables of the Destiny. The Revolution liberated him from the services.
After the Revolution the poet traveled a lot. He had “the hungry for space” – as he said. He visited many places in the country. His only trip abroad was the march with the Red Army to Persia in 1921 for helping the Gilan Republic. The impression of the march was reflected in his poem Goul-mullah’s trumpet and Iranian cycle of verses. In Persia he was called Russian dervish.
Living from hand to mouth, lack of his own home affected his health. At the beginning of 1922 Khlebnikov came to Moscow hoping of publishing his works. In spring 1922 Khlebnikov together with an artist Peter Miturich left for a village Santalovo near Novgorod. There he died on June 28th, 1922.