Mayakovsky, Vladimir

Wladimir Wladimirowitsch Majakowski
Wladimir Wladimirowitsch Majakowski

Vladimir Vladimirovich Mayakovsky [Влади́мир Влади́мирович Маяко́вский] (1893 Baghdati, now in Georgia – 1930 Moscow) - outstanding Russian and Soviet poet and playwright. He is among the foremost representatives of early-20th century Russian Futurism. Mayakovsky developed a passion for Marxist literature and took part in numerous activities of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party.

The 1912 Futurist publication A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (Пощёчина общественному вкусу) contained Mayakovsky's first published poems, and his work continued in the Futurist vein until 1914. His artistic development then shifted increasingly in the direction of narrative and it was this work, published during the period immediately preceding the Russian Revolution, which was to establish his reputation as a poet in Russia and abroad. The relevance of Mayakovsky's influence cannot be limited to Soviet poetry. While for years he was considered the Soviet poet par excellence, he also changed the perceptions of poetry in wider 20th century culture. His political activism as a propagandistic agitator was rarely understood and often looked upon unfavorably by contemporaries, even close friends like Boris Pasternak. Near the end of the 1920s, Mayakovsky became increasingly disillusioned with the course the Soviet Union was taking under Joseph Stalin.

After his suicide in april 1930 Mayakovsky was attacked in the Soviet press as a "formalist" as opposed to officially recognised "proletarian poets". When in 1935 Lilya Brik wrote to Stalin to complain about the attacks, he wrote a comment on Brik's letter: "Comrade Yezhov, please take charge of Brik's letter. Mayakovsky is still the best and the most talented poet of our Soviet epoch. Indifference to his cultural heritage is a crime. Brik's complaints are, in my opinion, justified..." These words became a cliché and officially canonized Mayakovsky, but according to Boris Pasternak they in some circles "dealt him the second death". In spite of criticism and spurns he received in the post-Soviet times his artistic impact and importance within the history of Russian and world poetry remain intact.