«The first of the Khlebnikovs is mentioned as an official from Rostov of Central Russia” – the poet Velimir Khlebnikov noted in the “Responses to S.A. Vengerov’s questionnaire”[1]. However this fact is not documented. Concerted efforts by the researchers (V.P. Samarenko, N.S. Travushkin, S.V. Sverdlina, A.E. Parnis, A.A. Mamaev) with the poet’s descendants (M.P. Miturich-Khlebnikov, E.A. Zabelova, N.A. Drozdova) helped to dictate “The Khlebnikovs’ genealogical tree” [2]. The first in the list is Petr Ivanovich Khlebnikov (1668-1740), the poet’s great-great-great-great grandfather; next to him is Velimir’s great-great-great grandfather Ivan Petrovich (1710-1774), the Astrakhan tide waiter, than great grandfather Matvey Ivanovich (1730-1798), a merchant and a judge, than great grandfather Ivan Matveevich Khlebnikov (1758-1847) who is more well-known than others. He was the first of the Khlebnikovs to be a hereditary and honorable citizen of Astrakhan. “The dossier of giving to the Astrakhan merchant Ivan Khlebnikov a certificate of assigning a citizenship of honor” in fifty eight pages.[3] This document contains arcane information concerning both Velimir’s great grandfather and some other of his ancestors. It helped to add two collateral branches to the “Khlebnikovs genealogical tree”.

Let us tell about some of the Khlebnikovs. Let’s start with the poet’s grandfather. 

[1] Khlebnikov V. Selected works in 6 volumes/./edited by R.V. Duganov; compilation, text and notes by E.R. Arenzon, R.V. Duganov, Moscow 2000-2006 Vol.6 Book 2 p.240 (rus.) 
[2] Mamaev A. Astrakhan Velimira Khlebnikova [Velimir Khlebnikov’s Astrakhan] Astrakhan, 2007 pp 10-11 (rus.)
[3] The Astrakhan Oblast State Archives. A copy in the collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov museum in Astrakhan.  


Velimir’s grandfather. Alexei Ivanovich Khlebnikov (1801-1871)

Лик его помню суровый и бритый,
Стада ладей пастуха.
Умер уж он; его скрыли уж плиты,
Итоги из камня, и грёз, и греха.

Velimir remembered the face of his grandfather Alexei Ivanovich Khlebnikov who was a merchant and a hereditary and honorable citizen of Astrakhan by the photograph only because he was born 14 years after his death. A stern handsome old man with a sad and exhausted expression in his eyes but not a severe one looks in at us from this photo.  

Alexei Khlebnikov is known to have been a talented person and at the age of 15 he graduated from Astrakhan classic grammar school. It is a pity that such a talented young man didn’t continue his studying and got involved with trade like his father, grandfather and great grandfather had done before.   

Сквозь русских в Индию, в окно,
Возили ружья и зерно
Купца суда. Теперь их нет.
А внуку враг и божий свет.

“Over the Russian to India, through the window” means from Astrakhan over the Caspian sea (Astrakhan is “a window to India” it is just Velimir’s inversion). The line “The merchant’s ships. That now don’t exist” is documented.  

According to the “Biography of Mr. Khlebnikov Vladimir Alexeevich” (the second son of Alexei Ivanovich):

«…my father owned sailing vessels /schooners/ which he liquidated several years before his death in 1871; [1]. My father liquidated that business in his weak health 10 years before his death[2].

In his responses to S.A. Vengerov’s questionnaire Khlebnikov wrote: “My grandfather died in Jerusalem on pilgrimage. However he was buried in Astrakhan at the family vaults near his second wife Ekaterina Lavrentyevna who died five years later”.  

His first wife was Natalia Mikhailovna Simonova, a merchant’s daughter[3]. Their marriage lasted twenty-odd years and had a tragic end. The inscription on the pediment of the family tombstone found in the Astrakhan Russian Orthodox cemetery says:

«Here lies the body of Natalia Mikhailovna Khlebnikova, a wife of the Astrakhan merchant’s son A.I. Khlebnikov, died in childbirth after bearing the daughter Natalia in four hours July 30, 1843 on Friday morning at 11 A.M. She left disconsolate husband and six underage orphans».

By his first wife A.I. Khlebnikov had ten children. The most outstanding person among them was Petr Alexeevich Khlebnikov, the professor of Medical and Surgery Academy in Saint Petersburg, the author of the book “Physics of the Globe”, Saint-Petersburg, 1866. Velimir read it very precisely and made his remarks on the pages.

One out of four children by the second wife named Vladimir Alexeevich Khlebnikov, an ornithologist, silvicsist, the poet’s father should be especially pointed out.

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.) 

[1] Hence Velimir’s “Flocks of shepherd’s boats” (“Khadgi Tarkhan”).
[2] «Zhizneopisanie gr. Khlebnikova Vladimira Alexeevicha [Biography of Mr. Khlebnikov Vladimir Alexeevich] 6 printed pages. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum (rus.)
[3] The Astrakhan Oblast State Archives.

Velimir’s father. Vladimir Alexeevich (1857-1934)

Vladimir Khlebnikov was born in 1857 in Astrakhan, the son of the merchant Alexei Ivanovich Khlebnikov. In his childhood he had an inquiring mind and was interested in studying, his father predicted him a career of a scientist. Vladimir was 13 when his father died. He studied hard in the Grammar school and spent all his pastime in the steppes east of the Volga bird-watching, painting pictures of birds, keeping a diary of researches. Ornithology became his real passion.     

After graduating from Grammar school he entered the faculty of Natural science of Saint-Petersburg University. The talented student attracted the attention of M.N. Bogdanov, zoology professor who invited him to join the expedition to the shore of Murmansk. The expedition not only broadened Vladimir Khlebnikov’s range of knowledge but taught him to appreciate habitable environment.  He learnt a lesson of respect for it taught by the monks from Solovetsky Monastery where no hunting was permitted. Birds flew to people and had food from their hands. Was it the very time Vladimir Khlebnikov had thought of the reserve in the Volga delta for the first time?   

In 1882 he left the university, got married and settled a family of his own. In order to maintain it he had to enter the public service-  at first as a supervisor of Baskunchak salt-mines and then as a trustee of Maloderbetovsky ulus in the steppes of Kalmykia. As time went by V.A. Khlebnikov would often change the place and sort of service, however his passion for ornithology remained consistent. The young scientist experienced a triumph in the Exhibition of Science and Industry in 1890 in Kazan. His collection of the birds dwelling in Astrakhan region was awarded with Big Silver medal and his book “The register of birds dwelling in Astrakhan province” came out from the printers and it has a particular scientific value even nowadays.    

V.A. Khlebnikov successfully went up the career ladder: in the end he got St. Anna medal, to St. Stanislav medals and a title of State Counsellor, however he never gave up the idea of creating a reserve. In 1910 he for the first time he raised that question at the meeting of Astrakhan Hunters Association. Alas! Vladimir Khlebnikov’s project had only one vote pro. That failure oppressed him.      

In 1912 he returned to Astrakhan and in 1914 he was elected as a head of “Petrovsky Society of Astrakhan region researchers”. During four years he was tirelessly bustling about the reserve and at last…in September 12, 1918 the research boat “Pochin” set sails with a group of researchers to the Low Volga with the purpose of searching the place for the future reserve.

That very territory of ancient Lebedia [Swanland] became the place for establishing of the first Soviet reserve which appeared to be Vladimir Alexeevich Khlebnikov’s scientific feat, his “swan-song”.  

In present days there are 101 in Russia, however the first one – in Astrakhan – cost his founder a great effort: for many months Vladimir Alexeevich was working without payment, tried to persuade the locals not to mow the reeds, take care of lotus fields, not to shoot off valuable birds and animals.

In 2019 Astrakhan Biosphere Reserve will mark its centenary. It is well known far beyond Russia. And there, in the territory of Damchicksky portion to be exact a modest grave of its first director Vladimir Alexeevich Khlebnikov is situated.   

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.) 

Velimir’s mother. Ekaterina Nikolaevna Khlebnikova.

Ekaterina Khlebnikova came from the family of the Petersburg State Counsellor Nikolay Osipovich Verbitsky who had two sons and three daughters. Ekaterina was the eldest one - a dreamy gentle blue-eyed girl she grew up in the midst of the little world of pets and birds. Spacious rooms of the general’s apartment looked like a regular zoo! There peacefully lived big-eyed owl and two starlings – pink and grey; a jay and a parrot, a dog and a kitten both reddish with white breasts. Katya spent a lot of time playing with them, listening to the parrot’s chatter and cracking nuts for an old little squirrel which was too old to chew them up. Two large-headed longicorn catfishes looked at that bustle through the aquarium glass, tritons, axolotls and tortoises completed that little zoological garden.

On getting tired of the bustle with her pets the young girl used to sit down to read a book on the windowsill in her room looking out into the garden all in bloom in spring. “The Diary of Christopher Columbus” afforded her the most pleasure. Pages of that book were greenish in color with images of sand and dried leaves. The book seemed to have lain for a while on the seabed and now someone took it out.[1].

That was how Katya passed her childhood. Then Grammar school and Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens where the dignitaries’ daughters studied came into her life. There she got interested in Russian history. This passion produced unexpected results. Katya left Smolny and took the Sisters of Mercy courses. In spite of her parents objection she went to the Russo-Turkish war. That drastic change in the life of Ekaterina Verbitskaya arose from her flat conviction that the one who have a degree in history must be a historian in fact. Hard routine of the wartime, weariness, lack of sleep, gasps of severely handicapped. Ekaterina Verbitskaya learnt this lesson of “living” Russian history very well: she nursed a number of the wounded who were, the doctors said, hopeless cases.     

After the war she worked as a teacher in the remote village, she taught children of the poor gratis to read and write. She also worked at the orphan-asylums. It was not a game of populism or high-and-mighty manners but self-perception as a historian in fact: by this time in the field of public education.   

In summer 1882 Ekaterina Nikolaevna was on a visit to her relatives in Borovichevsky district of Novgorod province. She got acquainted with Vladimir Khlebnikov, a young master of natural science who had come there after finishing university to study local fauna. Their friendship passed into affection and afterwards into love – in the open air, through the nature through the common interests in plant and animal life. They were happy to be wandering along picturesque groves of Borovichevsk and didn't know that their love would last more than half a century and that in 40 years the life of their second son Victor (the poet Velimir Khlebnikov) would end not far from there.

A gentle peal of The Levochskaya chapel announced the wedding ceremony of a merchant’s son Vladimir Khlebnikov 25 and a noble man’s daughter Ekaterina Verbitskaya 33.   

From time to time Ekaterina suspended their family life in the remote steppes of Kalmykia by visiting her parents in Petersburg. There she was fated to immerse into living history for the last time. She attended the meetings of “Narodnaya volya party” [The people’s will] which opposed the tsar’s autocracy. Perhaps it was her cousin Alexander Mikhaylov, a famous member of “Narodnaya Volya party” who brought her there; his nickname was “Yard-keeper” because he had a list of 300 communicating courtyards due to which on a number of occasions he saved his friends and himself. When Mikhailov was arrested and put into Alexeevsky ravelin Ekaterina Verbitskaya delivered his messages from prison. Further she didn’t break off her relations with a member of “Narodnaya Volya party” Vera Figner.     

In his poem “A Night Before The Soviets” Velimir portrayed his mother:

В Смольном девицей была, белый носила передник…
После сестрой милосердия спасала больных
В предсмертном паре, в огне,
В Русско-турецкой войне
Ходила за ранеными дать им немного ласки и нег.
Ссыльным потом помогала, сделалась красной.
Была раз на собрании
прославленной «Воли народной» -
опасно как!
После ушла корнями в семью:
Возилась с детьми, детей обучала.
И переселилась на юг.
Дети росли странные, дикие…
Художники, писатели,

Vladimir Alexeevich and Ekaterina Nikolaevna Khlebnikovs experienced an awful parental tragedy, four their children died during the life of the parents.

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.) 

[1] According to the family correspondence. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum. 

Ekaterina Khlebnikova (1883-1924)

Ekaterina was a first-born in the Khlebnikovs’ family. In 1891-92 Katya, eight years old was on a visit in Saint-Petersburg at her grandparents with her brothers and sisters. In her letter to V.A. Khlebnikov Varvara Nikolaevna Verbitskaya (Katya’s aunt) said that Katya “studied hard and succeeded at it (…) If one had come in the evening he always would have found her reading or writing something”[1]. At the same time she was a lively and cheerful child. “Katya misbehaves more than other children and the nursery governess says that the children became difficult to deal with since Katya has been at home”[2]. Shortly speaking she was a usual child: both fidget and serious. 

The parents wanted the children not only to study well but also to gain a broad exposure to art. Living apart from his family Vladimir Alexeevich wrote to his wife in Petersburg[3]: «You should certainly take Vitya to the Hermitage and all four of the children to the zoological gardens and to the zoological museum of the Academy of science. Be sure to visit Kazansky and Isaakievsky cathedrals with them. Let Katya, Borya and Vitya see the icon of The Saint Virgin in Kazansky Cathedral (…). Be sure to make up a program before going to the Hermitage for not to get fatigued but don’t skip pieces of sculpture. Vlasov now lives in Petersburg…[4] If you want him to accompany you or just meet with him let me know and I ask him to find you.  He will readily do it for you.»[5].

In summer 1895 Katya’s parents sent her to Symbirsk grammar-school where Victor would enter two years later. The children lived and studied apart their parents because V.A. Khlebnikov’s official duties made them stay in Pomaevo. Katya’s photo of that time has remained. 

The photograph was taken full face. She is wearing grammar-school uniform – a dark dress and a white apron. Katya is a beautiful girl. Her tightly clenched lips, piercing glance and  a firm jaw are evidences of her willful and strong character. On the backside of the photo there is a typographical record: “The photograph is made by S.N. Nikitin. Simbirsk” and dedication: “To my dear mother from loving Katya”. 

In 1901 Ekaterina Khlebnikova graduated from Kazan grammar-school with “B” marks for almost all the subjects besides Theology which was graded with “C”. She had already chosen her future profession, however something always hindered to implement her plans. Katya tried to enter Saint-Petersburg Medical Institute for ladies or take higher courses of medicine but she presented her petition too late. For not to waste her time she attended a special course which allowed her to get a degree of a private teacher. Nevertheless, in spite of excellent marks she did not feel like starting her pedagogical career at once.    

After all she entered Kazan school of dentists and graduated from it in 1908. Ekaterina Khlebnikova got a certificate that allowed her to “establish a dental surgery in Kazan”[6], but some unknown to us circumstances made her leave for Kharkov. By the way, in her letter addressed to her father (dated December 26, 1908) she said that Vitya (Velimir) had sent her some newspapers in which his works were published but she lost them on her way from the post-office without reading. The father answered her that he “didn’t want to speak on that topic”[7]. Vera -Velimir’s younger sister –treated his creative work in absolutely different way!  After the poet’s death his manuscripts fortunately fell into the hands of Vera and her husband Petr Miturich who took care of them as if they were sacred objects. When the war (1941) started and Moscow was under bombing Petr Miturich used to climb onto the roof of 9-story building and put out lighters to save the building from setting in fire. Unfortunately the phrase “manuscripts don’t burn” is just a saying. It was a great luck that there were such devoted keepers who saved Velimir’s hand-written legacy to the last sheet of paper.  

However let’s go back to Ekaterina Khlebnikova. In 1910 she worked as a junior member of the teaching staff at the Kazan second school of dentists where she held practical lessons. Ekaterina’s colleagues treated her well and appreciated her work much.    

Well, why was the young lady so successful? It seems that the reason was not only her professional knowledge but the very way she treated her commitments. Professor V.Y. Anfimov who examined Velimir in 1919 recalled:  

«One of the poet’s sisters was a dentist and he said she thought her profession was a kind of special mystic service to the mankind and thus made a deep impression upon her associates»[8]. «Deep…» It should be pointed out that Velimir’s verses made (and still does) a deep impression upon people. It is deep because it is new, is not it?

The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum contains “Calendar and reference book for dentists” (Saint-Petersburg, 1910) in which Ekaterina Khlebnikova made numerous remarks and notes (about teeth douching, porcelain tooth crowns, various preparations etc.) and wrote down some highly instructive quotations of Henry Geyne.  

She is known to have read English and German literature in an original and was fond of moral novels. The postcard with her dedication to Velimir “To Vitya from Katya” has remained.

The postcard reproduces the painting by F.A. Bruni “Horace killing his sister Camilla in a burst of anger”. The dedication seems to have been made with joking attitude to the brother.

Five Velimir’s letters to Katya in which he shared his news and plans with her have remained.  

«This autumn in Petersburg there will be organized a circle where my compositions will be .
(Petersburg. 8-th of June 1909)

«Friendly shake your hand and inform that soon I will send you my new slipshod  - this is how I call “Conversation between principle and student” (…) As soon as this book comes out from the printers I will send it to you. Let it cause a burst of indignation or indifference. That is the destiny of any book.». 
(Kherson, 23-d of April 1912)

«Dear Katyusha!
(…) In view of that hot affection you treat my fate I’m writing this letter.
(…) I forgive you because of my natural kindness and outstretch my arms just from here to hug you (…)
«Loving you tender» !!!???

Ekaterina Khlebnikova’s biography of 1910-1917 is almost unknown and no even fragmented information have remained. Some facts of her life in post-revolutionary Astrakhan are known from the memories of Petr Miturich:

 «Ekaterina (…) practiced in her own office in the family apartment. The living room was a waiting room for patients and Velimir used to spend nights there. Working almost all night long sometimes he even didn’t stand up from the couch in the waiting-room. Some of the patients could get scared by his sleepy and unkempt appearance. Katya began a struggle against Velimir because he frightened the patients. He didn’t respect her work. She did not lay a claim to genius. Thanks to her long lasting persistence, she opened a very expensive dental surgery (…). After the revolution Ekaterina Vladimirovna was forced to surrender all the expensive tools of her dental surgery. None of other dentists did surrender but dragged Ekaterina’s property and kept on practicing. That circumstance damaged Ekaterina Vladimirovna’s morals. Her sickliness resulted in chronical difficulties. As her disease progressed she deformed as a woman being about 40 years old».

To complete the story it should be said that being deprived of her favorite employment and livelihood (because of Civil war, devastation, starvation, unemployment) Ekaterina Khlebnikova died in September 1924, forty one years old in Astrakhan mental hospital.     

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.) 

[1] V.N. Verbitskaya to V.A. Khlebnikov. Saint Petersburg. October 13, 1891. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[2] V.N. Verbitskaya to V.A. Khlebnikov. Saint-Petersburg. October 13, 1891. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum. .
[3] V.A. Khlebnikov to E.N. Khlebnikova. March 15, 1892
[4] Pavel Alexeevich Vlasov – an Astrakhan artist, the first teacher of B.M. Kustodiev.
[5] Tchuykov Y.S. Pochemu tuskneyut zhemchuzhiny [Why pearls fade]. Astrakhan, 1996 P. 98 (rus.)
[6] Tchuykov Y.S. Pochemu tuskneyut zhemchuzhiny [Why pearls fade]. Astrakhan, 1996 P. 101 (rus.)
[7] Tchuykov Y.S. Pochemu tuskneyut zhemchuzhiny [Why pearls fade]. Astrakhan, 1996 P. 102 (rus.)
[8] Anfimov V.Y. Hlebnikov v 1919 godu [Khlebnikov in 1919]// Arabist. Khlebnikov critic. A man: The digest in memory of M.S. Kiktev / Edited by E.R. Arenzon. Moscow, 2007 P.301 (rus.) 

Boris Khlebnikov (1884

In the photo dated the beginning of 1890-s we can see Borya Khlebnikov. Only to photos made when he was a kid have remained.

The destiny of Boris Khlebnikov was tragic. He suffered from congenital mental disease which had manifested in his infancy. In her letter from Saint-Petersburg addressed to V.A. Khlebnikov Varvara Verbitskaya informed: “Once our youth flew into such a rage that I had to bind his arms”[1]. We may remark that it was the beloved aunty Varya of the Khlebnikov’s children, a friend of theirs, who wrote the letter. “He tried to set free for several times but in the end he was not able to do that, grew quiet, calmed down and began to apologize and promise not to scuffle anymore”[2]. This case suggests that some traits of character of Borya’s ancestors might have manifested in him. “Many of the Khlebnikovs were marked with waywardness and caprice” Velimir wrote in the questionnaire. Such mental breakdowns of Boris’ behavior could be somehow suppressed at first without isolating him from his brothers and sisters. However he more and more frequently avoided them himself: “Borya almost doesn’t take part in joint reading or looking through the pictures in the evening with other kids” [3],- his aunt complained.

The boy was thought to be a prospect for some particular talents but did not develop them. Varvara Nikolaevna said that he was fond of telling fairy tales and had a great deal of them. “The children decided that Vitya would become a painter and Borya would become a musician” [4], - she added and she even tried to take Borya to school for singing lessons. Alas! All the attempts to teach the boy anything failed. “Borya is still able to focus his attention on nothing”.[5].

We don’t know what Borya’s future was because family correspondence does not have any information about it.

«…It is a pity that Borya’s health does not improve and you take his state very hardly.[6], – Borya’s grandmother M.P. Verbitskaya anxiously wrote in her letter to his parents.

«–What about Borya?

Have you talked to the hospital director and how far have you succeeded? I heard that mental hospitals in Saint-Petersburg dropped the price», – Sofia Verbitskaya, E.N. Khlebnikova’s sister, wrote in the letter addressed to her. Her letter dates from approximately 1905-06. However Boris seems to have been in hospital before. In his letter dated December 3, 1903 Velimir informed his parents from Kazan jail where he was serving his four weeks sentence for participating in students’ unrest: “Hug and kiss Katya, Shura, Vera, - see you soon”. Velimir doesn’t says nothing of Boris here. Why doesn’t he? It seems because he didn’t live with his relatives. He was isolated. Presumably he was even insane. In any case Velimir greeted his brother, if not?   

The information of Boris’ tragic death comes from the files disclosed by Y.S. Tchuykov. [7].

Boris died twenty-three years old in June of 1908 in Kazan mental hospital. Vladimir Alexeevich saw him and his son's beuatiful and clear eyes overwhelmed him. Alas! Those he would close his eyes forever. The funeral service was conducted at the hospital church. The students’ little choir was singing. The coffin, the cross and the grave of the late were decorated with his favorite flowers – lilies-of-the-valley.    

Everybody felt a genuine dismay at his death. Varvara Verbitskaya, E.N. Khlebnikova’s sister wrote in her letter: “Dear Katya! I was much shocked on hearing of Borya’s sudden death and it hurt me to learn his youthful life had ended ”[8]. Varvara didn’t yet know that her son Nikolay would also die at the age of twenty three. Feeling her sister’s grief she told her to keep up her spirits, “get back to her normal life and share her love to Borya among living children”[9].

«I wish I had seen him in Kazan. The last thing I remember of him is a platform of the railway station and how he was worry about the ducks he wanted to set free. Very, very often I feel sorry about his not having come to us in Urga that ill-fated summer. I think It could have saved him. Varya.»[10].

Boris’ death sickened Velimir’s heart who wrote a poem “Dedication to my brother”, the final lines of that poem were: 

Один пошёл в свой твердо-скорбный путь.
Ну что ж. Пусть так. Не мне тебя судить.
Но ежели в пустыне скорбно-торной ты изнемог,
и зов молчит, и кущ пустыни нема,
брат, позови.
Я вновь приду,
Забыв себя,
И вящему тебе сподручный плечо покорное отдам»[11].
These lines sound like a requiem for Boris Khlebnikov.

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.) 

[1] V.N. Verbitskaya to V.A. Khlebnikov. Saint-Petersburg. 13-th of October, 1891. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
[2] Ibid.
[3] V.N. Verbitskaya to V.A. Khlebnikov. Saint-Petersburg. 13-th of October, 1891. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid.
[6] M. P. Verbitskaya to E.N. Khlebnikova. 1905 (?).The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[7] Tchuykov Y.S. Pochemu tuskneyut zhemchuzniny [Why pearls fade] P.86 (rus)
[8] V.N. Verbitskaya (Ryabchevskaya) to E.N. Khlebnikova . Saint-Petersburg. 1908. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[9] Ibid.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Pertsova N.N. O stihotvorenii V. Khlebnikova “Bratu” I ego adresate [About V.Khlebnikov’s poem “Dedication to my brother” and its addressee] // Bulletin of Russian Academy of Science. 2007 #1 (rus.) 

Alexander Khlebnikov (1887

«Let me whisper in your ear: It seems to me Shurochka is your darling»[1], – Shura’s grandmother wrote to his mother. «Shura is still affectionate and playful». «When I grow up, he said once, I will construct a mill to grind stones for people not to hurt their feet when walking»[2]. It was so early in his childhood when Shura (Alexander) Khlebnikov had a calling for his future profession! Years would pass and he would become a military engineer and in the same time an ichthyologist and ornithologist. However it began from his father’s lessons.   

The apartment of Vladimir Alexeevich Khlebnikov looked like a hall of zoological museum: cages with living birds within ( Vladimir Alexeevich used to say: “A man is not lonely if songbirds surround him”), a screened-in porch with stuffed animals, a big wild boar skin in his study; his working table was full of bird nests, collections of eggs and little tortoises creeping along. Old bookcases were full of folios by Darwin, Brehm, Pallas. All these things would be destroyed with one stroke of pen – the warrant of living space compression. In the middle of 1920-s in Astrakhan the Khlebnikovs were allowed only two rooms to live and fairyland of nature which had hardly placed in five rooms and in the porch of the apartment would broke down. The unique library containing books written in six languages, stuffed animals, and precious collection of birds – all these things would be sold at auctions.  

All those things would happen later but meantime…Wherever the Khlebnikovs lived – Kalmykia, Volhynia, Simbirsk or Kazan – “the children always dealt with bird nests, eggs, animals and butterflies”[3]. Shura liked it most of all. His passion for ornithology was so great that he could inoculate any adult with it. His former teacher A.S. Glinka wrote in the letter addressed Vera Khlebnikova dated June 1933, at least forty years later they had met:

«I remember Pomaevo. Borya, Vitya, Shura (…) you all, each one on his own way, were full of primeval warmth of life, just beginning to see, looking upon a huge life like kittens climbing out of a green basket in the edge of enchanted forest (…) With his tales about birds Shurka who felt breathless telling them taught me more than numerous fat books.»[4].

The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum holds some original sketches of birds drawn by Alexander Khlebnikov and “The children’s nook” of the living-room of the museum exposition includes a rare photograph: all the five Khlebnikov’s children in Pomaevo (1898?). The kids look scenic at the foot of a big pine tree against a blooming park. Vera and Shura have little rabbits in their arms. A bird dog is lying at his feet.   

However ornithology was not the only Alexander Khlebnikov’s interest. Let’s remember Velimir’s verses:

Дети росли странные, дикие (…)
Художники, писатели,
«A night before the Soviets» 

In his childhood, Shura Khlebnikov was a little inventor: he always thought out something and was interested in technical innovations. May be that was why he made up his mind to enter Kazan modern school. When he became a student (1900) he had time to attend art school. His report card has remained, it marks his passing exams of drawing a torso from outside, model’s outline, portrait, composition and summer works. Each of the subjects is marked with higher grades.   

In spring of 1905 Shura and his brother Vitya (Velimir) went to the Pavdinsky plant (The Ural region) with a purpose of gathering and studying rare species of the Ural birds.

Their trip was very difficult: “On our way we used to get terribly tired because each of us had to carry 30 pounds of luggage (…) we were starving like hell”[5], – Shura informed in the letter addressed to his parents. They could not avoid adventures: in one of the villages the locals took the brothers for Japanese spies, one day Shura’s boots and overshoes started to burn from the campfire and Velimir burnt a hole in his peaked cap, socks and “veil” (Evidently a mosquito net – A.M.). In their four-month expedition, they succeeded beyond their hopes: the brothers brought one hundred and eleven exhibits to the Zoological Museum of Kazan University and published the article on their trip.  

In 1907 Alexander finished additional eighth form of the modern school and entered mathematics department of the faculty of Physics and Mathematics of the Kazan University but soon he transferred to Novorossisky University in Odessa where in September 1910 he entered the department of Natural Science and then to the Moscow University.   

The photo of Alexander Khlebnikov then a student and his letters to his relatives containing interesting information of his student life in Moscow have remained. He informed that the students of the university were intending to go on a strike; that he attended the lectures delivered by famous biologists M.A. Menzbir and A.N. Severtsev; that he translated from French and German and enrolled English courses. He gave close attention to Velimir’s poetry and though he couldn’t realize all its significance he understood and appreciated one important thing: “inhuman but sweet Vitya’s heart”[6]. Alexander shared his scientific achievements with his parents. In his letter dated 13-th of November 1911 he said: “I have sent some books and my manuscript on fish coloration”[7]. It turned out that Alexander Khlebnikov happened to foreshadow some concepts of modern bionics.

In 1914 he graduated from Moscow university and volunteered to the army. In 196 he became a battery commander (in a rank of warrant officer) of the 38-th mortar depot division in North-West front.   

During the war, he fully revealed his talent for inventions. Among his numerous inventions the most remarkable are: the new construction of artillery shells, appliance for “breaking barbed wire with bullets”, appliance “for machine gun shooting through the airplane propeller” and a far-measurer. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum holds about one hundred copies of his drafts. We wish there came an enthusiast who would analyze and examine them and prove their significance for those (and may be for present) days.  

In 1918 Alexander Khlebnikov left ruined army and came back in Astrakhan, however it turned out impossible for him to return to peaceful life and science. The artist Petr Miturich recollected:  

«The situation with food in the city was getting worse. Shura and Vera made their mind to settle in one of the fishermen’s shelters in one of the Volga islands. Shura had a shotgun, a dog and some fishing rods…He was tired of war and didn’t want to live nowhere but in the open air. Hardly had his father Vladimir Alexeevich come to hunt a bit, the committee catch them red-handed. The told that Alexander Vladimirovich was a military officer escaped»[8]

All of them were arrested. Hard days in prison were crawling. In the cell Khlebnikovs made friends with a group of sailors. One night Vera woke up and overheard the sentry telling one of the sailors that the next day those three “scientists” would be finished off. Fortunately the Khlebnikovs were lucky to evade execution by firing squad.    

Alexander was mobilized to the Red Army where he commanded the artillery division and in 1920 at the age of thirty-three he went missing during the war in Polish front. His relatives were hopeful he would return from war. “Shura might have been taken prisoner to Germany with the squad of Guy by Warsaw siege, division 33 was there”, - Velimir quietened his parents in his letter[9]. They waited Shura for a very long time, tried to connect missing traces, hoped for a miracle. But miracle did not happen.  

With the death of Alexander Khlebnikov the world lost not only an outstanding scientist (all his manuscripts were missing) but a talented literary man. Just have a look at his description of Astrakhan steppes.

«The most beautiful place in Astrakhan is its environs. Luxuriant piles of golden sand flickering in the haze under dazzling blue sky, ridiculous shrubs of desert, soaring flocks of golden-blue sparks of sand and sky. Pensive primeval camels with amazing expressive muzzles filled with oriental pride and some indifferent fastidiousness. Salt lakes, which seem to be full of snow and ice strangely glimmer in the midst of the steppe grass and green plants. Mounts covered with sagebrush and flocks of bustards still of a calm and important appearance – a bird of desert but not a shy, thieving game of town. uge lakes, rivers and gulfs full of game. All these wild and virginal places are still tempting for me»[10].

Let this joyful hymn to Astrakhan region be the end of our story of Alexander Khlebnikov. 

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.)  P.157

[1] M.P. Verbitskaya to E.N. Khlebnikova. The early 1890-s. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
[2] V. N. Verbitskaya to E.N. Khlebnikova. Saint-Petersburg. 1892. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov museum.
[3] Khlebnikova V. “Chto nuzhno dushe…” [What soul needs…] Poems. Prose. Letters / Compiled by A.A. Mamaev, N.V. Kolesnikova Moscow, The Marina Tsvetaeva house-museum, 2000 P.143 (rus.)   
[4] A.S. Glinka to V.V. Khlebnikova. Moscow. June. 1930. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[5] Khlebnikov A.V. Letters to the relatives. 1905-1916. Publication and commentaries by I.Ermakova and R.Duganov// Volga. 1987 #9 P.142. A.V. Khlebnikov to V.A. and E.N. Khlebnikovs. Pavdinsky plant. June 20, 1905   
[6] Ibid. P. 142. A.V. Khlebnikov to E.N. Khlebnikova. Moscow. September 1911.
[7] A.V. Khlebnikov’s archive files. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[8] The collection of M.P. Miturich-Khlebnikov.
[9] Set of works. Vol.6. P.210
[10] Khlebnikov A.V. Letters to relatives. P.157. A.V. Khlebnikov to V.V. Khlebnikova. North-Western front. August-September 1916 

Vera Khlebnikova (1891

How did her passion for painting begin?

In her letter addressed to V.A. Khlebnikov Varvara Verbitskaya said: “I want to tell you about a sketch I see day by day. As soon as I approach my bookcase which stands in the nursery, Verunchik rushed after me laughing cheerfully, and when someone opens the bookcase she calls her nanny and babbles pointing at the illustrated books: “pictars, pictars…”. She prefers pictures to her dolls”.[1]

The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum holds a great number of pencil drawings Vera drew after she was seven years old. Under the drawing “Little squirrel” there is an inscription in Russian made by P.V. Miturich saying: “January 3. Vera Khlebnikova. Drew at the age of 10 ”. In the backside: “Velimir used to take it with him”.

Although Vera drew it from the stuffed animal the squirrel gnawing the nuts on a branch of a tree seems to be alive. Her fluffy tail is hanging over it like a fan. Is it the very drawing to be mentioned in Velimir’s poem “E and A”.?

A knot
Has broken
Under a frisky squirrel

White hare fur looks contrasting against a dark background. Vera often drew animals. Her father had a large collection of birds and animals.

Her father’s general features are easy to recognize in “Portrait of a man”. The drawing seems to have been done from the family photograph of 1898 in which one can see Vera’s father, white little hare in Vera’s arms and a stuffed squirrel in a branch of a tree.[2]

On noticing her little daughter’s talent for drawing the parents hired professional artist to teach her (namely L. Chernov-Plesskiy, M.Bessonov and P.Benkov) who trained her graphics and paintings[3]. In September 1905 she entered Kazan Art School where her searching for individual creative manner faced misunderstanding of her teachers (“The students’ works mustn’t be different from one another by technique”)[4]. Forced to leave school Vera met hardships of life and was tormented by the question: “What shall I do? How shall I go my own way?”[5]. Velimir described the state of her heart in his unknown article[6]:

«She lived in the Crimea. A Turkish boy pointed his finger at her and said laughing “lakes”, “lakes” meaning her big eyes (…). She came back from the garden (…) on entering she proudly looked around. The very winged-like sleeved dress (…) was made of linen decorated with red and blue quadrangles[7].

Her face was a little bit angry and arrogant with a martyred wrinkle on her lips».

Her “martyred” mood was caused by unsolved question: “What am I in the art, what do I have?”[8]. Neither her graduating to Kiev Art school which she some time later (“such hopelessness is in the air there”)[9], nor attending classes in “Yuon studio” and in Tsionglinskiy’s studio could find the answer on that question.  

In 1912 Vera went to Paris where she started to study at Vitti academy under the supervision of Kes van Dongen. An experienced teacher managed to discern Vera’s talent for painting: “It will take you about two years of hard working to become one of the best artists in Paris”. It was curious that for a couple of months Vera missed Valentina Khodasevich in Van Dongen’s studio. Both ladies described that artist and teacher in their memoirs in a very different way. Describing his first coming to the classes Khodasevich underlined maître being absolutely indifferent to his students. The only thing he was pleased of was: “I’m glad there are so many of you here (Vitti gave students to him “one by one”)”[10]. To tell the truth, she said, “of course, he was either disgusting teacher or invaluable one – whatever-whoever”[11].

Of course Khlebnikova considered him to be “invaluable” because “he had gathered from all over the world young souls of those who were thirsty for creative work[12]. Vera mentioned a tradition that existed in Paris: the famous artist taught the lady-student who gave high hopes gratis. She told how much she had drawn from such van Dongen’s lessons and how skillfully he could “heal a soul of a young not yet self-assured artist”[13]. It was a sort of private lessons Valentina Khodasevich should have remembered of.

After Kes van Dongen sudden departure to Egypt Vera left France for Italy to work at Uffizi gallery of Florence. She travelled much about Italy, visited Rome, Venice, Naples and Capri.  

When the war started she more and more often thought of her coming back home to Russia. Her letters are full of homesickness: “…I miss my native Russian forests and swamps. How I would like to fly over the wide field now! I certainly have a noble Kalmyk soul…”[14]. «I always wear Mordovian lace decorated with glass beads on my neck (…) It is something I’m proud of»[15].

She was interested in oriental exotica and mysteries of the Gang and Benares. We don’t yet know much of  Vera Vladimirovna’s life. For instance, do many people know that she translated from Hindu and was invited to India?

Astrakhan (1916-1924) and Moscow (1924-1941) phases of the artist’s life and creative work were highlighted by art critics in details[16]. Not well-known in her lifetime Vera exhibited her works very seldom. People became more interested in them in the end of 1970-s. The exhibitions of her works in Astrakhan (1977), Moscow (1978), Leningrad (1979) had a broad public response and caused interest to her creative work. She was much spoken about as an “artist of extraordinary charm”. A lot of articles, TV shows, monographs, catalogues were devoted to her… 

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.)  P.157

[1] V.N. Verbitskaya to V.A. Khlebnikov. Saint Petersburg The 10-th of January 1892.
[2] I express gratitude to S.K. Botiev for valuable consultation on Vera Khlebnikova’s drawings.
[3] Bobkov S.F. Vera Khlebnikova. Zhivopis. Graphika [Vera Khlebnikova. Painting. Drawings] Moscow. 1987 P.11 (rus.)
[4]. (rus.) V.V. Khlebnikova’s diary in hand-made copy book. Entitled by P.V. Miturich. Without pagination. The collection of the
Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum. Further “Autobiographic notes”.
[5] Ibid
[6] Velimir Khlebnikov about his sister. Published by N.Khardgieva // Zerkalo. 2001  http:/
[7] Spontaneous thirst for cubism. Later in Y.F. Tsionglinsky’s class of the Art encouragement society (Saint-Petersburg, 1910) she would be nicknamed “a lady with squares”.
[8] Chapter «Kiev».
[9] Ibid.
[10] Khodasevich V. Portrety slovami. Ocherki [Portraits in words. Essays] Moscow, 1987 (rus.).
[11] Ibid. P. 79.
[12] Chapter “Astrakhan”.
[13] Ibid.
[14] V.V. Khlebnikova to E.N. Khlebnikova. Paris 1914 .
[15] V.V. Khlebnikova to E.N. Khlebnikova, Paris. 1912
[16] Obuhova L. Vera Vladimirovna Khlebnikova. Zhivopis I grafika [Vera Vladimirovna Khlebnikova. Paintings and drawings] Moscow, 1977; Azarkevich V. Tvorchestvo V.V. Khlebnikovoy [The creative work of V.V. Khlebnikova] Moscow Iskusstvo  Искусство. 1979. № 9. P. 43–47 (rus.); Bobkov S.F. Vera Khlebnikova. Zhivopis. Grafika. [Vera Khlebnikova. Paintings. Drawings.]; Tchegodaeva M.A. Zapovedniy mir Miturichey-Khlebnikovyh. Vera I Petr [Protected world of the Miturich-Klebnikovs. Vera and Petr] Moscow, 2004 (rus.) 


This union was by fortune established in Astrakhan where three worlds – Arian, Indian and Caspian are united, a sort of triangle of Christ, Buddha and Mahomet[1].
Velimir Khlebnikov. "Indorussian union"

Let us stress one historic pattern of that triangle. One of his sides ("Mahomet") was initial: Astrakhan is originally Tatar town.

In August 29, 1554 the tsar Ioann the Grozny [Severe] in Kolomenskoye village got a gift for his name day: in the presence of the metropolitan and other guests he was notified that Astrakhan had been conquered[2].

Three years later Astrakhan was annexed to the Russian State and the first Russians settled there: they were soldiers sent by the tsar to keep the order. Father Superior Kirill, the protégée of the Russian tsar built monasteries and temples there. That was how the second side of the triangle – Christ – was constructed and gradually the third one – "Buddha". The development of trade relationship between Astrakhan and East promoted it.

1616 Asian merchants – and Hindi among them – laid a caravan route to Astrakhan via Mozdok and Terki.

1625 The Hindi built a bazaar in Astrakhan

1645 25 Indian merchants with their goods arrived in Astrakhan

So Khlebnikov's "triangle of Christ, Mahomet and Buddha" had been formed in Astrakhan by the middle of the 17-th century. Let us examine it from the point of view of ethnography. The first side to consider is "Buddha" that does justice to the birthplace of the poet who "was born in October 28, 1885 in the settlement of Mongol nomads professing Buddhism" – settlement of the Khan to be exact, in the steppes – on the dried up bottom of the disappearing Caspian sea..." (Velimir Khlebnikov. [Autobiographic note]) [3].

In his short story "Shall we start our story with childhood?" Khlebnikov wrote: "However it is me, but another me, it is the second me – that Mongol boy who is in deep thought of his people's destiny"[4].

Kakmyks came in Astrakhan from the steppes of Mongolia in the early 17-th century. They established Kalmyk Khanate there (1628-1771) which existed about one century and a half and passed through the golden age during the years of the union between powerful Ayuk-khan and Peter I as well as decline in the reign of Ubashi khan.

In 1771 the greater part of kalmyks left Volga steppes for Jungaria, to the east of Mongolia. After Kalmyk khanate liquidation remained 12 thousand carriages were under pressure of the new governmental system. Christianization of the kalmyks began. The number of Buddhist temples shortened. The spirit of Buddhism revival appeared in the air in the early 20-th century. In the Kalmyk steppes of Astrakhan province there were 98 Buddhist temples and two Buddhist secondary schools.

The new decline began in Soviet times. Atheism attacked Kalmykia like a hurricane and demolished almost all Buddhist temples. In accordance with the Decree of Supreme Council of the USSR from 27-th of December 1943 the Republic of Kalmykia was liquidated and its population was evicted to the East. When they returned to their native land in 1957 they found oud that only stone Khosheutovsky Buddhist temple had remained. It was the very temple Alexander Dumas had visited. However it was already situated in the territory of Astrakhan oblast (Rechnoe village, former Tyumenevka) and didn't belong to Kalmyks anymore. So Kalmykia lost its last temple.

In 1930-s it was closed and in 1940-s it was ruined. Eyewitnesses remembered Buddhist statues being sawn up into pieces (they were mistaken for the golden), utensils and icons being dragged. Sacred books and antique Kalmyk banner with the image of Daychi-tengri disappeared. In 1960-s the building of collective farm required bricks and the chairman ordered to take colonnade and towers of the temple to pieces.

At first it was fitted to a school, then to a storehouse. Afterwards the building it got so dilapidated that could be nothing but a living reproach to our barbarism.

Темнеет степь, вдали хурул
Чернеет тёмной своей кровлей,
И город спит, и мир заснул,
Устав разгулом и торговлей.

What exact khurul did Velimir Khlebnikov tell about in his "Khadji Tarkhan"? It was situated six kilometers away from Astrakhan in Kalmytskiy Bazaar (the present Privolzhye). Kalmytsky bazaar was a picturesque ethnic place: a mix of stone buildings and carriages. On the thresholds Kalmyk women with tobacco pipes between lips. The kids were playing alchiks (sheep bones) with gusto. In the carriages – altars and a box with wooden idols (burkhans). If a Kalmyk was disappointed at his idol he lashed it. Velimir wrote about it:

... где бога секут
И ставят в угол глазами
Во время еды чего-нибудь жирного.
Velimir Khlebnikov. «Uniform book»

Keep on examining the Khlebnikov's triangle. Let's study side "Mahomet". Islamized population of Astrakhan consisted of the Sunni (tatars) and Shi'i (persians). In 1864 there were 14 Muslim mosques in Astrakhan. The Tatar part of the population was the most complicated and numbered 11 ethnic groups: Bukhara Tatars, Gilyan Tatars, Agryzhan Tatars, Yurta Tatars, Kuchergan Tatars, Kazan Tatars, Kundra Tatars, Amesh Tatars, Khivin Tatars, Turkmen Tatars and the local ones.

Nevertheless Khlebnikov seems to have been mostly interested in Persians. Khlebnikov is permanently concerned of the theme of Persia and it erupted in his prose, verses, letters until it reached its culmination in his famous series of verses and in the poem "Gul-mullah's trumpet". Velimir's address to Persia and living East is thought to have begun in Astrakhan.

Trade and opportunity of getting rich quickly attracted Persians in Astrakhan. Many of them were the unknown poor when coming there and 20-30 years later they became millionaires and left. The Persians owned a bazaar and a mosque in Astrakhan. In the City Boys Gymnasium they were taught the Persian language. The newspapers "The Vostochnye izvestia" [Oriental news] and "The aziatsky muzykalny zhournal" [Asian musical magazine] published Persian songs.

Most part of rich Persians were bachelors but took Tatars' wife instead of payback for the debts and in those extramarital relationships, very beautiful children were born: Gilyan (or Persian) Tatars. Velimir wrote:

Водой тот город окружён,
И в нём имеют общих жён.
Велимир Хлебников. «Khadji Tarkhan»

Was it that very local tradition to give to the poet the idea of establishing in Astrakhan "the temple of human species and laws of heredity in order to create a new kind of human beings a future population of Asia through connecting the tribes"? (Velimir Khlebnikov. "Establishment of the People University". )

The Persians didn't celebrate many holidays and the most interesting was the one called "Shakhsey-vakhsey", in memory of Ali, Mahomet's brother-in-law. That day Persians Muslims were grieving. At midnight the procession was moving along the city street accompanied by the sounds of savage music and carrying burning torches. At the head of the procession there was a white horse with a little girl oh its back who was wearing white and her forehead soiled with blood. The procession was accompanied by screaming fanatic Persians who repeated the words "Shakhsey-Vakhsey". The believers were furiously piercing themselves with daggers to the heads and chests, tore their skin down and afterwards they fell bleeding. That cruel religious performance transferred to the Persian "caravan saray" where religious Persians only could watch it.

At last the third side of the triangle: "Christ".

1558. The city of Astrakhan was transported from the plateau bank to the meadow island where it is still situated. That year was the beginning of Russian Astrakhan and gradual Christianization of its population. In 1560 the first Orthodox Cathedral was built there and in 1564 the tsar Ivan the Grozny sent Father Superior Kirill there for building churches and monasteries and establishing schools. That was a beginning of Christianity in Astrakhan. When Velimir lived in Astrakhan there were 34 Orthodox temples there. Some of them influenced Astrakhan topic in his creative work and first of all his poem "Khadgji -Tarkhan".

On arriving in Astrakhan in 1722 Russian Emperor Peter I admired Cathedral of Assumption and said to the Empress Catherine I who accompanied him: "This temple is the most beautiful of all ever built in our state".

The Cathedral Of Assumption was not only extremely beautiful but very rich. It held the most expensive archbishop sacristy in Russia which among numerous antique precious artefacts contained: :

1) A mitre decorated with pearls, rubies, sapphires, emeralds and diamonds, all in all 672 precious stones.
2) A cross decorated with 97 emeralds and diamonds.
3) A silver ladle gifted to the strelets Fyodorov by Peter I.
4) A shroud decorated with gold and silk belonged to Marina Mnishek[5].

After the rise of the Soviet regime the richest archbishop sacristy was devastated and grand eight-tier iconostasis was chopped into pieces by the members of Young Communist League.

At present days Astrakhan has been resurrecting from ash: Orthodox temples, mosques, Buddhist khuruls are being restored, "the triangle of Christ, Buddha and Mahomet" is being reestablished.

After the book: A.A. Mamaev Strannik stoletiy [The wanderer of the centuries] (rus.)

[1] Poeticheskiy mir V. Khlebnikova [Poetic world of V.Khlebnikov] Interuniversity digest of scientific articles Volgograd, 1990 p. 121 (rus.)
[2] Astrahanskaya letopis [Chronicle of Astrakhan]/ compiled by A.Shtylko. Astrakhan 1897 p. 3 (rus.)
[3] Khlebnikov V. Tvoreniya [Creations] Moscow, 1986 P. 641 (rus) Further – Creations with indication of page
[4] Creations P. 542.
[5] For detailed information be sure address to Illustrirovannaya Astrakhan [Illustrated Astrakhan]/ Compiled by A.Shtylko Saratov 1896 P.16 (rus.)

The Khlebnikovs’ Descendants in Moscow and in Astrakhan


May Petrovich Miturich-Khlebnikov (1925-2008) People’s artist of Russia, the great poet’s nephew, a member of Russian Academy of Artists, the State award of Russian Federation winner, he is acknowledged all over the world as a graphic and illustrator of more than one hundred books awarded with diplomas of Russia and medals of international exhibitions in Leipzig and Bratislava. In 2005 he was awarded The Order of Rising Sun (Japan).

May Miturich is Velimir Khlebnikov’s nephew, in 1995 he gifted Khlebnikov’s family collection to Astrakhan which formed the basis of the present Velimir Khlebnikov museum unequalled in the world.

The relationship between May Miturich and the Khlebnikov museum had begun a long time before it was founded. On the initiative of May Miturich in 1977 the temporary exhibition of Vera Khlebnikova’s (his mother) paintings and drawings was on display in the Astrakhan Gallery Of Arts.

When the museum was opened May Petrovich presented it a great deal of things the Miturich-Khlebnikovs had kept for a long time: Velimir’s editions published when he was still alive, his personal belongings, books with his notes, artistic works by Vera Khlebnikova, Petr Miturich and his own ones, family photobook, a part of the Khlebnikovs’ family library and many other things.

Being an essential part of the exposition of the museum this collection made it a unique center of Russian culture.

Vera Maevna Miturich-Khlebnikova, Velimir Khlebnikov’s great-niece, May Petrovich Miturich-Khlebnikov’s daughter. She was born in 1954 in Makhachkala. In 1955 she moved to Moscow and  has been living there since then. In 1972 she graduated from Moscow Art School, then in 1977 – Moscow Institute Of Printing, the faculty of artistic and technique decoration of printed matters. She worked as a teacher of painting and drawing at her institute and at the Bilkent University of Ankara. Since 1985 she has been a member of the USSR Artists’ union. Vera Maevna showed her works at the numerous exhibitions, now her works are on display both in state museums and in private collections. She has illustrated many books including some books for kids. In particular “Stihotvoreniya Velimira Khlebnikova” [Velimir Khlebnikov’s verses] (Moscow, Sovetskaya Rossiya publishing, 1988) (rus.). For many years Vera Maevna kept on popularizing creative works by her grandmother (Vera Vladimirovna Khlebnikova), grandfather (Petr Vasilyevich Miturich) and father. She is the author and curator of a great number of exhibition projects. Her daughter Maria Sumnina, born in 1977, is an artist. She was born in Moscow, graduated from Moscow Institute of printing. In 2001 coupled with Mikhail Leykin they organized duet MISHMASH and have been taking part in numerous National and International exhibitions and art-projects.   

Drozdova (Zabelova) Natalya Alexandrovna, a great-niece of the famous poet Velimir Khlebnikov.  She was born in 1953 in Astrakhan.

In 1970 she finished school №59 with honours, then in 1977 she graduated from the S.M. Kirov Teachers’ Training Institute, the faculty of History and Philology, with honours too. Since 1977 she taught History at the local Technical University. Since 1982 to 1986 she was a PhD student of the Kuibyshev University. In 1986 she became a Doctor of History and taught at the Technical University and other universities.

N.A. Drozdova wrote more than thirty scientific articles. She is the mother to two sons: Alexander, born in 1977 and Vyacheslav, born in 1988, the lawyers. Natalya Alexandrovna supplemented the collection of the museum with family photos and documents including university diploma certificate of Boris Lavrentyevich Khlebnikov (Velimir’s godfather), gymnasium school-leaving certificate of Lavrentiy Alexeevich Khlebnikov and many other.   

Vladimir Alexandrovich Zabelov, the poet’s great-nephew, N.A. Drozdova’s brother.

He was born in March 14, 1947 in Poltava. Since 1954 till 1961 he studied at school № 59, in 1965 he graduated from Astrakhan College Of Civil Engineering. He served in the army in Engineering forces in Rostov oblast. In 1969 he entered Astrakhan Technical University, the department of power ship plants, the mechanics faculty, waiting for the opening of Engineering faculty. Without waiting for the establishment of the faculty he studied for 3 years and afterwards he entered the Volgograd Institute Of Civil Engineering and finished it in 1977. Then building engineer he took part in the construction of Aksaraysk (1981-1984), Kirikili industrial area (the present neighborhood Babaevsky), in the reconstruction of palm-tree greenhouse in the cinema “Octyabr” (1971) and the new building of the same cinema (1974). In 2008 then a CEO for the state enterprise “Astrakhanavtodorproject” he retired on a pension. He has a son whose name is Andrey, born 01.11.1981 (motor mechanic).    

Sobko (Tchertkova) Larisa Mikhailovna, Velimir Khlebnikov’s great-great-niece. She was born in 1954 in Astrakhan. She finished school №40 and then graduated from Taganrog Institute of Radio Engineering. She worked at the mechanical engineering factory “Progress” and then at the Information technologies research institute. Afterwards she worked as a deputy director for the office of interaction with local authorities at Astrakhan oblast Governor’s administration. She has a degree of Doctor of Economics. She has two children. Her daughter Olga, born in 1977 is a Doctor of medicine, her son Evgeniy, born in 1984 is a physicist-theorist.    
Larisa Mikhaylovna Tchertkova (Sobko) supplemented the Khlebnikov house-museum with several family photos and a copy of “memorial book” belonged to her great-grandmother Larisa Lavrentyevna Khlebnikova (Mikhaylovskaya). 

May Miturich-Khlebnikov (1925-2008)

He was born in May 1925 in the family of artists Petr Miturich and Vera Khlebnikova, happy parents named him May. It was nice and symbolic: May, spring, revival of the fading Khlebnikovs’ dynasty. In his birth certificate, his double surname Miturich-Khlebnikov was written down. He never thought of a problem: what to become. Vera firmly decided that “she wouldn’t be engaged in bringing up an accountant but devote herself to an artist only”[1]. Miturichs’paintings and drawings hung on the walls of their single-room apartment. It was the first art gallery for little May. 

Soon he began drawing and molding little figures of plasticine. The parents were happy to see every his new drawing and his father formed and cast in plaster May’s plasticine little figures (“goat”, “baby-wolf”, “deer”). The Miturichs family still keep them.      

One day May saw a toy stove and a little tram; on coming home he sat down to draw. “I will send my drawings to “The Pioneer” magazine and earn money to buy some toys”, - he said to his father. His father got upset and said: “Son! Never draw for money. I will earn some for you. I will give you enough money to buy both stove and tram”[2].

Nevertheless may managed to find himself in “The pioneer”. When he was a fourth-form student, his friend and him constructed a moving tram crowded with funny paper passengers. “The Pioneer” magazine published an article on this technical miracle and a photo of the young inventors. The guys were given diplomas and bars of chocolate as a prize[3].

He undertook his first experience in oil painting at the age of thirteen during his trip to the Caucasus and Dzhubga. He spent much time sitting on the seashore and painting with his mother Vera, trying to imitate her artistic manner. He adopted much of her skills. As Petr Miturich said, “she had conveyed her sense of the world to him by blood and thoughts”[4]. Several years later his father wrote him in the letter to the army: “Son, remember your extraordinary mother”[5]. May remembered her all his life and knew that she had been extraordinary. She died just before the war in the 19th of January, 1941. That day the father took the shocked May to the movies, otherwise the boy would not have survived that.    

In July 1941 May together with other ninth-form boys dug tank ditches near Smolensk. They were digging ditches from morning till night with no relaxation. They “had a break” only when German aircrafts appeared in the sky.  

Moscow again, penurious portions of ersatz bread on meal tickets. Frozen potatoes seemed to be a sort of delicacy. However “military men” who were coming outside from the secret distributing center in Lubyanka str. carried net bags full of scarce products. On the Kuznetsky bridge near the workshops of Russian Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) one can see venerable Kukrynyks (a group of artists namely Kupriyanov, Krylov, Sokolov) walking dressed in luxurious fur coats (they were former students of Petr Miturich whom he asked for help in vain when he fell from grace[6]).

Afterwards May enlisted in the army brigade of decorators. Painting posters and mottos as well as portraits of marshals and state leaders was not his only commitment. He learnt to collect and strip a rifle, to drive a car. At the time of breaking the Leningrad blockade, he worked as a refueler. The brigade passed through the hottest scents of attacks under artillery fire. May witnessed a terrible Dnieper traffic, tank cemetery near Kursk. In May 1945 he celebrated his birthday in Berlin where he painted one of his best sketches “Outskirts of Berlin - Alt Fridreche Felde”. He was twenty years old and had an order and three medals on his tunic. The artists of the same age had been dying before his eyes but he survived to the victorious May, to the month his namesake. The very name as if it was a talisman saved him.  

After the war he worked as a typographic designer and studied extramurally at the Moscow Institute of printing. One day his father caught him red handed learning Mayakovski’s verses by heart and argued: “How dare they make you learn Mayakovski’s poems by heart! Tell them that you are Khlebnikov”[7]. So he had to memorize Mayakovski’s verses under cover.  

On graduating from the Institute, he evolved from an ordinary typographic designer to a well-known artist, a member of the Art Academy. Let us emphasize his most important achievements. May Miturich illustrated more than one hundred books awarded both in Russia and in International exhibitions in Leipzig and Bratislava.

In 1960-s he was a professor and head of the chair at the Moscow Institute Of Printing. In 1970-s and 1980-s he travelled much about deserts of Central Asia, Caucasian subtropics, the White sea, the Kuriles and the Kommander Islands. During his travelling he made hundreds of drawings and water-color paintings.     

He was conferred with the rank of People’s artist. After his two years’ sojourn in Japan in 1990-s May Miturich painted a series of water-color landscapes and illustrated a book of Japanese fairy tales. In 2005 he was awarded the Order of Rising Sun.   

In 2000 for the retrospective exhibition which took place in Moscow and was dedicated to the fiftieth anniversary of his creative activities May Miturich was awarded to the Gold Medal of Russian Academy of Arts. In 2005 he won the Boris Kustodiev Award and donated his prize money to the Khlebnikov museum. He constantly stood up for this museum and informed that he was trying to obtain appointment with Russian Minister Of Culture to negotiate donation Vera Khlebnikova’s painting from Russian Museum to the Khlebnikov museum. He supplemented its collection with manuscripts of S.Marshak’s verses, he called for active advertising of the museum: “Few know about it. Six months ago I met with Voznesenski and told him about the museum. It was the first time he had heard about it and he threatened to come to Astrakhan (he might have forgotten)”[8]. May Miturich also wrote about his creative trips to Japan, Spain, Greece, The Himalayas…To quote one of his letters: “I went to The Himalayas by a special invitation of The Roerich Society. I painted fifty-five big watercolors works for the month. I lived in Maharajah’s palace built five hundred and six years ago and one could see Roerich’s home on the mountain from there. That house is a place for the museum. It is headed by a bold and eccentric old lady named Ursula. She wears cavalryman’s trousers and rides on a horseback around her domain. And domain is considerable: the mere Roerich’s garden consists of 1600 apple trees”[9]. There in the Himalayas May Petrovich marked his seventieth birthday.

Every new year he sent hand-made colored postcards to the Khlebnikov museum with the images either of a sad little mouse (The Year of the Rat) or quarrelsome cock (The Year of the Rooster) or Dragon or Dog. 

The last letter from him came on February 13, 2008.

On June 30, 2008 Vera Maevna sent an e-mail saying: “My father died last night”…

Among the spots of the Khlebnikov museum there is a Living-room, Velimir’s study, The room of Vera Khlebnikova’s painting. There is also May Miturich verandah where on the poster one can see the smiling face of the artist, jasmines and sunflowers shining on his paintings and reflections of the sun flickering around them. Children’s voices are coming around when the tour is on. And it means that life goes on.  

After the book: A.A. Mamaev “V Hlebnikove est vsyo…” [Khlebnikov includes everything] Researches. Articles. – Astrakhan. 2010 (rus.) 

[1] Miturich P.V. Zapiski surovogo realista epohi avangarda. Dnevniki. Pisma. Vospominania. Statyi. [The notes of severe realist of the vanguard age. Diaries. Letters. Memories. Articles] Moscow, 1997 P.74 (rus.)
[2] V.V. Khlebnikova to V.A. Khlebnikov. 19-th of March 1929. The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.
[3] Tchegodaeva M.A. Zapovedniy mir Miturichey-Khlebnikovyh. Vera I Petr [Protected world of the Miturich-Klebnikovs. Vera and Petr] Moscow, 2004 P.257 (rus.).
[4] Miturich P.V. Zapiski surovogo realista epohi avangarda. Dnevniki. Pisma. Vospominania. Statyi. [The notes of severe realist of the vanguard age. Diaries. Letters. Memories. Articles] Moscow, 1997 … P. 97.
[5] Ibid. P. 144.
[6] Tchegodaeva M.A. Zapovedniy mir Miturichey-Khlebnikovyh. Vera I Petr [Protected world of the Miturich-Klebnikovs. Vera and Petr] Moscow, 2004. P. 270, 271. (rus.)
[7] Ibid. P. 343.
[8] Miturich M.P. to Mamaev A.A. 09.23.1997 The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
[9] Miturich M.P. to Mamaev A. A. 07. 19.1996 The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum.



A.I. Khlebnikov, the poet’s grandfather. <br>From the family photo book. A.I. Khlebnikov, the poet’s grandfather. <br>From the family photo book.
A.I. Khlebnikov, the poet’s grandfather.
From the family photo book.
Ekaterina Khlebnikova a student of grammar-school. <br>From the family photo-book Ekaterina Khlebnikova a student of grammar-school. <br>From the family photo-book
Ekaterina Khlebnikova a student of grammar-school.
From the family photo-book
Ekaterina Khlebnikova. From the family photo-book Ekaterina Khlebnikova. From the family photo-book
Ekaterina Khlebnikova. From the family photo-book
The postcard reproduces the painting by F.A. Bruni “Horace killing his sister Camilla in a burst of anger”.
<br>From the collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum The postcard reproduces the painting by F.A. Bruni “Horace killing his sister Camilla in a burst of anger”.
<br>From the collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
The postcard reproduces the painting by F.A. Bruni “Horace killing his sister Camilla in a burst of anger”.
From the collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
Boris Khlebnikov. A fragment of family photo Boris Khlebnikov. A fragment of family photo
Boris Khlebnikov. A fragment of family photo
The Khlemnikovs in Pomaevo. 1898 (?). <br>Alexander Khlebnikov – rightmost in a lower row The Khlemnikovs in Pomaevo. 1898 (?). <br>Alexander Khlebnikov – rightmost in a lower row
The Khlemnikovs in Pomaevo. 1898 (?).
Alexander Khlebnikov – rightmost in a lower row
Alexander Khlebnikov on the top of Taganay mountain in the Urals not far from Zlatoust. 1905. <br>The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum Alexander Khlebnikov on the top of Taganay mountain in the Urals not far from Zlatoust. 1905. <br>The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
Alexander Khlebnikov on the top of Taganay mountain in the Urals not far from Zlatoust. 1905.
The collection of the Velimir Khlebnikov house-museum
Vera Khlebnikova. The drawing made in childhood, pencil on paper 14х12. <br>KM (The Khlebnikov museum), Г-483. Vera Khlebnikova. The drawing made in childhood, pencil on paper 14х12. <br>KM (The Khlebnikov museum), Г-483.
Vera Khlebnikova. The drawing made in childhood, pencil on paper 14х12.
KM (The Khlebnikov museum), Г-483.
Vera Khlebnikova (on the left) with her father V.A. Khlebnikov Vera Khlebnikova (on the left) with her father V.A. Khlebnikov
Vera Khlebnikova (on the left) with her father V.A. Khlebnikov
Mosque. Antique postcard Mosque. Antique postcard
Mosque. Antique postcard
Buddhist temple (khurul). Antique postcard Buddhist temple (khurul). Antique postcard
Buddhist temple (khurul). Antique postcard
Persian mosque. Antique postcard Persian mosque. Antique postcard
Persian mosque. Antique postcard
Ioann Zlatoust Church Ioann Zlatoust Church
Ioann Zlatoust Church
Собко (Черткова) Лариса Михайловна Собко (Черткова) Лариса Михайловна
Собко (Черткова) Лариса Михайловна
П.В. Митурич. Май Митурич. 1945 П.В. Митурич. Май Митурич. 1945
П.В. Митурич. Май Митурич. 1945
М.П. Митурич. 1970-е годы М.П. Митурич. 1970-е годы
М.П. Митурич. 1970-е годы