The museum guide


Room 1. «Ancestry»

The main idea of the room is the Khlebnikovs’ ancestry. Astrakhan is a native city for the poet’s ancestors. Members of the regional Duma, merchants, ship-owners Khlebnikov had done much for prosperity of Astrakhan and thus deserved the titles of hereditary and honorable citizens. The exhibition display includes antique lithographs, picture postcards of Astrakhan, the Khlebnikovs’ genealogical tree, the photo of the family vault, copies of family documents. “The Khlebnikovs” collection presented here contains the chart of Astrakhan province (the property of V.A. Khlebnikov, the poet’s father) and the family photobook that is worth telling about in details.       

The antique leather-bound photobook metallic clasp partly lost contains 87 photos mostly made in Kazan, Simbirsk, Astrakhan where the poet’s parents used to live. Here are some of the photos from the family photobook:

1. Alexey Ivanovich Khlebnikov (1801-1871), the poet’s grandfather. A merchant, ship-owner:

«Лик его помню, суровый и бритый,
Стада ладей пастуха…»

– we read in his poem “Khadji-Tarkhan”. 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. The photo seems to have been made before his death when after physical discomfort had made Alexei Khlebnikov sell his fleet and left for Jerusalem on pilgrimage. There he died and now his body lies in the family vault in Astrakhan.

2. Vladimir Alexeevich Khlebnikov (1857-1934), the poet’s father. Ornithologist. “My father was the greatest lover of Darwin and Tolstoy and also bird connoisseur, he devoted his life to bird-watching” (Velimir Khlebnikov. Responses to S.A. Vengerov’s questionnaire). The scientist’s lifework was the first in Soviet Russia state reserve in the Volga delta; V.A. Khlebnikov was its co-initiator and the first director. There is his rare photo made in Tsaritsyn in the family photobook. 

The photos of the poet’s brothers and sisters are of a great rarity now. There are some of them in the family photobook.

3. Ekaterina Vladimirovna Khlebnikova (1883-1924), the oldest sister. She was a dentist. She had been a private practitioner but Soviet authorities forced her to surrender all the expensive tools. After being deprived of her favorite employment and livelihood she fell in psychiatric disorder and died at two-and-forty.

4. Alexander Vladimirovich Khlebnikov (1887-1920) Velimir’s younger brother. He was an ornithologist, an ichthyologist and a military engineer. During the World War I he served in the artillery in a rank of warrant officer. After October Revolution Alexander was mobilized to the Red Army and went missing during the war in Polish front. The fate of his scientific researches still remains unknown. Some of them are very important. For example his observation of fish coloration foreshadowed some concepts of modern bionics. [1].

[1] For detailed information see: Khlebnikov A.V. Letters to the relatives. 1905-1916. Publication and commentaries by I.Ermakova and R.Duganov// Volga. 1987 (rus.)

Room 2. «The living room»

The second room is dedicated to the various interests of the Khlebnikovs’ family given as a whole. The special stand demonstrates printed works by V.A. Khlebnikov, such as “The list of the birds dwelling in Astrakhan province” and under is a bright “Certificate of honor” of the scientist being awarded with Big Silver Medal for the collection of birds (800 exhibits) at the Kazan Industrial Exhibition of 1890. Among the family documents the most interesting is “Certificate of The Red Cross nurse” given to E.N. Verbitskaya, the poet’s mother. She had studied at The Saint Petersburg Smolny Institute for Noble Maidens, spoke several foreign languages, and could play the piano. However, in spite of her parents objections she studied for a Sister of mercy and went to the Russo-Turkish war. Her daughter Vera asserted that Ekaterina Nikolaevna had nursed a number of the wounded who were, the doctors said, hopeless cases.  

The most remarkable family relics are Velimir’s cup, a plate with the Verbitskys’ coat-of-arms, genuine artistic works of the children (Vera’s “Portrait of the father”, Velimir’s “Plaster mask”, Alexander’s ”The sailors of “The Potemkin””).

The room widely presents the library containing books written in six languages and characterizing intelligence and breadth of their owners’ knowledge: books on ornithology, silvics, history, mathematics, geography, psychology, anatomy, biology, astronomy with all the family member’s notes.

The poet made his notes in six books of the family library. The digest “Our neighbors and some other the most important countries” (Moscow, 1913) is all covered with his mathematical treatments. On the threshold of the World War I he studied that book with a special attention. He thought that it was all about two numbers – 317 and 365 – two hypostases of his created “law of time”. By calculating his law the poet hoped to protect mankind from future catastrophes – wars and revolutions.  

In the “Children’s corner” one can see unique photos from the Khlebnikovs’ family photobook: Velimir Khlebnikov in his infancy (Malye Derbety), Velimir Khlebnikov at the age of 4 (Astrakhan), Velimir Khlebnikov with his brothers and sisters (Pomaevo, Simbirsk province) and some other. 

Room 3. «Vera's room»

Room 3 presents Vera Khlebnikova’s drawings. Here, in her parents’ home Vera Vladimirovna lived for eight years (1916-1924). She came to Astrakhan when she was already a well-known artist who had received a proper training of such outstanding painters as K.F. Yuon in Moscow, Y.F. Tsioglinsky in Saint-Petersburg and Kes van Dongen in Paris.   

Vera Khlebnikova’s graphic arts is represented by her drawings “A girl wearing a bonnet”, “Free trade or the painter’s family is choosing their grave” (the drawing reflects tragic years of the New Economic Policy), “Orpheus in hell” (the work is executed at Velimir Khlebnikov’s request) and some other. The collection and funds of the museum contain 16 paintings and 80 drawings by Vera Khlebnikova and most of them have never exhibited so far. Art historians have not investigated child’s and youth’s phases of her creativity: “Self-portrait”, 12 years old (oil on canvas); child album with life sketches (pencil on paper); “The portrait of the father travelling along the Volga” (gouache on cardboard); four watercolor paintings illustrating fairy tales which had been long thought to be missing and were found among Velimir’s belongings after his death.   

There are a lot of genuine exhibits in “Vera’s room”: a lock of her child hair, postcards from Florence; paperweight made of the Vesuvius clinker; Vera’s Russian and Italian verses; her “Astrakhan diary”[1] of Revolution and Civil War time. Vera’s watercolor illustrations for Velimir Khlebnikov’s poem “Misery of the woods” occupy a particular place in the exhibition display.

[1]The title is conventional.

Room 4. «Velimir's room»

The room four. “Velimir’s room” - is the only room of the wandering poet in the world. The poet Rurik Ivnev who was there in 1918 recollected: “There was silence of a very special kind, the room seemed to be taken out of the town and transferred to the uninhabited wilderness”[1]. This “special” (now museum) silence embraces anyone who enters the poet’s room. It looks like Velimir Khlebnikov’s creative laboratory. There are copies of his drafts  on the walls of the room in which one can notice his word-creative searching from the desire of “freely smelting Slavonic words” to the idea of “the star language” whose purpose is to unite the mankind, his thoughts of poetry and science. According to N.N. Punin “Khlebnikov is a stem of the century. We were growing through it like branches”. Time confirmed such a high estimation.    

Multimedia project “Hunger of space or Velimir’s room” has been implemented in the museum since 2013. This project became a winner of the grant contest “Changing museum in a changing world” held by Vladimir Potanin Foundation (the project supervisor M.V. Emelina). With the aid of clipboard computer afforded by the museum the visitors can make a virtual “trip” around the space of Velimir Khlebnikov’s creativity. Interaction between visitors and the museum exhibits is based on the technology of supplemented reality, the information rendered in any suitable for a visitor form – fragments of video and audio files, images or text documents. As soon as a visitor reach the I-pad to the exhibit indicated in the guide-book, whether it be mathematic problem, a part of the manuscript written on the wall or something else and he will listen to Khlebnikov’s compositions sounding from the I-pad, stories about his searching for “the law of time” and watch some video based on Velimir’s works. The virtual trip as well the exhibition display itself are based on two main hypostases of Velimir’s creativity – Word and Number.

The walls of The Room are decorated with fragments of Velimir’s manuscripts and drawings, graphic works by Stepan Botiev, cover models of “Boards of destiny” and “Zangezi”, spatial graphic works by P.Miturich, models of bricks for his “Star alphabet”. In this very room the poet wrote a number of his compositions: the poem “Khadzhi-Tarkhan”, the article “Astrakhan Giokonda”, short story “Esir”, the tale “Ka” and some other.  

Among Khlebnikov’s personal belongings exhibited in this room the most interesting are: a small chest (a cartridge box to be exact) Khlebnikov brought from the World War I where served as a private. Inside the “chest” there is his soldier picture; two Astrakhan bread tickets dated 1917; silk-drawing “Furious lion” and original note written by Khlebnikov: “This is me before going to the military college”: a drawing by ten-year old Vera “A little squirrel” the poet never parted with.  

“The poet’s desk”[2] with the surface made of glass (that makes its contents easy to observe) contains a book of Walt Whitman’s poems Khlebnikov had taken took with him everywhere he went and which was found in his belongings after his death. He read this set of Walt Whitman’s poems (Moscow,1919) precisely and thoroughly. Velimir appreciated that American genius of poetry. Whitman’s pantheism, his junction with nature had something in common with his “Union Book”. Khlebnikov appreciated Whitman’s poetic innovations, vers libre in particular. This book of Whitman’s poems is very much worn by time: its cover is missing, its title page and ten sheets are missing too. There is Khlebnikov’s autograph on page 102. 

Besides that in “The poet’s desk” we can see two wooden toy-figures (Ioann the Grozny and Country woman) he bought in Sergiev Posad in 1916; two postcards from his private collection and his comb.

[1]Ivnev R. Lotos. Izbrannoe. [Lotus. Selected works] Moscow, 1988 (rus.)
[2]The name is conventional.

Room 5. «The hall of Velimir Khlebnikov»

The main idea of Room 5 is to show Velimir Khlebnikov’s role in the world literature. “The futurism corner” introduces the circle of the poet’s creative cooperation with his futurists-partners namely V.Mayakovski, D.Burlyuk, V.Kamenski, A.Kruchenikh and other. On the stands, we can see his editions published when he was still alive, his works translated into English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Portuguese, Hungarian and other languages. Velimir Khlebnikov’s work “Boards of fate” (1922) is singled out for special mention as there the poet proudly proclaimed “laws of time” he had discovered. He is known to have predicted a great number of key turning events of coming decades.  

Personal belongings of V.Khlebnikov include a hand-made pen of dried willow twig (he used it for writing his article “A willow branch”) and a necktie presented by V.Mayakovski. The editions published when Khlebnikov was still alive are unique: “Velimir Khlebnikov’s bulletin №1” (Moscow, 1922) signed “Velimir the First”, “The trumpet of the Martians”, “Time-digest the fourth” and “Sight at 1923”.

Unfortunately the drawing by Vera Khlebnikova “Velimir wearing Mordovian cap” (1911) is shown as a replica. On the other hand the cap itself has remained. It was May Petrovich Miturich-Khlebnikov, Vera’s son, who gave that cap to the museum. He also wrote its description: “This is a woman headdress made of wrapper, embroidered with colored wool, glass beads, small shells and a necklace on a small chain”.  

“The Futurism corner” adjoins Petr Miturich’s three-side bricks (“the star alphabet of Velimir Khlebnikov”). There is a bronze bust of the poet made by V.Klykov in the center of the hall.  

Room 6. «The end of Velimir's life»

Room 6. In spring 1922 Velimir went to Santalovo village, Novgorod province. There he fell ill. His close friend – the artist Petr Miturich – took him to hospital of Krestsy town, he did all he could to save the poet’s life but at the age of 36 Velimir died.

He died on 28 June 1922 and was buried in Ruchyi village. The exhibition display of the room (in fact it is an enfilade) shows replicas of the drawings by Petr Miturich depicting the last hours of the poet’s life (“The last word “yes””, “Khlebnikov on his deathbed”, “The bathhouse” (where Velimir died), “Funeral” and other).

Besides that the exhibition display introduces a plank (a little part of that very bathhouse) and jubilee medal of Astrakhan sculptor Boris Medvedev devoted to the 100th  anniversary of Khlebnikov.  

Room 7. «The Khlebnikov verandah»

Room 7. Verandah is a kind of relaxation area and a place where chamber poetic soirees are held. It is also a place for meetings of poets, musicians, artist who call themselves – TVORYANE (creators).  Temporary exhibitions, authorial presentations, literature studios, poetic soirees, master-classes and “word-creating games”, museum classes for kids, international and regional creative contests and museum projects also take place here. 


Room 8. «The room of paintings by Vera Khlebnikova»

Vera Khlebnikova (1890-1941) – an artist, Velimir’s younger sister. He valued her artistic works.

The best works by the artist are shown in the Room:

«Mermaids» (1920). The mermaids are looking at the drowned oriental knight with curiosity and admiration. Numerous shades of white give an impression of nacre-color water surface.

 “The old and the young” (1923). Sinister ugly old woman is leaning over thin, stem-like silhouette of a girl. Here the painter achieved a top expression and complex color spectrum.

“The artist’s path” (1923). The subject of painting refers to the myth of Prometheus. Predatory birds are tormenting a woman-artist. The path of artist is very thorny. Vera painted this picture when the Civil War was going on without having any qualitative canvas and colors. The surface of the painting became dark with time.   

“Self-portrait” (1910). Khlebnikova painted this self-portrait when she was 19 years old and studied in the art-studio of Y.F. Tsionglinsky shortly before her leaving for Paris where she would enter the Kes van Dongen’s studio.

“Passage of the herring” (1931). Khlebnikova painted this five-meter panel picture in Moscow; it was commissioned by Fishing section of Polytechnic museum. An excellent panel picture is entirely filled with a shoal of the coming up herring. Like almost all the paintings by Vera Khlebnikova this one “is done in monochrome wondrous iron-grey color sparkling with numerous subtle shades” (M.Chegodaeva).    

Room 9. «The room of Vera Khlebnikova's drawings»

The Room presents graphic works by Vera Khlebnikova: “A grandfather, a grandmother and their grandson” (1927), “A Sketch for the Portrait of Gogol’s mother” (1930), “Self-portrait” (1935), “A coat on the hat-stand” (1937) and some other. And also “A Sketch of the Illustration for the poem by E.Bagritsky “The Thought of Opanas” (1935).  

Room 10. «The room of Petr Miturich's drawings»

Petr Miturich (1887-1956) was a painter, art-theorist and an inventor. He admired Velimir’s creative works. Vera Khlebnikova’s husband.

The room presents miscellaneous creativity of the painter in which abstract graphic elements adjoin naturalistic works (portraits, landscapes).  

The cycle “Down the Volga” (1946), “Portrait of Velimir Khlebnikov” (with antlers on his head) (1955), “Silhouettes” (copied by May Miturich 1966), Astrakhan sketches. As well as “spatial graphics”: strokes and lines drawn on Geometric figures and the whole installations made of cardboard and thick paper. Among well-known works of the painter the museum partially presents his “dictionary” consisted of 200 bricks (“the star alphabet” of Velimir).   

Some belongings are displayed in the glass case. They are a pencil-box, a paint-box, graphitic pencil and some other.   

Room 11. «May Miturich Verandah»

May Miturich (1925-2008) is the People’s artist of Russia, a son of Vera Khlebnikova and Petr Miturich. 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. He gained international recognition as a graphic artist and illustrator of more than one hundred books awarded both in Russia and in International exhibitions in Leipzig and Bratislava. In 2005 he was awarded with the Order of Rising Sun (Japan).  

The artistic works by May Miturich painted in different periods of his life are displayed at the verandah: “A portrait of a daughter” (1967), “Green noise” (1979), “The silence” (1988), “Light forest” (1989), “Cold evening” (1992-2000), “A branch of rowan-tree” (1995) etc.   

Inside the glass case one can see some belongings of the painter: hand-made pouch with the name “May” embroidered by his mother and a woven doll. And also hand-made postcards which May Petrovich sent to the Khlebnikov museum for many years before New Year’s Day.   

Room 12. «The Room of Stepan Botiev's drawing»

Stepan Botiev is a modern Kalmyk sculptor and painter. In 1995 he was awarded with Silver Medal of Russian Academy of Arts for the monument to Velimir Khlebnikov in Malye Derbety (The Republic of Kalmykia). A three-meter and 20 cm high monument is made of bronze. Made without pedestal it resembles a wanderer who is walking along the steppes. In this work the sculptor made a strenuous effort to create “not only the image of a wandering poet but a pilgrim of spirit”.

The museum collection presents several models of the monument to Velimir made of different materials (wood, metal). The permanent exhibition display of the graphic works by Stepan Botiev “The field of Khlebnikov” is also on show.  

Room 13. «The museum library»

The Khlebnikov museum holds a very rich library replying the enquires for the information of Khlebnikov from other cities of Russia and foreign countries alike. It presents the books both by luminary Russian Khlebnikov researchers and the works from all over the world – France, Netherlands, Brazil, Italy, USA. 

 The museum library contains compositions by Velimir Khlebnikov in Russian and foreign languages, literature about the poet and selected books on vanguard art and futurism. Besides that the museum edits independent literary newspaper “The Khlebnikovskaya verandah”, books on Velimir and Vera Khlebnikovs.   

The academic rating of the museum is very high, the materials are published in the journals of The Institute of The World Literature of Moscow, The State Russian Museum (Saint-Petersburg) universities of Amsterdam, Lion, Florence, San-Paolo, Bristol. These materials are also available at the library.