Download 144 Beautiful Books of Russian Futurism: Mayakovsky, Malevich, Khlebnikov & More (1910–30)


In the years after World War II, the CIA made use of jazz musi­cians, abstract expres­sion­ist painters, and exper­i­men­tal writ­ers to pro­mote avant-garde Amer­i­can cul­ture as a Cold War weapon. At the time, down­ward cul­tur­al com­par­isons with Sovi­et art were high­ly cred­i­ble.

Many years of repres­sive Stal­in­ism and what Isa­iah Berlin called “the new ortho­doxy” had reduced so much Russ­ian art and lit­er­a­ture to didac­tic, homog­e­nized social real­ism. But in the years fol­low­ing the first World War and the Russ­ian Rev­o­lu­tion, it would not have been pos­si­ble to accuse the Sovi­ets of cul­tur­al back­ward­ness.


The first three decades of the twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry pro­duced some of the most inno­v­a­tive art, film, dance, dra­ma, and poet­ry in Russ­ian his­to­ry, much of it under the ban­ner of Futur­ism, the move­ment begun in Italy in 1909 by F.T. Marinet­ti. Like the Ital­ian Futur­ists, these avant-garde Russ­ian artists and poets were, writes, “pre­oc­cu­pied with urban imagery, eccen­tric words, neol­o­gisms, and exper­i­men­tal rhymes.” One of the movement’s most inven­tive mem­bers, Velimir Khleb­nikov, wrote poet­ry that ranged from “dense and pri­vate neol­o­gisms to exot­ic verse­forms writ­ten in palin­dromes.” Most of his poet­ry “was too impen­e­tra­ble to reach a pop­u­lar audi­ence,” and his work includ­ed not only exper­i­ments with lan­guage on the page, but also avant-garde indus­tri­al sound record­ing.


Khlebnikov’s exper­i­ments in lin­guis­tic sound and form became known as “Zaum,” a word that can be trans­lat­ed as “tran­srea­son,” or “beyond sense.” He pio­neered his tech­niques with anoth­er major Futur­ist poet, Alek­sei Kruchenykh, who may have been, writes Mono­skop, “the most rad­i­cal poet of Russ­ian Futur­ism.” The most famous name to emerge from the move­ment, Vladimir Mayakovsky, embod­ied Futur­is­m’s con­fi­dent indi­vid­u­al­ism, his poet­ics “a mix­ture of extrav­a­gant exag­ger­a­tions and self-cen­tered and ardu­ous imagery.” Mayakovsky made a name for him­self as an actor, painter, poet, film­mak­er, and play­wright. Even Stal­in, who would soon pre­side over the sup­pres­sion of the Russ­ian avant-garde, called Mayakovsky after his death in 1930 “the best and most tal­ent­ed poet of the Sovi­et epoch.”


Mono­skop points us toward a siz­able online archive of 144 dig­i­tal­ly scanned Futur­ist pub­li­ca­tions, includ­ing major works by Khleb­nikov, Kruchenykh, Mayakovsky, and oth­er Futur­ist poets, writ­ers, and artists. There’s even a crit­i­cal essay by the impos­ing Russ­ian painter and founder of the aus­tere school of Supre­ma­tism, Kaz­imir Male­vich. All of the texts are in Russ­ian, as is the site that hosts them—the State Pub­lic His­tor­i­cal Library of Rus­sia—though if you load it in Google Chrome, you can trans­late the titles and the accom­pa­ny­ing bib­li­o­graph­ic infor­ma­tion.

You can also down­load full pages in high-res­o­lu­tion. Many of the texts include strong visu­al ele­ments, such as the cov­er at the top from a mul­ti-author col­lec­tion titled Radio, fea­tur­ing Mayakovsky, whose own books include pho­to mon­tages like the two fur­ther up. Just above, see the cov­er of Khleb­nikov and Kruchenykh’s Vin­tage Love, which includes many more such sketch­es. And below, the cov­er of a 1926 book by Kruchenykh called On the Fight Against Hooli­gan­ism in Lit­er­a­ture.


Although “state con­trol was absolute through­out” Sovi­et his­to­ry, these artists flour­ished before Trotsky’s fall in 1928, wrote Isa­iah Berlin in his 1945 pro­file of Russ­ian art; there was “a vast fer­ment in Sovi­et thought, which dur­ing those ear­ly years was gen­uine­ly ani­mat­ed by the spir­it of revolt against, and chal­lenge to, the arts of the West.” The Par­ty came to view this peri­od as “the last des­per­ate strug­gle of cap­i­tal­ism” and the Futur­ists would soon be over­thrown, “by the strong, young, mate­ri­al­ist, earth­bound, pro­le­tar­i­an culture”—a cul­ture imposed from above in the mid-30s by the Writ­ers’ Union and the Cen­tral Com­mit­tee.

Thus began the regret­table per­se­cu­tions and purges of artists and dis­si­dents of all kinds, and the move­ment toward the Stal­in­ist per­son­al­i­ty cult and “col­lec­tive work on Sovi­et themes by squads of pro­le­tar­i­an writ­ers.” But dur­ing the first quar­ter of the cen­tu­ry, “a time of storm and stress,” Russ­ian lit­er­a­ture and art, Berlin adjudged, “attained its great­est height since its clas­si­cal age of Pushkin, Ler­mon­tov, and Gogol.”

via Mono­skop

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear Russ­ian Futur­ist Vladimir Mayakovsky Read His Strange & Vis­cer­al Poet­ry

Hear the Exper­i­men­tal Music of the Dada Move­ment: Avant-Garde Sounds from a Cen­tu­ry Ago

Exten­sive Archive of Avant-Garde & Mod­ernist Mag­a­zines (1890–1939) Now Avail­able Online

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (13)
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  • William Askew says:

    Thank you so very much for this incred­i­ble gift of free down­loads of this extreme­ly impor­tant Russ­ian move­ment.
    ‑Fever­ous insom­nia

  • Jo Klaps says:

    Where did you find the down­load link?

  • Leandro says:

    Where is the down­load link, please!?

  • Leandro says:

    well, try the mono­skop orig­i­nal mes­sagge at the end

  • javier ruiloba santana says:

    Me intere­so siem­pre des­de joven el movimien­to ruso futur­ista pre­rev­olu­cionario. ¿porque fue luego cul­tur­ak­mente incom­pat­i­ble con la Rev­olu­ción — no solo con Stal­in-?

  • Xexo says:

    Khleb­nikov’s “avant-garde indus­tri­al sound record­ing” piece is actu­al­ly not Khleb­nikov, but a con­tem­po­rary com­po­si­tion inspired by Khleb­nikov from 2006. Do your research before post­ing.

  • B Garrido says:

    Where is the down­load link, please??

  • Diego says:

    Más que nada por cier­tos con­cep­tos marx­is­tas (muy forza­dos y mal enten­di­dos, en parte porque Marx no pub­licó en vida mucho de lo que pen­só y escribió) como el “poder pop­u­lar” o “dic­tadu­ra pro­le­taria”, que bási­ca­mente ven­dría a ser que los tra­ba­jadores del mun­do establecier­an una for­ma de orga­ni­zación nue­va y dis­tin­ta de la repúbli­ca que los bur­gue­ses habían con­stru­i­do en Fran­cia, Esta­dos Unidos y Améri­ca Lati­na y que Napoleón semi-instaló en los país­es que con­quistó. Este sería un nue­vo orden; un nue­vo tipo de Esta­do interi­no para ase­gu­rar que los bur­gue­ses no recu­per­aran lo usurpa­do.

    Lenin a sos­tu­vo que un par­tido pro­le­tario debía ser dirigi­do por una van­guardia ilustra­da y rev­olu­cionar­ia para ase­gu­rar la vic­to­ria sobre la nobleza rusa y lat­i­fundis­tas, y pos­te­ri­or­mente sobre los bur­gue­ses lib­erales y social-demócratas. Además, se pro­pu­so el cen­tral­is­mo democráti­co como mecan­is­mo de toma de decisión. Todo eso, suma­do a las ten­siones tras la guer­ra civ­il, fue cal­do de cul­ti­vo para cimen­tar más y más un Esta­do­de tipo tiráni­co y dog­máti­co. Cualquier cuer­po teóri­co que tuviese tintes de ide­al­is­mo (con­trario al real­is­mo duro del marx­is­mo ingen­uo) o que fomen­tara exaltación del indi­vid­uo por sobre la colec­tivización de la vida y los medios de pro­duc­ción.

    El movimien­to futur­ista (y en gen­er­al el mod­ernismo apli­ca­do a la inge­niería, psi­cología y arqui­tec­tura) fue muy bien recibido por el gob­ier­no, pero a lo largo de los años, se dio un giro al respec­to (en parte por las purgas).Un buen tra­ba­jo al respec­to es el del ruso Ross Wolfe:

  • John says:

    Could some­one please reu­pload this??

  • trav says:

    this is incred­i­ble! though i wish that some­day these will be trans­lat­ed into Eng­lish.


    its easy to see these graph­ics as pro­gres­sive but the mes­sage advo­cates a vio­lence and a supres­sion of cer­tain lifestyles and belief sys­tems whose destruc­tion is nec­es­sary for the rev­o­lu­tion to be com­plete, total in nature, a com­plete rup­tur­ous change in the social order. these vio­lent ide­al­ists destroyed every­thing in their path and used the rev­o­lu­tion­ary sys­tem to send their oppo­nents to the fir­ing squad, only to end up get­ting sent to the same fate them­selves.

  • Nancy Perloff says:

    Hel­lo Josh,
    This dig­i­tized col­lec­tion of Russ­ian Futur­ist books is fan­tas­tic. Bra­vo! Here at the Get­ty Research Insti­tute, we have dig­i­tized over 30 of the Futur­ist books — please go to and under Library Cat­a­logue (Pri­mo) search any title that inter­ests you.

    If you don’t have it already, you might also be inter­est­ed to know about my recent pub­li­ca­tion, EXPLODITY: SOUND, IMAGE, AND WORD IN RUSSIAN FUTURIST BOOK ART (Get­ty Pub­li­ca­tions, Dec. 2016). It is accom­pa­nied by an online inter­ac­tive that shows pages from the books I ana­lyze and read­ings of the poet­ry by Vladimir Paperny.



    Dr. Nan­cy Perloff
    Cura­tor, Mod­ern & Con­tem­po­rary Col­lec­tions
    Get­ty Research Insti­tute
    1200 Get­ty Cen­ter Dri­ve Suite 1100
    Los Ange­les, CA 90049–1688

    See More

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