Around 1916 Vadim Šeršenevič, an active participant in the futurist movement in Russia, wrote: "It is precisely futurism that began with [poetic] practice, and it is in futurism that we find almost no theory." This statement is only partly correct. The main (and most successful) futurist group, which later came to be called "cubo-futurist," did wait almost three years before publishing their first manifesto, A Slap into the Face of Public Taste (Poscecina obscestvennomu vkusu), but all the other groups were not so patient and usually announced their appearance with some kind of declaration. Such was the futurist tradition (however oxymoronic this combination of words sounds) established by Marinetti himself, who raised theoretical declaration to the level of a work of art, and in fact overshadowed with his own manifestoes even the best of his poetry and prose. It should also be stated right here that the lack of ties between Russian and Italian futurism has been greatly exaggerated. Marinetti did influence Russian futurists, and had zealous followers among them.
Šeršenevič was wrong, however, in the second part of his statement, which had been printed in his own theoretical treatise 1 at the time most futurist theory had already been published and certainly known to him. Though their theory is largely inferior, both quantitatively and qualitatively, to that of their predecessors, the Russian Symbolists, it is by no means negligible, and shows, first of all, that Russian futurism was a complex, varied, diffuse, and exasperatingly self-contradictory movement. Still, there is no need to reduce it, as often____________________