He was born the last of three children in Baghdati, Russian Empire (now in Georgia) where his father worked as a forest ranger. His father was of Ukrainian Cossack descent and his mother was of Ukrainian descent. Although Mayakovsky spoke Georgian at school and with friends, his family spoke primarily Russian at home. At the age of 14 Mayakovsky took part in socialist demonstrations at the town of Kutaisi, where he attended the local grammar school. After the sudden and premature death of his father in 1906, the family — Mayakovsky, his mother, and his two sisters — moved to Moscow, where he attended School No. 5.

In Moscow, Mayakovsky developed a passion for Marxist literature and took part in numerous activities of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party; he was to later become an RSDLP (Bolshevik) member. In 1908, he was dismissed from the grammar school because his mother was no longer able to afford the tuition fees.

Around this time, Mayakovsky was imprisoned on three occasions for subversive political activities but, being underage, he avoided transportation. During a period of solitary confinement in Butyrka prison in 1909, he began to write poetry, but his poems were confiscated. On his release from prison, he continued working within the socialist movement, and in 1911 he joined the Moscow Art School where he became acquainted with members of the Russian Futurist movement. He became a leading spokesman for the group Gileas (?????), and a close friend of David Burlyuk, whom he saw as his mentor.

The 1912 Futurist publication A Slap in the Face of Public Taste (???????? ????????????? ?????) contained Mayakovsky's first published poems: Night (????) and Morning (????). Because of their political activities, Burlyuk and Mayakovsky were expelled from the Moscow Art School in 1914.
His work continued in the Futurist vein until 1914. His artistic development then shifted increasingly in the direction of narrative and it was this work, published during the period immediately preceding the Russian Revolution, which was to establish his reputation as a poet in Russia and abroad.

Mayakovsky was rejected as a volunteer at the beginning of WWI, and during 1915-1917 worked at the Petrograd Military Automobile School as a draftsman. At the onset of the Russian Revolution, Mayakovsky was in Smolny, Petrograd. There he witnessed the October Revolution.

After moving back to Moscow, Mayakovsky worked for the Russian State Telegraph Agency (ROSTA) creating — both graphic and text — satirical Agitprop posters. In 1919, he published his first collection of poems Collected Works 1909-1919 (??? ?????????? ?????????? ??????????). In the cultural climate of the early Soviet Union, his popularity grew rapidly. As one of the few Soviet writers who were allowed to travel freely, his voyages to Latvia, Britain, Germany, the United States, Mexico and Cuba influenced works like My Discovery of America (??? ???????? ???????, 1925). He also travelled extensively throughout the Soviet Union.

The relevance of Mayakovsky's influence cannot be limited to Soviet poetry. While for years he was considered the Soviet poet par excellence, he also changed the perceptions of poetry in wider 20th century culture. His political activism as a propagandistic agitator was rarely understood and often looked upon unfavourably by contemporaries, even close friends like Boris Pasternak. Near the end of the 1920s, Mayakovsky became increasingly disillusioned with the course the Soviet Union was taking under Joseph Stalin: his satirical plays The Bedbug (????, 1929) and The Bathhouse (????, 1930), which deal with the Soviet philistinism and bureaucracy, illustrate this development.

On the evening of April 14, 1930, Mayakovsky shot himself.