Russian Circus History

contortionistsPeople entertaining people is the slogan of this fast paced high-energy circus of the future. Unlike circuses you have seen in the past the MOSCOW STATE CIRCUS is not about elephants and lion trainers. It is a circus of the future. There will be no animals in any performances.

The enviable reputation on Russian circus (and that of other countries of the former Soviet bloc) is based on 200 years of tradition, but in particular 70 years of massive state support under the Communist regime.

Modern circus was started in London in 1768 by Philip Astley and rapidly became the chief form of entertainment throughout much of the world during the 19th century.

Catherine the Great had invited tile English trick rider and impresario Charles Hughes (Ashley’s rival) to set up a riding school in St. Petersburg, and circus quickly spread, eventually producing its own dynastic families-the Durovs, Zapashnys, Kios, Kantermirovs and others-who passed on their skills from one generation to the next.

To the founding fathers of the Soviet state, however circus had a special significance which put it on par with, even above, the ballet and opera: it was a truly popular-egalitarian-form of entertainment, enjoyed by all, regardless of race, language, age, education or class. Requiring great skill, benefiting from creativity and originality, circus nevertheless needs no sophistication.

Through the establishment of state circus schools in Moscow and other major cities, circus developed in quality and on a scale unknown in other countries, and from the 1950’s became a highly successful cultural export.

At its height, on the eve of the collapse of the Communist regime in the early 1990’s, there were 70 permanent circus buildings and about 50 traveling circuses. The major building is the Moscow Circus with its four vertically interchangeable rings for different types of acts: equestrian, aquatic etc. But a citizen in the farthest reaches of the USSR could expect to see 5 or 6 circuses every year in his home town-about 100 different acts.

The fall of Communism has thrown this massive cultural organization into disarray, and the future is uncertain. Meantime, however, we are privileged to still be able to glimpse the glory of this part of Russia’s impressive cultural heritage.

The 2004-2005 edition of the MOSCOW STATE CIRCUS promises to be 90 minutes of exciting breath taking entertainment for both children and adults

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