Russian Circus Tradition

What is the traditional Russian circus like?

A special attraction to see on your trip to Russia is undoubtedly the traditional circus. The origins of the Russian circus can be found in the Skomorki of the 11th century, a kind of ancient and travelling artistic representation, which travelled around different places offering acrobatic acts, skills and tricks with trained animals and juggling exhibitions. At this time it is also believed that clowns as they are known today would have emerged, as the Skomoroji included satirical and mocking representations.

History of the Russian circus

For centuries, and as is often the case with some artistic expressions, travelling clowns were rejected and persecuted by both secular and religious authorities.

The impetus for the formation of the most modern circus art came in the 18th century and from the hand of Emperor Peter I, who took on the task of carrying forward, both in St. Petersburg and in Moscow, the Europeanization of Russia. With the consequent development of urban life in these cities, the forms of cultural expression were also promoted, including of course the circus arts.

From there on, fairground circuses were formed in popular festivals, which carried acrobatic, juggling and clowning shows, etc.

At the level of the aristocracy, the circus was transformed and centred on the horses: cavalcades and other equestrian type shows.

The modern stage of the traditional circus would come with the creation in St. Petersburg of the first permanent enclosure, made of stone. The building has been rebuilt several times but is still standing.

Nowadays, most of the big cities have their permanent circus.

Among the artistic acts that are traditionally performed in the Russian circus, acrobatic shows are very characteristic of Russian circuses. The traditional Moscow Grand Circus is renowned for the excellence of its acrobats. For some, the art of acrobatics is at the level of ballet, for its quality and precision, which is much to say, for the importance and prestige that the ballet has in the country.

The Nikulin circus in Moscow is one of the oldest and most traditional in Russia. It currently has a capacity of 2,000 spectators.

What’s next?

On your next trip to Moscow, be sure to visit the Nikulin Circus on Tsvetnoi Boulevard and the traditional Moscow Grand Circus on Vernadskoe Avenue. If you are on a tour in St. Petersburg, you can visit the St. Petersburg Circus or the Bolshoi Circus.

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