The Moscow Circus has played an important role in the wonderful and rich tradition of the Russian Federation since the days of Catherine the Great. It is held in high regard in much the same way as the ballet or opera.
The Old Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard was founded in the late 19th century and became hugely popular with all walks of life, regardless of race, language, age or social class. They included such innovations as a swimming pool, brick stalls, a standing gallery, and a dress circle. In 1919, by decree on the order of Lenin, the circus was nationalized, and by 1927, state circus schools were formed starting in Moscow. These spread across the country, and eventually by the 1950’s a traveling circus was making frequent stops to the US and Europe.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 90s, there were 70 permanent circus buildings and close to 50 traveling circuses. Since that time, this cultural icon has had its ups and downs and its future was uncertain. But today it continues to thrive and recently celebrated its 120th anniversary. It remains the “gold standard” by which all other circuses are judged.
These photographs I took while on a college study tour to the former USSR in 1990. It really was a lot of fun, part of a wonderful experience I will never forget. The hairstyles and costumes are certainly 1980s retro, and we had some of the best viewing seats. I remember watching in awe as the acrobats performed feats I never knew were possible!
The animals were so majestic and beautiful, I just wanted to run and hug them all. If you live in Moscow and have not seen this, you should go! It would make a great outing for the “analogue for a day” contest.
And if you haven’t, make sure you put this on your “bucket” list when you visit! You will not be disappointed!