Transcending the Borders of Race – The Russian Circus


The history of Russian circus

During the times of Catherine the Great, the circus has played an instrumental role in the rich cultural traditions of Russia. In Russia, the circus was a place where highly creative artists could showcase their talents and skills in a variety of different ways. Unlike other countries Russia regarded the circus as an art form on par with the ballet or opera.


The Circus in Today’s Russia

But where do the roots lie? In the beginning it was an Englishman, a gentleman by the name of Charles Hughes, who is mostly responsible for the enormous modishness of the circus in Russia today. Renowned for his entrepreneur flair, Hughes began performing with his troupe for the court of Catherine the Great. When she saw Hughes entrepreneurial flair she was immediately captivated by the performance. It was at this point it was ordered that a two ring circus be built for the company. Hughes gratefully stayed and continued to perform to the delight and thrill of many of the citizens of St. Petersburg.


Transcends the Borders of Race,

Language, Age, Education or Class

Eventually Charles Hughes returned to his homeland, thankfully many of his colleagues remained in Russia.During this part of the 19th century the circus became hugely popular amongst the Russian people. It established itself as one of the most important forms of entertainment in the country. After the 1917 revolution, the founding fathers of the Soviet Union recognized the circus’ importance as a truly popular form of entertainment. It became an art that transcends the borders of race, language, age, education or class.


Russian Circus – An Artistic Medium

The circus became the flagship art for Russia supported widely but the Soviet Leadership. Along with ballet, state circus schools were established in Moscow in 1927. Other major cities followed suit and the circus, as an artistic medium, developed in quality and on a scale unknown in other countries. From the 50s, it became a high quality cultural export, embarking upon frequent much anticipated tours of Europe and the Americas.

A World Legacy – The Russian Circus

At its height, on the eve of the collapse of the Communist regime in the early 60s, there were around 50 traveling circus companies in existence and almost a same number of buildings dedicated to the art. The fall of Communism through this massive cultural organization into disarray and the future for circus appeared uncertain. Thankfully, its rich tradition and enviable reputation endures; the Russian circus and its legacy remains as one of the most prominent and qualified, with companies travelling around the world and families still dedicated to the continuity of this unique art.


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