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Moscow's Famous Nikulin Circus

The Nikulin Circus building, situated at 13 Tsvetnoy Boulevard in Moscow, is currently the home of the Moscow State Circus. It is an impressive building, with the auditorium resembling a theater rather than the traditional big top one usually associates with the circus. It has a plush red interior with comfortable seating, which is able to accommodate 2,000 spectators.

The shows that are staged at the Nikulin Circus are generally very theatrical, with the acts having a connective theme or narrative thread running through them. These acts include cabaret, dance, clowns, performances with various animals, acrobats and more, all with a reputation for entertaining that brings audiences back time and again.

The Nikulin Circus is one of the oldest in Russia, having been established in 1880 by Albert Salamonski, a former equestrian and gymnast. It was a permanent stone building that started off with five rows of seats, some box seats, a dress circle as well as wooden benches and an area for standing spectators. As the years went by, improvements were made in the seating arrangements and a swimming pool was built. Being an accomplished rider himself, Albert Salamonski, promoted some of the best horse acts from all over the world. In addition to these, elaborate pantomines and special performances aimed at entertaining children were held.

In 1919, to comply with a decree from Lenin, the Circus was nationalized and became the Moscow State Circus. The circus continued right through World War II (1941-1945). The performances that were staged at that time took on a military theme, which included special stunts acting out military hostilities, motor cyclists and acrobatic clowns impersonating German soldiers. As the grand finale, a real tank entered the arena and crushed hostile pillboxes (small enclosed shelters for a machine gun or anti-tank gun).

After the war had ended, the Moscow State Circus established a production company. M. Mestetchkin, as the Chief Artistic Director, and A. Assanov, as the Manager, developed new theme performances incorporating many new acts. This was greatly beneficial to the reputation of the circus.

The Clown Studio was formed in 1946. Many of the finest clowns in the Russian circus were graduates of the Clown Studio. Among these was Yury Nikulin who entertained the crowds as a clown for more than 20 years, starting in 1960. In addition to this, Yury starred in many very popular Soviet-era comedies, making him well-known and well loved by the people. In 1983, Yury Nikulin was appointed as the Chief Producer of what was known as the Old Moscow Circus. The Nikulin Circus, which underwent extensive rebuilding and remodeling up to 1989, was named in honor of Yury Nikulin.


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