Circus performances were given in St. Petersburg by foreign artists in private arenas and specially constructed buildings beginning in the 18th century. J. Tourniaire’s equestrian acrobatic troupe performed in the first permanent circus in Russia (architect, S. L. Shustov) on the Fontanka River in 1827. Circuses and theater-circuses were built in the first half of the 19th century: A. Guerra’s circus on the square of the Kamennyi (Bol’shoi) Theater and J. Lejars and P. Cuzain’s circus near the Aleksandrinskii Theater. (In 1849 both buildings were bought by the management of the imperial theaters, and a stone imperial circus building was constructed on the site of the Guerra circus.) G. Ciniselli’s permanent circus (architect, V. Kenel’, the present building of the Leningrad Circus) was opened on the esplanade along the Fontanka River in 1877. After the nationalization of circuses in 1919, various groups of artists worked in this building.
In 1924 the Leningrad Circus was made part of the system of the Central Board of State Circuses. Full-length pantomimes were staged at the Leningrad Circus— Shamir (1936) and The Taiga in Flames (1938)—as were presentations on a single theme. The first experimental circus studio in the USSR was established under the auspices of the Leningrad Circus in 1930. A studio-workshop for the preparation of equestrian acts and musical clown acts existed from 1946 to 1949. The circus’ activities were interrupted during the Great Patriotic War; it reopened in December 1944. The stage directors E. P. Gershuni, E. M. Kuznetsov, G. S. Venetsianov, and Iu. S. Iurskii have worked in the Leningrad Circus. Such clowns as P. A. Alekseev (stage name Pavel Alekseevich), M. N. Rumiantsev (stage name Karandash), and B. P. Viatkin have created their characters here. The Museum of Circus Art was organized at the Leningrad Circus in 1928. The circus has been awarded the Order of the Red Banner of Labor (1939).
REFERENCESDmitriev, Iu. Sovetskii tsirk. 1963.
Dmitriev, Iu. Sovetskii tsirk segodnia. Moscow, 1968.
Medvedev, M. Leningradskii tsirk. Leningrad, 1965.
Kuznetsov, E. Tsirk. Moscow-Leningrad, 1971.