Tony Mastroianni Review Collection

Circus Is Big Business in Soviet Union

Cleveland Press November 15, 1967

The circus may be an occasional thing for Americans but in Russia it is second in attendance only to the movies

The vastness of the Russian circus business was described -- through an interpreter -- by Vassili Pakhomov, director of the Moscow Circus which opens at the Arena tonight.

It is the vastness of a state-run enterprise that involves the participants from training to retirement.

"The circus school in Moscow has been in existence for 40 years," Pakhomov explained. "It is run by the state with 1000 young men and women who study there. They learn different specialties. They get their education and board free.

"THEY PUT ON their own small-scale circuses with all kinds of acts. There also is a studio of circus arts for the preparation of new acts. This is provided only for professional circus artists.

"Throughout the Soviet there are 800 circus acts. It is a huge organization, like your corporation. Beside the school and studio it has 50 permanent circus buildings where only circuses are performed.

"There are 45 more under construction. We have 100 tent circuses that travel to towns that have no circus buildings."

As Pakhomov described it, the organization also provides housing for the performers boarding school for their children, retirement homes for their veteran performers.

HE SAID AMERICAN and Russian circuses are very similar with their clowns, acrobats and animal acts and their attempts to appeal to all ages. He sees two major differences.

The Russian (and most European circuses) use only one ring instead of three, allowing the audiences to concentrate on one act at a time.

The other difference is that in Russia the state controlled circus brings together people in all the arts in the service of the circus.

"WE CAN HAVE our best writers and poets write scripts and songs, our best composers prepare music. Shostakovich and Khachaturian have written music for the circus."

But in one respect Pakhomov sees a similarity in both countries and that is in the responsiveness of audiences.