“Masks” meet the visitors in the hotel of circus hotel
“Masks” meet the visitors in the hall of circus hotel...
On October 2, 2006
Gomel State Circus has been instated the title “Honoured Collective of Republic of Belarus”
 Part 1 of 5  

iercing trill of bell overlays hum of almost filled auditorium. Pause... bell... pause... The third one! It means that only several minutes remains till the show beginning. Last spectators hurry up to take their seats, the auditorium slowly sinks into the darkness... And immediately beams of light guns grab in this darkness a figure of the band conductor that already waved with his baton but freezed for a moment to wait till the applause rustle rolling in auditorium is over. Yet, it is not that thankful storm of applause that will rise here again and again many times during the nearest two hours. It is applause of anticipation. Anticipation of a miracle, anticipation of a holiday as a meeting with circus is always a holiday for a spectator.

It is interesting, what show it is by reckoning in this auditorium? Famous Soviet satirists asserted that statistics knows everything. Yes, maybe we can cite some statistical data: number of programs, perfroemed shows and even number of spectators visited these shows... Such calculations are usually made in Gomel State Circus on the jubilee eves. Alas, all numbers reflect only very short specific moment and become out of date very quickly.

Knowing the start point which the history of Gomel State Circus begins from, everyone can estimate the covered distance. This date is known and memorable not for the circus staff only but also for many inhabitants of Gomel, — December 2, 1972.


Number of programs (even approximately) is not complex to estimate. During one season, there are five or, rarely, six of them. So, multiplying number of seasons by five and adding several 'for extra weight' we can receive quite exact number. But to calculate with such an approach number of performances will be impossible: very different number of them were in every program. 'Only 10 performances!', "Only 15 days!' — in a such manner sometimes circus posters and billboards spur spectators. And there were programs in which number of performances exceeded one hundred. For example, Igor KIO made 104 performances during two summer months in 1973 (and practically all were sold out!).

And it is practically unreal to imagine in such a speculative manner the number of served spactators, — the counting exceeded millions for a long time! Just let's mark the proces dynamics: during the first ten years — above 4 million, by the circus thirty anniversary — yet about 11.5 million of Gomel dwellers and guests visited its shows.

Calling 1972 as a start point of Gomel circus history, we surely not at all sin against the truth. But each history in this world has own prehistory. Let's start all one after another and turn over the pages of Gomel circus chronicles beginning form the very first pages...

First records of circus performances in Gomel relate to wsecond half of XIX century, they took place on the market square: 'Here constructred were temporary show boothes where people could watch the circus show for not high fee. Around the show boothes various amusements were located, magicians unfolded their prop, street acrobats and jugglers gave performances...'

By mid of 90ths of XIX century when the city population approached 35 thousand private entrepreneur I. Slobodov constructed on Horse square (currently Central market) first in Gomel wooden circus building. And though Slobodov did not win loud fame of Cinizelli and Salamonsky or Nikitin brothers but this deed recorded his name in Gomel's history for centuries!

In the circus of I. Slobodov, quite well-known in that time companies gave performances: K. Mimino, L. Devinie, 'Russian Colisem' of F. Durov, Chinese and Japanese company of Dalai Lama, circus 'Decadence', circuses of A. Lapiado and N. Lar.

Guest performances gatherd full auditorium and found a broad response in press. Here is an extract from news item published in 1909: 'The company leaves quite favourable impresion, and the circus director Lapiado itself has quite great figure being excellent athlete easily and freely demonstarting a series of hard numbers. There are three Chineses whoose numbers are liked by the audience very much. Not bad are also music clowns of the company'.

Naturally, the Slobodov's circus had no heating, spectators sitted on wooden benchs, actors took shelter in pywood partitions where it was quite problematic not only to have a rest but also simply to get ready for creative work on arena. Entrepreneurs often insignificantly paid to actors and sometimes disappered from the city at night Clown Iriska - Irina Asmus taking horses and gain. The actors remained without any means for life and without possibility to haul their property. For example, Nikolai Lar did in such a manner many times. And during the tour of his circus in Gomel in 1910 there was even more dramatic incident: gymnast A.Gordeichuk (according to the fashion of that times he was presented on billboards under foreign surname Kipriyani) fell from horizontal bar, broke the backbone and got brain consussion. Miserable man, he even asked his friend clown Alex to shoot him. A week later he had died on board of steamboat while Alex tried to deliver him from Gomel to his native town Kiev.

May be, this sad episode will remind to Gomel inhabitants other tragedy occured in our, already contemporary circus 76 years later, — death of Irina Asmus, a popular clown Iriska. The other times, absolutely different safety precautions and arrangements, different care of artists, — but hazard, danger, extreme remain integral part of a circus. Though, attraction to them is and will be an integral part of a human nature at all...

Up to 1917, the circus brought to his owner big profit and was steadily popular among townsmen. But in 1917 the wooden building has burnt...


New Economic Polisy declared in Russia in 1920ths gave birth to the circus boom unseen before. Created in 1923 Central Direction of State Circuses not only united all circuses of Russia soon but also started up construction of new buildings.

In 1926 new circus has been built in Gomel that was a principal city of Russian province (Gomel became Byelarussian later, in December 1926, initially as District center and since 1938 - as Regional center). Building on Komsomolskaya Street (former Castle, currently Lenin Avenue) was wooden, without heating. Spectators sat in the auditorium in outerwear at any weather (cloakrooms were not provided), and during intermissions walked not in a foyer but in narrow circular passage that had beautiful and sonorously name 'promenuar'. Nevertheless, the auditorium was quite spacious and provided 2000 seats.

Circus building in Gomel in 1920s

The circus front with obligatory announcement balcony from which 'the worthy audience' has been shouted to come in, was decorated with carving and marked out well of other buildings on the street. On this place now, there is located building No.12 in which we can find such shops as 'Rubin', 'Vityaz' etc.

As Art Director of that new circus, assigned was experienced organizer of the circus K. Lebedev. In Gomel, mainly Russian groups played on tours. Soviet Circus quickly and firmly found feet, and we, Gomel townsmen, glad to know that our fellow-countrymen took part in that process.

Air flight under managememt of A. Vyazov

One of first Soviet illusionists Cleo Dorothy (stage name of Claudia Karasik) was from Gomel. In 1917—1929 she worked in magic show of K. Kasfikis and then gave performances by her own with a group of assistants till 1959.

In 1924 Pavel Mar'yankov became a circus artist, he performed record jumps in world-known acrobatic group 'Oceanos' managedby L. Olkhovikov.

Since 1927 worked in circus another one our fellow-countryman Anatoly Vyazov. In 1930s he prepared original air flight with rubber dampers that allowed to show 'a drop' of an artist falling near the catcher till calculated limit (1.5—2 m above the arena surface). The stunt was repeated in different comic situations.

Among those who made Gomel townsmen glad with circus skill before World War II were such outstanding artists as 'people's motley' V. Lazarenko, famous trick cyclist Ya. Poldi, lion tamer M. Borisov, clown and rider P. Yesikovsky (performer of part of Mishka in movie 'Red Little Devils' that was that time as popular as its later remake 'Elusive avengers').

Unfortunately, in 1932 the circus building was rearranged. Initially, it became a base for Byelarussian Third State Theatre, and then in 1939 Russian Regional Drama Theatre was opened there.

In 1941 the building has burnt among many other.

Vitaly MITKEVICH , 2005-2007


35th Anniversary

December 2, 2007 —
35th anniversary!

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