Circus art in Belarus traces its roots back to the late 19th century. But before that the country had lots of European travelling circuses or show groups.
The first professional performance by the Austrian troupe led by Carl Hinne was held in Belarus in the summer of 1853, at Trinity Suburbs in Minsk.
The first Belarusian stationary circus was opened in Minsk on 16 November 1884. The 800-seat Circus of the Nikitin brothers was made in wood. Yet, because of the bad location - above the churches - it was relocated several times.
World famous artists such as Scipione Ciniselli, Anatoly Durov, Ivan Poddubny, Ivan Zaikin, the Nikitin brothers, Ferroni, Tanti, Hooke and Truzzi performed in the circus. In 1930 a 1200-seat circus tent was erected in place of the wooden building in what is now the Gorky Park.
During the Great Patriotic War the circus was destroyed but was reconstructed on the same site in 1946.
Currently there are two circuses operating in Belarus: the Belarusian State Circus in Minsk and the Gomel State Circus.
The stone-built circus in Minsk was the first stationary winter circus in the Soviet Union. The decision to build this circus was made in 1952 to acknowledge Belarus’ contribution to the victory in the Great Patriotic War and the post-war revival of the Soviet Union.
Construction works kicked off in 1954 and were completed in 1958. The Belarusian States Circus was the largest and most beautiful circus that could host any kinds of performances – from water shows to aerial acrobatics shows.
The opening night took place on 11 February 1959, which is now marked as the official birthday of the contemporary Belarusian circus. Back then the first Belarusian circus group was created. Boris Kabishcher, the first Director of the Minsk circus, held office for 20 years.
Since 1996 the Belarusian State Circus has been headed by Art Director Tatiana Bondarchuk, the People’s Artist and the Honored Artist of Belarus.
From 2008 to 2010 the Belarusian State Circus underwent full-scale renovations, which made it one of the world and Europe’s best arenas. The building includes the major and rehearsal arenas, a ballet room, comfortable animal cages and a veterinary clinic. The major arena features a parquet dance floor, an arena for light shows and a rubber arena where trainers can work with animals.
In 2013 the Belarusian State Circus was headed by Vladimir Shaban and director, winner of national and international festivals Vytautas Grigalyunas became its Art Director.
The Belarusian State Circus is the only circus in the world that is located on the central avenue of the country capital.
The Belarusian State Circus has created its own performances and shows, with BelStars, the ballet of the Belarusian State Circus, touring many countries. The circus also organizes the tours of international circus groups in Belarus.
The artists of the Belarusian State Circus have claimed awards at a number of prestigious international contests and festivals including
In 2011 the Director of the Belarusian State Circus Tatiana Bondarchuk became the first Belarus’ representative on the jury panel of the world famous Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo.
In 2013, on the invitation of the Monaco royal family, Princess Stephanie, Price Albert and Princess Charlene, Tatiana Bondarchuk and Stage Director of the Belarusian State Circus Serge Bondarchuk took part in the performance production of the Monte Carlo festival. The dancers of the Belarusian State Circus performed on the opening and closing nights and showed their acts during the festival. Serge Bondarchuk and BelStars ballet dancers were honored with Princess Stephanie’s special awards for professional excellence and best costume design.
From 15 February to 15 May 2013 the Belarusian State Circus showed a new program titled as "Visiting the Festival in Monte Carlo" for the first time in its history. This program features the winners of the Festival International du Cirque de Monte-Carlo.
The first circus in Gomel was established by businessman Slobodov in 1890 and took the audience by storm. The world famous artists performed in the circus including the Russian Coliseum group led by F. Durov, Chinese-Japanese Dalai Lama troupe, the Decadence circus and others.
A number of famous circus artists come from Gomel, including:
• Cleo Dorothy (Klavdia Karasik), one of the first illusionists in the Soviet Union
• Pavel Maryankov, high-jumper of the famous Okeanos acrobatic group
• Anatoly Vyazov, the author of the unique number “Flight with shock absorber”
• Irina Asmus, or Iriska, a popular clown
The current 1544-seat Gomel State Circus was built in a futuristic style in 1972. A monument to famous clown Karandash (Mikhail Rumyantsev) stands in front of the circus building.
Director General and Art Director of the Gomel State Circus is Yakov Lobovich, the Honored Artist of Belarus.