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This book is part of an initiative for publishing
first books by scholars in the fields of Russian,
East European, and Central Asian Studies,
supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
July 2012
LC: 2011043507 GV
232 pp. 6 x 9 15 b/w photos
Paper $29.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-28764-1
e-book $19.95 s
ISBN 978-0-299-287463-4
History / Slavic Studies / Popular Culture
• SPRING 2012 •
A History of the Soviet Circus
“A beautifully written, compact history of the Soviet circus.”
—Janet M. Davis, author of
The Circus Age: Culture & Society under the
American Big Top
For more than seven decades the circuses enjoyed tremendous popular-
ity in the Soviet Union. How did the circus—an institution that
dethroned figures of authority and refused any orderly narrative
structure—become such a cultural mainstay in a state known for blunt
and didactic messages? Miriam Neirick argues that the variety, flexibil-
ity, and indeterminacy of the modern circus accounted for its appeal
not only to diverse viewers but also to the Soviet state. In a society
where government-legitimating myths underwent periodic revision, the
circus proved a supple medium of communication.
Between 1919 and 1991, it variously displayed the triumph of the
Bolshevik revolution, the beauty of the new Soviet man and woman,
the vulnerability of the enemy during World War II, the prosperity of
the postwar Soviet household, and the Soviet mission of international
peace—all while entertaining the public with the acrobats, elephants,
and clowns. With its unique ability to meet and reconcile the demands
of both state and society, the Soviet circus became the unlikely darling
of Soviet culture, an entertainment whose usefulness and popularity
stemmed from its ambiguity.
is assistant professor in the
Department of History at California State
University, Northridge.
Of related interest
Propaganda, Hygiene, and the Revolutionary State
“Well-written, provocatively argued, beautifully illustrated, and always interesting, Starks’s
The Body Soviet
provides insights not only into the propaganda of Soviet health care and
hygiene, but it also provides a fascinating glimpse into the rich everyday life of the urban
working class during the NEP era.” —Brian LaPierre,
Journal of World History
Published January 2009
LC: 2008011972 RA 336 pp 6 x 9 26 b/w and 8 color illus.
ISBN 978-0-299-22964-1 Paper $26.95 s ISBN 978-0-299-22963-4 e-book $14.95 s