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Circopedia is a project of the Big Apple Circus,
inspired and funded by the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

In The Spotlight

Nikitin Brothers.jpg

THE NIKITIN BROTHERS

In nineteenth-century Russia, circus was extremely popular among the aristocracy and the people alike, but the Russian circus was being developed mostly by foreigners whose names—Ciniselli, Truzzi, or Salamonsky—became synonymous with Russian circus. There was one notable exception, however: The Nikitin brothers, Dmitri (1835-1918), Akim (1843-1917), and Piotr (1846-1921), who became the first true Russian circus entrepreneurs of note, and would remain so until the Bolshevik revolution.

They were born to Aleksandr and Alina Ivanovna Nikitin, who were serfs attached to one of the vast lands belonging to the Crown. Tsar Nicholas I began to ease the condition of the serfs bound to his Imperial estates in 1842, when he established the "quit-rent" system, which allowed them to leave the land to which they were attached in exchange for a rent paid to their landowner, the Tsar.

Aleksandr immediately took advantage of this new, if limited, freedom and became an itinerant organ grinder. His son Dmitri, who had learned to play the balalaika, followed him on the road. Akim and Piotr were born shortly thereafter, and almost as soon as they were able to walk and do a rollover, they joined forces with their father and elder brother, entertaining passersby from village squares to street corners. … (more...)

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CIRCOPEDIA is a constantly evolving and expanding encyclopedia of the international circus. New videos, biographies, essays, and documents are added to the site on a weekly—and sometimes daily—basis. So keep visiting us: even if today you don't find what you're looking for, it may well be here tomorrow! And if you are a serious circus scholar and spot a factual or historical inaccuracy, do not hesitate to contact us: we will definitely consider your remarks and suggestions.

Dominique Jando
Editor/Curator

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