1. The name Moscow State Circus was traditionally used by troupes of Russian circus performers touring the west. The first such tour was in 1956, when the Moscow State Circus performed to audiences in Paris and in London.
2. The Russian circuses were nationalized by the Soviet government in 1917, and were encouraged as “people’s entertainment”, such were their cheap tickets. At their height in 20th century Russia, they were seen as culturally on a par with ballet and classical music.
3. Russian circuses’ main difference with their western counterparts is that the acts are held together by a storytelling narrative that runs throughout the show.
Also online: Moscow State Circus set for The O2 Quadrant
4. When it’s at home the Moscow State Circus is in fact two separate circuses, the Big State Circus on Prospekt Vernadskogo, and the Old Circus or Nikulin Circus on Tsvetnoi Bulvar.
5. Unlike the touring version, the circus back in Moscow includes a number of animal acts.
6. Englishman Charles Hughes is partly responsible for the popularity of the circus in Russia. Hughes would perform with his troupe of circus entertainers for the court of Catherine the Great in the 18th century. So keen was she on his performances, she would order two circus rings to be built for him. Hughes stayed in St Petersburg for only a year, but his performers stayed behind, continuing the new circus tradition.
7. Circuses were most popular in Russia just before the fall of communism in 1990, when the country boasted 70 permanent circus buildings and about 50 traveling circuses.
8pm, October 22-November 1, The O2, £7-£39.