The Great Moscow State Circus is an auditorium in Moscow located at the Vernadsky Prospekt. It was opened 30 April 1971. It can seat up to 3,400 people and the height of the amphitheatre is 36 metres. Performances are held each day in the afternoon and evening.
The circus building has 5 arenas (equestrian, water, illusionist, ice rink, and light-effect), located 18 metres below the floor, which can be swapped during the performance.
Initially the circus building was merely a performance venue. In early 1990s its own company was formed. It is headed by Leonid Kostyuk, a former circus artist and equilibrist. The former organiser of circuses in Soviet Russia was Soyuz Gost-Cirk (loosely translated as Russian People’s Circus). Under the Soviet regime, there were over 70 circus buildings in the Soviet states, as well as a specialist training-school system. Thousands of performers worked for the circus organisation. They were all State employees; salaries were not high in comparison to the West, but employment was secure, and equipment, costumes, travel and accommodation were all provided, as well as a pension upon retirement.
The present company employs several hundred performers and tours as the “Great Moscow State Circus”.
The Moscow State Circus is a state-owned enterprise. The circus organisation was threatened by the dismantling of the Soviet Union, and by some performers’ inclination to seek better-paid foreign contracts. In June 2007, an attempt to privatise the building was initiated, strongly opposed by company director Leonid Kostyuk, among many others. Eventually President Vladimir Putin eliminated the building from the list of state properties to be privatised. A large number of artistes now belong once again to the State system.