Circus protectionism

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
Yesterday, Putin presided over a meeting of his Presidential Council for Culture and Arts

It is a Council, as the name suggests, made up of big figures from Russian show business and high arts, like, in that last pic above, bald guy with his back to the camera, Fedor Bondarchuk, arguably Russia's greatest film director. And other people like that.

Among the members there is Edgard Zapashny

I wrote before about the Zapashnys, the most famous circus clan in all of ex-USSR, a fascinating family.

It all began with Mikhail Zapashny, a former sailor, born in exactly year 1900, who performed in circuses as a strongman and acrobat since late 1920s and through the 30s

Mikhail had three sons and a daughter, Sergey, Walter, Mstislav and Nonna, all of whom also initially became acrobats like him, and it was Nonna who was the star of the show back then lol

But later, Walter and Mstislav moved off, to go into animal acts instead (much to Mikhail's displeasure, reportedly, as, apparently, I never knew this but, to this day, in Russian circuses, the acrobats and the animal artists do not like each other, they have some kind of great rivalry haha).

Walter in his heyday

and Mstislav (with his wife, who always performed with him, the exotically named Dolores, I think her dad was Spanish or something)

They were the original Zapashny Brothers, who immortalized that name all over the Soviet circus world.

Today, Walter's sons, Edgard and Askold are the new Zapashny Brothers, and they are just as famous.

Here on Ivan Urgant's late night show (Russia's Jimmy Fallon)

He got to pet their tiger, in the end lol

There is also Mstislav's son, Mstislav Jr., who now performs together with his own all grown up son, Yaroslav

While Mstislav's Jr. daughter Ekaterina (top) and Edgard and Askold's half-sister Maritsa Zapashnaya (bottom) perform with dogs

I really feel for the kids...

Here, Edgard and Askold with their two oldest kids, daughters Stefania and Eva respectively, Stefania is 7, Eva is 8

and already, they are being groomed for one thing: the Circus.

Same for Edgard's youngest, Daniel, still a tiny baby, but his life path too is already predetermined, by the adults - no other future for him, but into the arena, to uphold and carry forth the family name and legacy...

Imagine that, having basically no choice, no control over your own bloody destiny...

Anyway, Russian circus industry is basically ruled by such powerful old families as the Zapashnys. And now, a new threat has emerged to their dominance.

Mikhail Gutseriyev, famous poet (who has written lyrics for many Russian music stars today) and businessman

he and his partners are building a project in Skolkovo, near Moscow, in which they want to include a new circus facility, which they envision as a permanent base for the world famous Cirque du Soleil

Circus and more: what the Gutserievs are going to build in Skolkovo | Business | RusLetter
Concert Hall for Cirque du Soleil performances opens in Moscow in 2019

This is totally doable. There are plenty of Russian artists working at CdS, who would love the opportunity to perform in their own country for own people.

But this, again, represents a dangerous threat to Russia's own circus community, as far as they are concerned. Not just in simple commercial competition.

CdS represents the modern Western was of the circus, which focuses on human performances, especially acrobatics and such. Some Western countries, like the UK, have even officially banned the use of animals in the circuses: Wild animals to be banned from circuses | Daily Mail Online

In Russia, it is very different. Russian circuses have also the clowns, acrobats, and magicians and such

But they are, for the most part, mere openings, sideshows and support acts for the real stars, the animal handlers, like the Zapashnys and others

The animals, are why families there go to the circus, primarily.

So far, this culture has endured there despite even some recent nasty incidents, see this thread: Lion Mauls 4-Year-Old Girl in Circus

But, the Zapashnys and other circus clans they represent up there, on the Council of Culture and Arts, worry that greater exposure to things like Cirque du Soleil could change Russian audiences too. Today, they set up base in Moscow. Tomorrow, they may start touring the country with their Western-style shows. And Russians everywhere may LIKE it, the horror! And then, they may no longer want to go see tigers jump through hoops and such! ;)

Well, at the Council session yesterday, Zapashny complained to Putin about Gutseriev and the new CdS facility he is building. Said it would be a great detriment to Russian circuses. Putin promised to look into it: Putin will deal with the investment of Mikhail Gutseriev in the canadian Cirque du Soleil – Russian Reality

Now, nobody knows what will happen...

I respect the Zapashnys, as people, as human beings. They really have done amazing things for others.

In 2015, for example, they paid for expensive prosthetics for Vitaly Smolyanets, a fellow circus man, also big cat handler, from the Rostov Circus, who lost his legs after being run over by a truck; with the prosthetic legs, he actually was able to triumphantly return to the arena
That was a good deed By Edgard and Askold...

But, here, they are in the wrong. Simply using their national status and political influence to strangle in infancy anything that would compete with them... Disgusting...

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
During a meeting of the Presidential Council on Culture and Art on December 15, the Director of the Big Moscow Circus, Edgar Zapashny, said that the opening of the Canadian Cirque du Soleil's stationary stage in Skolkovo is “unacceptable and wrong.” Transcript of the meeting is published on the website of the Kremlin. According to him, it will negatively affect the Russian circus and sports.

Zapashny noted that the opening of the Cirque du Soleil site in 2019 had previously been announced by Russian billionaire Mikhail Gutseriev. "No one bothers them to come here with temporary tours, they have been performing here for more than ten years," Zapashny noted. “Investments that Mr. Gutseriev intends to give would be useful for Russian art,” he added.

In response, President Vladimir Putin said that he did not consider it viable to create a permanent Cirque du Soleil base in the country and as a struggle for the market. The head of state supported Zapashny’s position, adding that he will sort it out separately.

He also drew the attention of Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky to this problem. “This is essentially a struggle for the market. To watch is one thing, and letting them develop is a completely different story,” Putin said.

In 2019, it is planned to open the Amphion concert hall for 8500 seats. Its construction is carried out under the control of the A.N.C. Corporation and Amphion LLC companies, which are part of the Mikhail Gutseriev’s Safmar group of companies. Anchutz Entertainment Group (AEG) and Cirque du Soleil are also participating. The website of the project notes that the hall is designed for sports competitions, corporate events, and performances of Cirque du Soleil. RBC sent a request to the representative of the Safmar group.

Cirque du Soleil was founded in 1984, and its international headquarters is located in Montreal. Construction of the Amphion concert hall is conducted in the urban settlement Novoivanovskoe, situated in the Odintsovo municipal district of the Moscow region. Skolkovo is located there.

The principal owner of the Safmar group, Mikhail Gutseriev, is ranked 24th in the rating of 200 richest businessmen in Russia, according to Forbes. The magazine estimates his fortune at $4.8 billion.
Cirque du Soleil may be banned in Russia

The Man

Former Staff
Jul 2011
Edgar Zapashny, Director of the Big Moscow Circus, misled President Vladimir Putin and the public, according to a press release of Safmar group of Mikhail Gutseriyev, received by RBC. Zapashny’s statements made at the meeting with Putin are described in the press release as “delirium and a sick fantasy.”

“We have not invested and are not going to invest in the development of the Canadian circus. Our relationship with Cirque du Soleil does not extend beyond the lease one, and we never intended to build a stationary center, let alone Cirque du Soleil school. All these statements are nonsense, that is, a sick fantasy of trainer Zapashny! Therefore, we consider Zapashny's hallucinations as a brazen slander and outright lie,” the document reads.

“We are convinced that an animal trainer appointed to such a high administrative position has no right to mislead the President of the country and the general public,” Safmar believes.
Gutseriyev's group accused Zapashny of lie about project with Cirque du Soleil

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