Designed in 1976, this UFO-shaped structure was built to welcome circus acts from around the world—or, more likely, from around the USSR. Unlike many structures of its kind, the Bishkek Circus still functions as an actual circus to this day. In fact, this architectural gem is a testimony to the role that the circus played in the Soviet Union.
Due to the lack of official records, it is all but impossible to pinpoint when the first circus appeared. Itinerant acts consisting of proto-clowns and musicians called skomorokhy wandered the Russian land in the 11th century, and they used to combine music, magic performance, dancing, and slapstick humor.
They were more akin to street performers than to the circus, but the seeds were planted, and very soon, show booths began appearing where the audience was treated to trapeze and gymnastic stunts.
The year 1877 saw the opening of the first stationary circus, in St. Petersburg. The target audience was the Russian aristocracy, which did not fail to embrace the daredevils that performed at the circus. After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the aristocracy was abolished and the circus was nationalized and transformed into a high art form comparable to ballet and opera.
Under the aegis of the Soviet regime, circus acts like The Moscow Circus gained global recognition. Stationary structures purpose-built for the circus became common in all major Soviet cities, including Bishkek.