The Great Moscow State Circus was opened on the 30th of April 1971 and it's the largest circus in Europe.
The Russian Circus is steeped in traditions that often include clowning, juggling, acrobatics, contortion, and animal acts. They are particularly well known for acts that use live bears. In November of 2019 video footage was captured that showed a fully-grown bear turn on its trainer, mauling him in front of an audience that included children. In the video, the bear can be seen pushing a wheelbarrow up to its trainer at the edge of the ring. The trainer holds up his hands, causing the bear to stop. He walks past the bear and leads it back in the other direction, then crosses in front of it.
Valentin Bulich was 28-years old when he met a tragic end at the hands of a bear in October of 2020. He had spent his life dreaming of being a trainer and was allegedly 'trying to teach himself how to become a trainer' when he was killed.
Bulich worked as a cage cleaner at the Great Moscow State Circus. For reasons that are unclear, he stole the keys that unlock the bear cages, and instead of learning from experienced professionals, he instead chose to lock himself in the cage with a 7-year-old adult male bear. It has been reported that the young man was ‘confident’ that he could find a ‘common language’ between him and the animal. In the past Bulichad even managed to work successfully with bear cubs, which perhaps gave him the confidence to attempt what is clearly a dangerous plan. Friends and family described him as a hardworking and dedicated employee who had been very involved in his job of caring for the animals.
The circus said that Bulich had committed a “gross violation of safety rules” in entering the bear cage on a day off for performers. The fully-grown adult bear attacked Bullich, tore off his scalp, and clawed his body in a horrific attack. Bulich died in the intensive care unit of the City Clinical Hospital named after V.V. Vinogradov, where he was taken in critical condition. The police report said he had no chance of surviving.
The bear has since been identified as Yasha, one of three bears who perform with the Alexandrov family. The bear was known to be 'friendly' and has previously taken on tour to meet soccer teams. A decision has been taken not to shoot dead the bear, said the circus. A criminal investigation is underway into the man’s death.
Pet Rescue Report alleges that while in training, the bears’ teeth are removed, their claws are cut and a metal ring inserted into their nose. A rope attached to the nose ring which, during training, is painfully pulled whenever the cub disobeys. Sticks and whips are used during the performance. In order to give the perception of the bear dancing, the trainer plays music while the bear stands on a hot platform lifting one paw after another to keep its paws from being burned.
Irina Novozhilova, of animal rights group VITA, said: ‘No circus conditions will be humane for one simple reason. Training goes hand in hand with cruelty….