Side Note

Vintage Russian circus ads are unexpectedly trippy

Prepare to swing off the trapeze of the mind and into... The Twilight Zone.

Do you ever get online with the intent of looking up a very specific thing, but after clicking from site to site on your internet exploration, you end up on something that’s so weird and/or cool that you kind of forget about what you were looking for in the first place? Well, that happened to me recently while I was trying to hunt down some works of retrofuturist Soviet art to accompany a piece I was editing on the history of communist alien hunters, and while I never quite found what I was looking for, I did find these extremely sick Russian posters for a Russian circus hanging out in the Boston Public Library’s Digital Commonwealth.

Unlike the American version of the circus — which, given that it turns cruelty to animals into entertainment for children, is a sack of total bullshit — the era of the Russian circus that these posters speak to was less focused on animals and more showcasing human feats and fantastic illusions, placing the fields of magic and circus-throwing (circustry?) somewhere in the same artistic realm as ballet. Given this context, it makes sense that these feel like less of a circus ad and more propaganda for the communist Twilight Zone.