Oleg Popov

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Oleg Popov
Oleg popov2.jpg
Oleg Popov performing with the Russian State Circus, Worms, Germany, 28 March 2009
Born Oleg Konstantinovich Popov
(1930-07-31) 31 July 1930 (age 85)
Virubovo, Russia
Occupation Clown, mime, circus artist
Oleg Popov in Amsterdam in 1979

Oleg Konstantinovich Popov (Russian: Олег Константинович Попoв, born 31 July 1930 in Virubovo near Moscow, Russia) is a famous Soviet and Russian clown and circus artist. Popov was called the "Clown Soleil" ("Sunshine clown") by French journalist Jacqueline Cartier—a nickname that eventually stuck.

He was born on 31 July 1930, the son of a clock-repairman. At age 12, he began working as an apprentice typographer for the newspaper Pravda, and he later joined the Pravda's Athleletic Club. There, in 1945, someone suggested that he apply for Moscow's State College of Circus and Variety Arts (better known as the "Moscow Circus School"). He was accepted, and studied there acrobatics, juggling, and other circus skills, and graduated in 1949. He made his debut at the Tbilisi Circus in the Georgian SSR.[1] Afterwards, he continued his career at the Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard (today Circus Nikulin).

In 1955, he performed for the first time abroad, in Warsaw, and the following year, he toured with the Moscow Circus in France, Belgium, and England, and was immediately noticed by the press, which made him a circus star. The Soviet regime would quickly build onto his success abroad and transform Oleg Popov into a goodwill ambassador for the Soviet Union. He appeared in 1958 at the Brussels World Fair, and in 1957, he was broadcast from Moscow on American television. He toured the United States in 1963 and 1972 with the Moscow Circus. In 1969, Oleg Popov was honored with the title of People's Artist of the USSR. He toured extensively around the world in subsequent years with the Moscow Circus. In Australia, he was named King of Moomba (1971).[2]


Popov has performed as a clown, combining his talents as a mime, a tightrope walker, and a juggler. At the 8th International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo in 1981, he received the coveted Gold Clown award as a tribute to his stellar career.[3] His clown character follows the tradition of the Russian folk character "Ivanushka," who fools other people and who is teased himself.

In the early 1990s, at the fall of the Soviet Union, he began touring for a few years with a unit of the Moscow Circus in Germany, where he eventually resettled. He has since performed extensively in Germany, in circus shows, on television, or with his own touring show. He married Gabriela Lehmann, a German circus performer, in 1991, she is 32 years younger than her husband. In 2006, Oleg Popov was invited to perform at the 30th anniversary of the International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo; at 75 years of age, he still managed to inspire a standing ovation.

In 2015, he returned for the first time to Russia after 28 years of self-imposed exile in Germany; it was at the First "Master" gala event (the Russian circus equivalent of the Oscars ceremony) at the State Circus of Sochi, where he was greeted with a long standing ovation. The Russian Minister of Culture, Vladimir Medinsky read a welcoming message from President Vladimir Putin. It was, for Oleg Popov as well as for the Russian audience, a very emotional moment.

Oleg Popov has appeared in four films, "Арена Смелых" ("Ring of the Braves", 1953), "Ma-ma" (1977), "Ritzar bez bronya" (Poland, 1966), and "Downfall" (Germany, 2004). He has published a book of memoirs in 1967, which has been widely translated in numerous languages, including English (as "Russian Clown", 1970). From a first marriage with a violinist, Alexandra, Oleg Popov has a daughter, Olga (b.1953).


  1. ^ Borrero, Mauricio (2009). Russia: A Reference Guide from the Renaissance to the Present. Infobase Publishing. p. 281. ISBN 0816074755. 
  2. ^ Craig Bellamy, Gordon Chisholm, Hilary Eriksen (17 February 2006) Moomba: A festival for the people. pp. 17–22
  3. ^ "List of previous award winners". International Circus Festival of Monte-Carlo. Retrieved 13 January 2011. 

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