skomorokhi

Definition

Theater

  • Traditional itinerant players of Imperial Russia. The skomorokhi,who included musicians, dancers, boxers, and other entertainers aswell as actors, were condemned by the Church as heathens and pagansin the 11th century. Traditionally, they would dress as women andanimals on New Year's Eve and paint their faces for Easter.

    By the late 16th century these troupes, often consisting ofmore than 100 players, were extremely popular. The leading entertainerswore peasant costumes decorated with ribbons, adopted names such asFoma and Erema, and drew large crowds with their stories, puppet shows,and trained bears, dogs, and rats. However, after an uprising in Moscow,the skomorokhi were once more banned in 1648 by Tsar AlekseyMikhailovich; they retreated to the rural north to preserve theirtraditions, working mainly as entertainers at private functions. Theyexerted a major influence on the development of the Russian circusand variety acts.

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