Do you know how the nickname "the Russian Bear" came about?
Trained bears performing a variety of tricks appeared in Europe back in the 16th century and, even on the maps of that time, the territory of Muscovy was designated with the figure of a giant bear. But, where did they come from?
In 1571, Ivan the Terrible decided to marry for a third time and out of a list of 2,000 eligible women, he chose Marfa Sobakina, the daughter of a Kolomna noble. The wedding was celebrated at Alexandrova Sloboda and wandering minstrels and trained bears where on hand to entertain the newly-weds and their guests.
The locals had long pursued a particular trade - they taught bear cubs various tricks and performed with them at fairs, to the delight of spectators. They even got as far as Europe, wowing audiences there by showing off what their ursine charges could do.
The trained bears from Sergach could perform up to 50 tricks. They walked on their hind legs, portrayed a woman smartening herself up in front of a mirror and pretended to shoot with a bow and arrow. Then, cap in hand, they would go round the assembled spectators collecting money for their performance.
However, it was one thing to see the amazing animals entertaining people at a market and quite another to witness a march-past of serried ranks of hundreds of bears. French prisoners in Sergach during the War of 1812 were left with ambivalent feelings. They had been trying to convince locals that Napoleon was about to send in French reserves against which the Russians would be unable to defend themselves. But they got the reply: "If necessary, we'll send in the bears." And a very particular parade took place in Sergach the next day. More than a thousand bears came marching on their hind legs, pressing a stick against their shoulder as if wielding a weapon. The French were left speechless.Credit:
Public domain, Legion Media, State Historical Museum, https://catalog.shm.ru/
, François Nicholas Riss
🔔 Russia Beyond