MotherJones MA93: Moscow on the Strip

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.


As star juggler of the Moscow Circus, Gregory Popovich enjoyed perks like free cars and a three-bedroom apartment. Now performing at Circus Circus in Las Vegas, Popovich juggles–without government help–his family’s needs. “I decide everything by myself,” he says. “It’s like real American life.” While most Americans may find Vegas unreal, for Popovich and a small colony of Russians, it’s the new promised land.

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, the state-run circuses fell into disarray. Some top performers fled to the Live Entertainment, All- You-Can-Eat Buffet Capital of the World. Most prominent of the hundred or so Russians working the Strip is Vladimir Kekhaial (left), an aerialist in the Stardust’s “Enter the Night” show. His flying Adonis act earns him more money annually than Bill Clinton, and let him move his mother to Vegas and sheath her Soviet-issue steel teeth in new porcelain caps.

But capitalism has its downside. There was no demand for aerialist/ juggler Svetlana Failla’s act; she now dances nude at the Riviera. Two Russian dancers were let go from the Sands’ revue to make room for LaToya Jackson. And Popovich competes with the slots for attention. “They see good act, not play slots,” he says. “I can’t hold the best trick for last.”

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

THE TRUTH...

is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate