Tightrope Walkers

Tightrope Walkers

There is a village in Russia called Tsovkra where every resident can tightrope walk. It is a tradition that dates back over 100 years but no one knows how it started.

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Russia’s southern republic of Dagestan, nestled amid the rolling hills of the Greater Caucus Mountains is a tiny, largely secluded village where every physically able citizen can walk a tightrope.

In Tsovkra-1 tightrope walking has been the tradition for over 100 years. The tiny hamlet (which was given the numeral to help differentiate it from a nearby place with the same name) produced at least 17 men and women who became famous throughout the former Soviet Union for walking tightropes in circuses. The village is now home to fewer than 400 people, but even now all of the village’s schoolchildren reportedly study tightrope walking, and old and young alike regularly practice in all kinds of weather.

However the tradition got its start, by the early 19th century villagers began to market their skills by touring neighboring villages, according to the Independent. Tsovkra-1’s glory days arrived in the decades following World War II, when Soviet circuses rose in popularity and recruited the village’s best performers, who made the region famous for its people's unusual skills.

Today, however, the tradition is in danger of disappearing. Like other hamlets in the region, the farming community has suffered population decline as young people flee the region’s poverty and hard living for urban centers, and as the Independent points out, political instability has made the region a dangerous place to live. There are no longer the same funds or facilities available to train young tightrope walkers.

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