The Soviet-era renowned clown Popov died of heart failure at age 86. While still on tour, he went into cardiac arrest at his hotel in the Russian city of Rostov-on-Don.
Internationally renowned Russian circus clown Oleg Popov reportedly died Wednesday in his sleep. "His heart stopped," the head of Rostov-on-Don circus, Dmitry Reznichenko, reported to RIA Novosti state news agency.
Dubbed the "sunshine clown," he was considered one of the last circus legends. His best-known character was "Ivanushka," who donned a black jacket and a red bow tie, topping it off with a checkered cap and blond wig.
On Thursday, the Russian State Circus, a state umbrella organization that networks numerous fixed circuses, hailed Popov for his "generosity, multi-faceted talent and dedication."
Clown Oleg Popov performing at the premiere of his show "May there always be sunshine!" in February 2016
In a statement, Russian culture minister Vladimir Medinsky said Popov "brought joy and goodness to many generations of our compatriots."
"He managed to create a unique image of an eccentric clown who radiated light just by making an appearance and turned every performance into a festivity," Medinsky said.
An international stage
Born to a poor family outside of Moscow, Popov started his clown career at age 14 when he joined the Russian State Circus School in Moscow, where he honed his talents in juggling and acrobatics. He started performing with the Moscow State Circus in 1955, achieving his greatest fame on his tours abroad, particularly on his tours of Western Europe.
Circus leader Reznichenko said that Popov's family wished for the clown to be buried in Germany, where he moved in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The clown legend, however, continued to perform and tour in his homeland until his death.
als/eg (AFP, dpa)