Yuri Nikulin was born on December 18, 1921 in the city of Demidov. His family was closely associated with the theater: father Vladimir Andreevich studied law, and upon returning from the army he got a job as an actor in the theater, his mother Lidia Ivanovna was also a theater actress. It is noteworthy that Yuri’s parents were known in the city precisely as comedian actors, which greatly influenced the future fate of the boy.
When Yuri was four years old, his family moved to Moscow. Father got a job as a correspondent in two local newspapers and began to compose reprises for the theater and the circus. Vladimir Andreevich often took his son with him to the circus, where the five-year-old Jura was inspired by an atmosphere of joy and fun. It was then that the future artist got the idea to amuse people, causing smiles on their faces. He led the life of an ordinary Soviet boy, spent a lot of time with friends, and sometimes got into fights.
At the school where Yuri was sent at seven years old, the teachers complained about the boy’s behavior, according to them, he behaved “like a clown”. But for Nikulin, such a characteristic was a compliment. The guy studied medium, often receiving comments in the classroom. He also could not boast of a good memory; memorization was difficult for the boy to memorize. The exception was the funny stories and dialogues that Yuri learned while playing in the local drama circle. The head of the theater circle was his father, who made a lot of efforts to reveal the comedic talent of his son.
After the seventh grade, many children went to different special schools. Nikulin dreamed of enrolling in a military special school, where his friend went, but his parents felt that this option did not suit his son with his cheerful and reckless character. Nevertheless, Yuri still had to leave his native, exemplary school and go to an educational institution in the neighborhood, which he graduated in 1939.
Immediately after school, Nikulin was drafted into the army for a long seven years. In November 1939, Yuri Nikulin was in the 115th anti-aircraft artillery regiment. During the Soviet-Finnish war, his battery protected the approaches to Leningrad near Sestroretsk. When the Great Patriotic War began, the future actor fought there, not far from Leningrad. In 1943, he contracted pneumonia and was sent to a hospital in the city on the Neva, and after discharge he was shell-shocked during one of the air raids. Then Nikulin was sent to the 72nd separate anti-aircraft division near Kolpino. Demobilized in 1946 with the rank of senior sergeant.
Nikulin was awarded the medals “For Courage”, “For the Defense of Leningrad”, “For the Victory over Germany”. In the last year of his service, the artist was engaged exclusively in amateur performances on the orders of the captain: at first he was the coach of the football team, but after the failed game he was relieved of this work, later he began to stage and perform concerts.
Nikulin decided to enter the All-Union State Institute of Cinema. He took some photographs and began to learn excerpts from the works in order to impress the selection committee. However, at the exams, Yuri was told that despite his talent and artistry, he is not suitable for cinema. The same fate befell the artist in theatrical institutes. Then Nikulin was forced to submit documents to the clownery studio at the Moscow Circus on Tsvetnoy Boulevard.
For the first time, Yuri Nikulin entered the circus ring arena on October 25, 1948, together with Boris Romanov, to perform the rendition of “The Model and Hack Worker.”
In 1949, Nikulin became a circus clown. At first, he acted as an assistant to the popular clown Pencil, and later began to work in tandem with comedian and acrobat Mikhail Shuidin. Yuri performed at the circus for more than thirty years, combining work with filming in the cinema. In 1981, he was promoted to chief director, and a year later he took the place of director. Under his leadership, the Moscow circus flourished, a new, more modern building was built for him. In total, the artist worked for about fifty years in the walls of his native entertainment institution.
Since 1969, the artist began to publish his works. His debut work was a book co-authored with Rudolf Slavsky and Oleg Popov, “The Art of Clowning.” Later, he published an autobiography in the form of numerous life stories entitled “Almost Seriously …”.
Nikulin’s humorous talent also came in handy on television, where from 1993 to 1997 he was the host of the White Parrot television program on the ORT television channel.
In 1996, the actor founded the Charitable Foundation “Circus and Mercy”, the purpose of which was to help young circus artists, as well as artists who devoted their whole lives to entertaining people.
Yuri Nikulin got into the movie thanks to the circus. In 1958, the director Alexander Fainzimmer needed a comedic pyrotechnic character to shoot the film “Girl with a Guitar,” which was played by a talented circus artist. Despite the insignificance of the role, the actor liked the audience, they remembered a cheerful and funny guy. This was the decisive factor in Nikulin’s career.