The Monument to «The Bear Academy» in Smorgon

Smorgon is a Belarusian town situated in the Grodno region. Its story is rich and multifaceted. Many people associate it primarily with the heroic 810-day defense of the town during the First World War. The Smorgon Academy teaching trainers of bears has not existed for long, but memory about it is still alive.

The Possessions of the Zenoviches and the Radziwills

Smorgon is an ancient town, and though it became a town only in 1903, this location was first mentioned in historical chronicles in 1503. The next mention of the town occurred thirty years later and was associated with the emergence of a main architectural attraction in Smorgon - the Church of St Michael the Archangel. The church was built for defensive purposes and nowadays it is a popular tourist attraction.

«The Bear Academy» is usually associated only with the dynasty of the Radziwills, but it already existed during the reign of the Zenoviches. In 1622, when the town was still in possession of the Zenoviches, a street in Smorgon called Skomoroshya (later Medvedskaya) where lived people with the second name Skomoroh. Therefore there is an assumption that it was founded under the rule of the Zenoviches, and its golden age was under the rule of the famous Radziwills, in particular, it is often associated with the name of the famous offspring of the dynasty – Karol Stanislaw Radziwill, popularly named Pan Kohanku. He ruled the town for thirty years – since 1762 to 1790 years.

«It is immediately obvious that he graduated from the Smorgon Academy!»

Now they say it about those who have a surface and scant knowledge that they try to pass off as erudition. In fact, quite highly educated and well-mannered artists-bears down that received a standing ovation at fairs not only in Belarus but also abroad.

In those days bear-baiting was of great interest among the public. Studying at the Academy was organized around three pillars. Bears were trained in fighting with another bear or with a man; in hounding when a bear was fighting the dogs; in comedy acting. The last task was the most difficult: huge shaggy beasts learned to bow and beck, dance and march, look at themselves in the mirror and many other, equally original tricks. The techniques and training used at the Academy were very effective.

Monument Academy

The Academy existed since the XVII to the late XVIII (or XIX) century. The building that hosted it, unfortunately, has not survived.

The idea to perpetuate the existence of the Academy training bears appeared a long time ago. Originally it was planned to erect a wooden sculpture; however, a sculptural composition made of cast iron appeared in Smorgon, which is called – «The Bear Academy».

The Smorgon attraction is a sculptural group that was created by the honored art worker Vladimir Terebun. It presents figures of two skomorokhs with musical instruments in their hands, near which a bear standing on its hind legs is dancing. The wonderful statue adorns the central walkway of the townpPark.