BearInAHat - Ception!We post to a blog about it, but do we really understand why? Or how this began? Or if bears even really wear hats?
No! Those are bearskin hats!
Better! And more horrifying ... Why don't the Slovic armies use these instead of their poofy tall hats?
Anyway, there has to be a reason the drunken, dancing bear is such a prominent stereotype about Russia (besides the apparent rampant consumption of hard liquor by monks and lay people ...)
As it turns out, the story here isn't as complex as one would hope. In the middle ages, there were a lot of very impoverished individuals around Russia and surrounding countries looking to, you know, consume food and be alive. These people couldn't find work doing normal manual labor, so they began looking into street performing. Of course, a major element in any street performance is the amount of risk the performer is willing to take, and at the time bears in the Eastern part of the world were basically insanely horrifying. For example, look at this:
Pretty gruesome. The poor realized that they would die if they didn't have commerce coming in, though, so they decided to tame the most fearsome animals they could and degrade them as much as possible to show their mastery over the beast and, by extension, increase the coins thrown their way.
As time has passed, the tradition has been cemented into cultures and the practice continues even to this day as a tourist attraction.
Now for that moment where something fun gets rather serious and sad. Large numbers of bears in countries where they are still being captured and tamed are dying from malnutrition, methods of capture, and a general lack of care for their well being. As fun as the "dancing bear" seems on the street, many lead brutal lives.
So, love the bear in a hat ... Sketches. But if you ever have the opportunity to help the bear being held prisoner, take the opportunity.