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We present an active feedback blowing and suction (AFBS) procedure via model reduction for unsteady wake flow and the vortex-induced vibration (VIV) of circular cylinders. The reduced-order model (ROM) for the AFBS procedure is developed by the eigensystem realization algorithm (ERA), which provides a low-order representation of the unsteady flow dynamics in the neighbourhood of the equilibrium steady state. The actuation is considered via vertical suction and a blowing jet at the porous surface of a circular cylinder with a body-mounted force sensor. While the optimal gain is obtained using a linear quadratic regulator (LQR), Kalman filtering is employed to estimate the approximate state vector. The feedback control system shifts the unstable eigenvalues of the wake flow and the VIV system to the left half-complex-plane, and subsequently results in suppression of the vortex street and the VIV in elastically mounted structures. The resulting controller designed by a linear low-order approximation is able to suppress the nonlinear saturated state of wake vortex shedding from the circular cylinder. A systematic linear ROM-based stability analysis is performed to understand the eigenvalue distribution for the flow past stationary and elastically mounted circular cylinders. The results from the ROM analysis are consistent with those obtained from full nonlinear fluid–structure interaction simulations, thereby confirming the validity of the proposed ROM-based AFBS procedure. A sensitivity study on the number of suction/blowing actuators, the angular arrangement of actuators and the combined versus independent control architectures has been performed for the flow past a stationary circular cylinder. Overall, the proposed control concept based on the ERA-based ROM and the LQR algorithm is found to be effective in suppressing the vortex street and the VIV for a range of reduced velocities and mass ratios.