The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Categories: Celebrities | History

Alexander Ivanovich Zass remained in world history as one of the strongest people. He could carry a horse on his shoulders, tear steel chains with his hands and lift a piano together with a musician. The strongman almost became a train driver, but chose a different path and, being strong by nature, developed his capabilities to incredible limits.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Alexander Zass was one of five children in a simple peasant family. His parents, Ivan Petrovich and Ekaterina Yemelyanovna Zass cultivated land on a farm near Vilna, in Lithuania. The future strongman was born on February 23, 1888 and the first years of his life were no different from his peers.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

The first serious changes in the boy's life occurred after his family moved to a village near Saransk, in the Penza province. The city was very close and Alexander discovered the circus. Later, he recalled that he got from his parents for running away to the performances. But the peasant boy Sasha could not do anything with himself – the footlights and loud music hypnotized him.

The circus strongmen impressed the boy the most. He decided that he would certainly be the same as them, and began to train. The Zass family never had sports equipment, so they had to create them themselves. Any weighty objects were used – agricultural tools, kitchen utensils and even tree branches.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

The father and mother did not understand their son's passion for athletic exercises. They wanted their son to work on the land, like many generations of his ancestors. But everything was useless and Alexander spent every free minute on training. In 1908, his father sent his 20-year-old son to study in Orenburg, hoping that he would become a machinist. Zass liked the railroad and, perhaps, if not for the circus, he would have connected his life with it.

But now the locomotives and arrows were not interested in the guy. After spending several weeks at the train drivers' course, he dropped out. In order not to upset his father, Alexander wrote to him that he continues to master the profession and works in a locomotive depot. But in fact, Zass went to the circus and found a job there.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Already at the age of 20, Alexander Zass could boast of incredible strength and endurance. He easily bent horseshoes with his hands and hammered nails into the board with his hands. One of his first independent numbers was "Balance". During this trick, Zass went into the arena and put a large samovar with hot water and hot coals on his forehead. Keeping his balance, the strongman walked with a dangerous load around the arena.

Zass didn't just want to work in the arena – he aspired to growth and development. That is why in the first 8 years of his career he changed three circuses: Anjievsky, Yupatov and Khoitsev. Everywhere Alexander was accompanied by success and the love of the public. The Russian hero showed his amazing strength not only during performances. Often Zass simply demonstrated his prowess on a bet.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Once, after arguing with another circus athlete, Sergei Nikolaevsky, Zass unbent the steel bars of the lion cage. At the same time, the strongman did not impress at all with his external data. He was not tall, only 168 cm and could not boast of massive musculature, like, for example, Ivan Poddubny. Zass looked fit and muscular, nothing more. It was this contrast between ordinary appearance and incredible strength that greatly contributed to the success of the circus artist.

When the First World War broke out, Alexander was drafted into the army and sent to the front. The strongman served in the 180th Vindava Cavalry Regiment, known for its brave scouts. Zass quickly became famous here – one day he carried a Kid's horse wounded by the Austrians on himself from under fire. I must say that the hero was very fond of animals and especially horses, with whom he often worked in the circus.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Perhaps Zass would have become famous for other feats on the battlefield, but his military service quickly ended. The strongman was seriously wounded by shrapnel in his legs and was captured by the Austrian. He was threatened with amputation, but the Austrian doctors tried to save the legs of the circus artist and they succeeded.

As soon as he started walking, Zass began to plan an escape from captivity. No one expected much speed from a man with a cane, who was considered disabled, so the guards were not particularly vigilant. The escape was successful only the third time and Alexander, once free, immediately went ... to the circus.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

He chose for himself the small Hungarian town of Kaposvar and there got a job in the circus troupe of Schmidt. It was in the circus that the Austrian gendarmes arrested him. After the escape, Zass was sent to the fortress, under reliable protection. The strongman was supposed to be there until the end of the war.

As prone to escape, Zass was imprisoned in a secure solitary cell. He had a lot of free time and Alexander took up the development of his own system. The training program was later published by him in the book "Amazing Samson. Told by himself", which became a bestseller in Russia and Europe.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Zass's training in prison was based on isometric exercises. They did not require a lot of free space and special sports equipment. Sports, according to the hero, did not let him go crazy in a stone bag. "Falling into a melancholy is the worst thing in the world," Zass said, and therefore he always tried to be busy with something.

Without waiting for the war to end, Zass makes his fourth escape, the most successful. He finds a safe haven in Budapest, with an old acquaintance of Chai Janos, the owner of the circus. Soon the artist decides to stage his most dangerous trick, which he called "The Projectile Man".

A special cannon capable of firing projectiles weighing up to 90 kg was designed for the new issue. At first, Zass planned to catch the kernels with his hands, but then he complicated the trick. They decided to load the gun with an assistant, which the athlete had to catch in the air and keep his balance at the same time. "The Projectile Man" was a resounding success and a dangerous number began to be copied in many circuses around the world.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

When the war ended and Zass could live and work without hiding, he returned to the Schmidt Circus. It was there that he received the nickname "Iron Samson", under which he went down in history. Zassa began to be called so after the number "The Devil's Forge". In it, the athlete was placed on a board with nails, and a stone block weighing 500 kg was installed on top. After that, the assistants smashed the block with sledgehammers right on the artist's body.

The success of Alexander Zass quickly became international and on May 20, 1923, he signed a contract with the Paris circus Charles Debre. The strongman also collaborated with the Italian impresario Pasolini, who organized the artist's tours throughout Europe. Despite the fact that after the war Zass never returned to Russia, he always called himself a Russian artist and emphasized this on posters.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

Alexander Ivanovich Zass performed for a surprisingly long time, until 1954. At the age of 66, the strongman, while still in great shape, decided to retire. "Iron Samson" wanted to remain young and unsurpassed in the memory of fans. He was adored in France, Switzerland, Italy and the UK, but was completely unknown at home.

After retiring, the circus strongman took up another favorite thing – training. Zass worked with dogs, monkeys, lions and, of course, with horses. The artist's life ended tragically when he was saving his pets.

The story of circus athlete Alexander Zass — Russian "Iron Samson"

In 1962, a van with monkeys caught fire and the strongman rushed to rescue the animals. He suffered a massive burn to his head and died in hospital from a heart attack. "Iron Samson" is buried in the UK, in the cemetery of the city of Hockley, where he lived and worked for the last years.

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