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Circus of Alexander Koromyslov

Old Izhevsk circus
Wrestling team
Old wooden circus in Izhevsk, Ural
Team of female wrestlers. 1908
Frida Damberg is the third from right standing

Русская версия


In the late XIX century, a circus rider, clown, animal trainer, holder of a horse circus and entrepreneur Alexander Koromyslov, owned several circuses (both stationary and mobile) in Siberia and Ural. A half of Russia became an arena for his entrepreneurial talent: Perm, Ekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, Tyumen, Tobol'sk, Omsk, Novosibirsk, Krasnoyarsk, Izhevsk, and Vyatka. Koromyslov was one of the first promoters of women's circus wrestling.

Koromyslov was born in 1859 in Kazan', got a home-school education; at the age of 15 he lost both parents and found himself without bread and butter. Having wandering around, he eventually was admitted to Arkhipov's circus. Being 20, Koromyslov ventured to be an independent performer. He became known as a risk gymnast during the coronation in Moscow in 1883. During the fare in Nizhny Novgorod he was invited to a famous Nikitin's circus where he met famous clown Anatoly Durov.

In 1990s, Koromyslov built several stationary circuses, including Perm and Izhevsk. He founded a famous stationary circus in the community of Izhevsk factory – big for those times – the gods accommodated 100 and the orchestra 200 spectators. A wrestler team performed in the circus, in which Gregory Kascheev from Vyatka was notable. By a chance, a thought occurred to Koromyslov – to get involved women in circus wrestling.

Being in Vyatka, Koromyslov learned that Kascheev's sister, Irina, was tall, mighty and extremely strong, he felt an urge to try her in powerlifting numbers. Secretly from her brother, he sent a telegram to Irina in her village offering her a well paid performance job in his circus in Vyatka. As she arrived, Koromyslov ordered to receive her with honor. Hiding her form her brother for a while, he took her to a training room to test her ability to manipulate with weights. In actual fact, her strength turned out to be beyond expectations – few guys would compete with her. The solid impressive figure of the woman inspired enterprising Koromyslov to test her against his wrestlers whom he immediately sent for them for sparring with her. Not knowing wrestling techniques, Irina managed to amaze the men, allowing none of them to pin her. "It was almost impossible even to take her down", - recalled Koromyslov looking forward to influx or spectators. But he was bitterly disappointed.

When she eventually appeared before her brother, Gregory was surprised and infuriated by the action of Koromyslov. "I was called by a telegram, they offered big money", explained Irina and showed him the telegram from Koromyslov. . Fostered in patriarchal tradition, Kascheev order her: "Immediately leave for home, this is fare money, it is not a place for you, it's not a womanish deed!" Irina didn't have any choice but to go back home. Koromyslov was beside himself with anger – to lose so outstanding woman!

After that incident, Kascheev left Koromyslov's circus while Koromyslov got enthusiastic over the idea to get women involved in wrestling. He sent hunters all over Russia and abroad to search exceptionally strong women. It was him who recommended powerful but good-natured Larisa Belaya to test herself in wrestling. In 1880s, he began holding ladies wrestling tournaments. Famous strongwoman and wrestler Marina Lurs performed in his circus along with her powerful friend, Annette Busch.

According to Izhevsk local historian Zhilin, "Wrestlers enjoyed special popularity, particularly, female wrestlers. In 1895, Izhevsk residents enjoyed reading bills like this: "Circus. Today and tomorrow! The one and only ladies championship in French wrestling!" The names of those popular female wrestlers have perished: madam Frida Damberg, Maria Poddubnaya, Dimitrescu, Belani and Anna Znamenskaya… But then they literally absorbed attention of the male audience. Izhevsk residents felt keenly about their favorite; they had bets; they stared at them in the street and on the beach, they respectfully parted to let them pass – strength and dexterity were always stood high. It was a topical song: "Ah, babes in leotard, they wound hard."

In June, 1919, as soon and Red Army occupied Perm, Alexander Koromyslov was executed by order of the Bolshevik's "Cheka". His crime was that he was a "reactionary" and "monarchist"…

Alexander Khromov
March 2011


Some information about Alexander Koromyslov (in Russian)

"The first director"
In the Circus of Koromyslov


Exclusive of the Female Single Combat CLub

Grigory Kascheev Larisa Belaya
Grigory Kascheev and Larisa Belaya

Alexander Koromyslov
Alexander Koromyslov
Alexander Koromyslov


Frida Damberg
Frida Damberg, winner on many French wrestling tournaments in many Russian cities


>> Female Combat History

>>> Circus wrestling and powerlifting at the turn of the century

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