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Yearlong Soviet Arts Festival Opens in India

November 22, 1987|Associated Press

NEW DELHI — More than 1,000 Soviet folk dancers, gymnasts, circus acts and other performers kicked off a Soviet arts festival Saturday that included the Bolshoi Ballet's first show in a stadium.

Thousands of policemen guarded the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in southern New Delhi, where Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Soviet Premier Nikolai I. Ryzhkov inaugurated the yearlong "Festival of the Soviet Union."

For security reasons, the audience was limited to about 7,000 invited guests, leaving most of the 75,000-seat stadium empty. Those entering the stadium had to pass through metal detectors.

Earlier in the day, authorities detained more than 120 Afghan refugees after they burned a Soviet flag and struggled with police in a protest of Ryzhkov's visit. They were later released, police said.

The Afghans shouted slogans against the Soviet presence in their homeland. An estimated 115,000 Soviet troops have been sent to Afghanistan since 1979 to help the leftist government in its fight against rebels.

Another 170 Afghan refugees were put under house arrest by New Delhi police during Ryzhkov's six-day visit.

In his welcoming statement at the 2 1/2-hour opening ceremony Saturday, Gandhi said: "The festival of the Soviet Union is another flower of friendship between our countries."

'Biggest Event'

Ryzhkov called it "the biggest event in Indo-Soviet friendship." The two nations have close trade, technical and defense ties.

A highlight of the performance occurred when more than 100 dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet flitted across the stadium during the Nutcracker Suite.

More than 4,000 Soviets are to participate in the cultural festival, which will travel through 60 Indian cities and towns.

A "Festival of India" is under way in the Soviet Union.

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