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Bolshoi artistic director attacked with acid

January 18, 2013|By Sergei L. Loiko
  • In this video grab provided by RenTV via APTN, artistic director of the Bolshoi ballet Sergei Filin gestures in a hospital in Moscow on Friday after an assailant threw acid in his face.
In this video grab provided by RenTV via APTN, artistic director of the Bolshoi… (Associated Press / RenTV )

MOSCOW — The artistic director of Russia’s famed Bolshoi Ballet was attacked by an assailant who threw acid in his face, police and theater officials said Friday. The assault followed what a colleague said were several weeks of threats and intimidation.

Sergei Filin was about to enter his house in downtown Moscow just before midnight Thursday when a masked stranger called him by his name and then flung the acid, Bolshoi’s spokeswoman Yekaterina Novikova said.

Filin, 42, suffered third-degree burns to his face and damage to the corneas of his eyes. He crawled to a parking guard’s booth for help and was taken to a Moscow hospital, where ophthalmological surgery was performed on him Friday.

“A criminal case has been opened on the grounds of severe physical harm deliberately caused,” said Moscow police spokesman Arkady Bashirov over the phone. “We are doing our best to find the culprits.”

Bolshoi general director Anatoly Iksanov said Friday he was sure the attack was related to Filin’s work with the ballet.

“I have my own opinion on [who might be behind it] but the investigation is on,” he told Russia-24 television, adding that no one would be appointed acting ballet chief in Filin’s absence.

In recent weeks Filin’s email box had been hacked, his car tires slashed, and threats were made against him over the phone, Novikova said.

“Somebody broke into his email a few days ago and stole his private correspondence, which later was posted in a distorted shape in a fake Facebook account,” she added. “When this attempt to sow discord within the leadership of the Bolshoi didn’t work they resorted to this horrible crime.”

Filin’s sister echoed her comments.

“He was in somebody’s way and somebody is very envious of him,” the sister, Yelena Filina, told Russia-24 after visiting her brother in the hospital before the surgery. Filina said her brother’s eyesight was affected so badly that he could hardly recognize her.

Doctors said Filin may need several plastic surgeries and months of treatment.

Filin, himself the star of the Bolshoi Ballet and the former chief of Moscow’s Stanislavsky Musical Theater ballet company, was appointed artistic chief in 2011. He began by inviting one of ballet’s most talented stars, American Ballet Theatre principal dancer David Hallberg, to join the company.

Hallberg danced with another Bolshoi star, Svetlana Zakharova, in Pyotr Chaikovsky’s “Sleeping Beauty” to open the season in the fall of 2011 as Filin and Iksanov presided over the return of company to the Bolshoi Theater after a prolonged restoration marked with financial scandals.

“This attack is a reprehensible strike at the core of all who strive to make art,” Hallberg said in an interview via email. “Sergei Filin is an artist leading a generation of dancers in a visionary way and this violence has no place in the artistic community or anywhere else.”

Back in 2011 many hoped that the return of the company to the restored theater would end the tumultuous times at the Bolshoi.

When Filin said following his return that he was happy to be “coming back to his native home,” Iksanov quietly warned him: “Be careful, Sergei.”

“Last week feeling the pressure from phone calls with threats, his email box hacked and car tires slashed, Sergei came to Anatoly Gennadyevich [Iksanov] and said that he felt ‘like in the line of fire,’” Novikova recalled. “Anatoly Gennadyevich replied that he felt in the line of fire all the time.”

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