The Russian culture ministry has cleared a film depicting a love affair between Russia’s last tsar and a ballerina for nationwide release, despite protests from conservative critics who have demanded it be banned.
Matilda, made by prominent Russian director Alexei Uchitel, tells the story of a love affair between the young Nicholas and a half-Polish ballet dancer, Matilda Kshesinskaya. Trailers show romantic scenes between the prince and the ballerina. Conservative and religious critics deny the affair ever took place and say the film is an insult to the memory of Nicholas, who was canonised by the Russian Orthodox church in 2000.
The Russian MP Natalia Poklonskaya filed a request to the general prosecutor’s office earlier this year asking to check whether the film broke a law on offending the feelings of religious believers. She admitted she had not seen the film when she made the request and said she did not plan to.
As Russia marks the centenary of the year that saw twin revolutions upend the tsarist order and sweep Vladimir Lenin’s Bolsheviks into power, the reputation of the last tsar is being rehabilitated. Monuments to Nicholas II are going up across Russia, and last month thousands of pilgrims made a 13-mile overnight walk to the spot where Nicholas and his family were executed in 1918, to mark the 99th anniversary of the deaths.
There is even a small but vocal contingent of Russians who want to see monarchy restored in the country.
Last month, hundreds of Orthodox activists staged a protest in Moscow against Uchitel’s film, and in some cases threats have even been made to cinemas, warning them they face attacks if they show the film.
A spokesman for the Russian culture ministry said on Thursday that the film complied with Russian law and had been issued a 16+ certificate. He said the certificate applied to the whole of Russia, but added that individual regions had the executive authority to ban the film if they wanted.
The hardline ruler of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, has already called for the film to be banned, and authorities in neighbouring Dagestan have also said they do not want the film to be shown.
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