Did bad blood trigger acid attack on Bolshoi chief?

Jan 18, 2013

Dancers in shock after masked man hurls acid in Sergei Filin’s face outside his Moscow home

DOCTORS are working to save the eyesight of Bolshoi Ballet artistic director Sergei Filin after acid was thrown in his face outside his Moscow home last night.

A Bolshoi spokesperson told the New York Times that a masked man called out Filin’s name before throwing the substance in his face. He is said to have received third-degree burns and has lost the use of one eye. He underwent a 15-hour operation and doctors have warned his recovery may take six months.

The attack comes after months of harassment and threats. The 42-year-old, who was appointed artistic director of the legendary ballet company in March 2011 amid fierce competition, had been subjected to phone hacking, threatening emails and a defamatory page on Facebook.

Last week his car was scratched and the tyres were slashed, but he refused a bodyguard, saying he did not "believe the threats would lead to physical violence", said the New York Times.

His wife, the Bolshoi dancer Maria Prorvich, told Moscow police that "telephone threats had been mounting in the past month" and that she feared for the lives of their children.

Dancers have held an overnight vigil, with many speaking out about the "professional jealousy" they believe triggered the attack.

Filin’s promotion from dancer to director apparently caused "factions" to emerge within the company, divided on who they thought should be in charge. Some of those factions supported Yuri Grigorovich, who ran the company with an iron fist during the Soviet era, but was forced out in 1995, reported the Arts Desk.

Backstabbing and ballet have long gone hand-in-hand at the Bolshoi, with the atmosphere once described as "Darwinian" by Russian TV host and Bolshoi dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze. "If you don’t eat them, they’ll eat you," he said last year.

Filin is not the first Bolshoi member to fall victim to an anonymous hate campaign – though this is the first attack to be treated as a criminal matter. In 2011, company manager Gennady Yanin was forced to resign after he was caught up in an internet porn scandal many claimed was a set-up.

Filin remains in a stable but serious condition.

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