Bolshoi Ballet Star Accuses Management of Stalin-Era Hunt

The Bolshoi ballet’s principal dancer, Nikolai Tsiskaridze, accused management of waging a Stalin-era witch-hunt against him as a rift widened over an acid attack last month on the theater’s artistic director.

Police are investigating the possible involvement of Bolshoi ballet members and employees of the theater in the Jan. 17 attack that damaged Sergei Filin’s eyes and face, Interfax reported, citing an unidentified law enforcement official.

“Just like in 1937 under Stalin, they are organizing meetings against me and forcing people to sign letters against me,” Tsiskaridze, 39, said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp. posted on its website today. “This happened a week ago. And they refused, all the ballet masters refused.”

Rivalry within Russia’s most famous theater, which was founded in 1776 by Catherine the Great, has become public since the attack, with Georgian-born Tsiskaridze and the Bolshoi’s general director, Anatoly Iksanov, trading accusations.

Iksanov said in an interview with Russia’s Snob magazine posted on its website this week that Tsiskaridze was probably behind the online release of gay pornographic photographs resembling the Bolshoi’s then-director, Gennady Yanin, that led to his resignation in 2011. While Iksanov didn’t accuse Tsiskaridze of ordering the attack on Filin, he said the dancer had created an atmosphere that led to the tragedy and had lobbied to be appointed artistic director.

Hacking, Tampering

Filin has said that before the assault, when a masked assailant threw acid at his face as he arrived outside his home in Moscow, someone tampered with his mobile phones and hacked his e-mail and Facebook Inc. account.

Tsiskaridze, who denies involvement in the attack, accused Filin of seeking to turn one of his pupils against him in December by offering her a part in Swan Lake if she stopped taking lessons with him, a proposal he says she refused. He also said he doubted the official version of the assault because if acid had been used, Filin would have had more severe injuries.

The Bolshoi’s spokeswoman, Katerina Novikova, said the theater’s lawyers were studying the possibility of suing Tsiskaridze for damage to its reputation, declining to respond to his comments to the BBC.

Filin, who flew to Germany for further treatment after he was discharged from the hospital this week, said he’ll identify who was behind the acid attack that threatens his eyesight once an investigation is complete.

Moscow police’s press service declined to comment when contacted by Bloomberg News today. Police will identify the suspects publicly only after detaining and charging them, spokesman Andrei Galiakberov said in a Feb. 4 interview.

“This is a case that’s generated huge public interest in Russia and internationally, given that it involves the Bolshoi Theater, and we’ll devote every effort to uncovering the culprits,” he said.