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Feb 16 2005
Dancing Czar Upsets Churchgoers

MOSCOW Feb 15, 2005 A ballet depicting Czar Nicholas II dancing in tights opened Tuesday night despite protests from members of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has declared him a saint.

The ballet, "Rasputin," opened in Yekaterinburg, the city 900 miles east of Moscow where the czar and his family were executed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

About 100 believers from the Church of Spilled Blood, which was built on the execution site, urged the Kosmos Theater to cancel the production, the newspaper Kommersant reported.

"Orthodox Christians are offended by the fact that Emperor Nicholas II will be shown dancing in the production," said Maksim Menyailo, a priest from the church, according to Kommersant. "In Czarist Russia, it was not permitted even to show the images of saints on the stage."

Menyailo and at least one other priest went to the theater before the performance and talked to the ballet troupe. "We told them that this is evil, what they have thought up today," Menyailo said on NTV television.

Dimity Baibakov, an official of the Yekaterinburg synod, was quoted as saying: "Czar Nicholas was a martyr. He is not dancing in a czar's costume but in tights. Is it necessary to make fun of saints?"

Galina Pisulina, director of the theater, countered: "If people don't like this, they don't have to watch," according to the paper.

A Yekaterinburg theater critic, Yulia Matafonova, said on NTV that she suspected petitions criticizing the ballet were an organized campaign rather than a spontaneous reaction.

NTV said a few Russian Orthodox believers handed in their tickets for Tuesday's performance.

The initial production of "Rasputin" was shown in a St. Petersburg conservatory last year.

Grigory Rasputin was a monk whom the royal family believed to have healing powers and who exerted a strong influence on the family. He was murdered in 1916, about three months before the czar abdicated.

The dominant Russian Orthodox Church has experienced a revival since the collapse of the Soviet Union and its officially atheist Communist system, and has sought to increase its influence on Russian society and culture.

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