Although only scheduled for release in March 2017, a new film about the early life of the last Russian tsar has some conservative activists up in arms.
Only the trailer from the film Matilda, by director Aleksei Uchitel, is available, but that has been enough for the nongovernmental Tsar's Cross organization to denounce it as pornographic and unpatriotic.
"Against a general background of degradation, this film is just another attempt to insult something that is holy for the Russian people," the organization's leader, Nikolai Mishustin, wrote on social media on November 3.
Matilda tells the story of a three-year love affair between the future Tsar Nicholas II and a teenaged ballet dancer named Matilde Kshesinskaya. After the affair, which ended in 1894 when Nicholas married the German princess who became Empress Aleksandra, Kshesinskaya married the tsar's cousin, Grand Duke Andrei Vladimirovich. She died in 1971.
Nicholas, together with his entire family, was executed after the 1917 Bolshevik coup. They were canonized as Russian Orthodox saints in 2000.
At the request of Tsar's Cross, Duma Deputy Natalya Poklonskaya, the former Russian chief prosecutor in the occupied Ukrainian region of Crimea, has said she will file an official request with legal authorities to investigate whether the film violates legislation on offending religious sensibilities.
"Yesterday, the people, our electorate, appealed to us as their elected representative for help," Poklonskaya wrote on her LiveJournal blog. "I consider it my duty to consider and to react to this appeal. After all, one can betray God with silence."
Poklonskaya, an avowed monarchist who oddly carried a portrait of Nicholas II during the Immortal Regiment march to mark the 70th anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in 2015, and many of those who object to the film deny that Nicholas ever had an affair with Kshesinskaya.
They also object to the "desecration" of state symbols and the fact that Nicholas is portrayed by German actor Lars Eidinger. Because of the Romanov family's preference for marrying into European -- primarily German -- noble families, Nicholas's last primarily ethnic Russian ancestor was the 18th-century Tsar Peter the Great.
'Defenders Of Morality'?
The attacks on the film Matilda come against a background of growing concern about the influence of social and religious conservatives on the country's cultural life.
Late last month, theater director Konstantin Raikin gave a speech in which he lamented "attacks on art," mentioning the closure of an exhibition of photographs by American Jock Sturges, the cancelation of a production of Jesus Christ Superstar in Omsk, the 2015 closing of a production of the German opera Tannhauser in Novosibirsk, and others.
Noting that one protester at the controversial Sturges exhibition urinated on one of the photographs, Raikin questioned whether the protesters can really be considered defenders of morality.
Raikin said the protests against such cultural events were illegal and "paid for," implying that the government or the church could be inciting them.
He accused the government of trying to set itself up as the sole arbiter of morality and called on the cultural community to unite to prevent a return to "Stalinist times" in culture.
Writing in Kommersant on October 27, filmmaker Andrei Zvyagintsev, whose film Leviathan was shortlisted for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar in 2014, said "only a liar or an ignoramus" could deny the existence of censorship in Russia.