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Russian Ministry Approves Showing Of Controversial Film On Tsar Nicholas II

  • RFE/RL

Matilda's director, Aleksei Uchitel (right), and German actor Lars Eidinger, who plays Tsar Nicholas II, in Moscow in June

The Russian Culture Ministry has cleared for release a film highlighting the romantic youth of Tsar Nicholas II, despite requests by Orthodox activists and other conservatives to ban the film.

The ministry on August 10 said it had issued a screening certificate for the film, titled Matilda, which depicts Nicholas II's relationship with half-Polish teen dancer Matilda Kshesinskaya.

In making the announcement, Vyacheslav Telnov, chief of the ministry's film department, said it found Matilda in full compliance with legal norms.

ALSO READ: Two Months Before Its Release, Campaign Against Nicholas II Film Swings Into High Gear

He said the film had been cleared for release nationwide but that regional officials would be allowed to make their own decisions for areas under their authority.

It is timed to be released on the centennial of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution.

Some Orthodox leaders and hard-line nationalists vehemently opposed allowing the film to be shown, claiming it besmirches the memory of Nicholas, who was canonized as an Orthodox saint in 2000.

The campaign to ban the film was led by Natalya Poklonskaya, a controversial State Duma lawmaker who has expressed monarchist views and served as the chief regional prosecutor in Crimea following its illegal annexation by Moscow in March 2014.

Other critics, including Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed chief of Chechnya, argued that Matilda should be barred from theaters in the mostly Muslim regions in Russia's North Caucasus, saying it was a "premeditated insult to the feelings" of religious believers.

The film tells the story of a romance between Nicholas and Kshesinskaya when he was an unmarried crown prince. Trailers showing romantic scenes between the young prince and Kshesinskaya have outraged conservative critics.

The affair ended in 1894, when Nicholas married the German princess who became Empress Aleksandra. Kshesinskaya later married the tsar's cousin, Grand Duke Aleksandr Vladimirovich. She died in 1971.

Conservatives deny the well-documented affair took place, arguing that it would have been impossible for a prince to fall in love with a Pole who was "utterly homely.”

Director Aleksei Uchitel rejected the accusations and has received support from several prominent Russian filmmakers.

The czar and his family were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in July 1918.

With reporting by AP, TASS, Interfax, and RFE/RL’s Robert Coalson
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