Behind The Bizarre Acid Attack On The Bolshoi Ballet's Director

The gruesome attack on artistic director Sergei Filin is the latest in a series of scandals surrounding the world-famous Russian ballet company.

Posted on

Sergei Filin, artistic director of the renowned Bolshoi Ballet, suffered severe injuries when a masked man threw acid on his face and eyes outside his Moscow home Thursday night.

A spokeswoman for the Bolshoi told press that Filin had received threatening phone calls for weeks. His tires had been slashed several times, and earlier in the month his email and Facebook page had been hacked.

Filin, who suffered third-degree burns on his face and neck, underwent eye surgery Friday morning. Bolshoi assistant director Anatoly Iskanov told press there was "grave concern" that Filin might lose his eyesight.

Handout / Reuters

Sergei Filin, artistic director of Russia's prestigious Bolshoi Ballet, gestures during an interview in a still image from footage shot by REN TV in a Moscow hospital.

The artistic director will undergo two more surgeries this week. Filin told a Russian newspaper Tuesday that the acid hit his right eye and caused serious damage but doctors have "promised to save his left eye."

The Bolshoi Ballet has seen its fair share of drama in its illustrious history. Founded in 1776 by imperial decree, the company managed to survive as Russian and Soviet governments rose and fell.

The company made international headlines in 2003 when it dismissed prima ballerina Anastasia Volochkova for being too fat. Volochkova, who weighed 109 pounds at the time, succesfully sued the Bolshoi for back pay and damages.

Getty Images

Russian ballerina Anastasia Volochkova, 27, stands in front of the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow. September 19, 2003.

During the Bolshoi's search for a new artistic director in March 2011, graphic homoerotic images of top candidate and Bolshoi assistant director Gennady Yanin were published online. The resulting scandal forced Yanin to resign.

Sergei Filin, a principal dancer with the Bolshoi since 1990, was named artistic director instead. One of his first duties was to orchestrate the Bolshoi Theater's grand reopening in November 2011, concluding a six-year, $700 million reconstruction.

RIA Novosti, Dmitry Astakhov, Presidential Press Service, File / AP

In this Friday, Nov. 18, 2011, file photo, then Russian President Dmitry Medvedev (left) speaks with choreographer Yuri Grigorovich (center) and Bolshoi ballet art director Sergei Filin as he attends the premiere of Sleeping Beauty in the Bolshoi Theater in Moscow, Russia.

Soon after the theater's reopening, two of the Bolshoi's star dancers shocked the ballet world by leaving the company to join a lesser-known rival theater in St. Petersburg.

Rumors of infighting among Bolshoi dancers have persisted for decades, as have tales of broken glass in pointe shoes or dead cats being thrown onstage in place of flowers.

Moscow Police believe that Filin was targeted because of his work. As artistic director, he has final say over the company's repertoire and all casting decisions.