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Russian culture minister slams pressure on cinemas over tsar film Matilda

September 13, 14:26 UTC+3 MOSCOW

The film by Alexei Uchitel, which depicts a romance between Nicholas II and ballerina Matilda Kschessinska before his marriage and coronation, is set for release on October 26

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© Yuri Smityuk/TASS

MOSCOW, September 13. /TASS/. Any attempts to exert pressure on cinemas over the screenings of Matilda, a movie describing the love story of last Russian emperor Nicholas II and a ballet dancer, are censorship and lawlessness, Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky said on Wednesday.

"Any intentions of 'initiators' on the ground to ban the screenings, any attempts of pressure against private or municipal cinemas are pure lawlessness and censorship, which is directly against the Russian Constitution," Medinsky told TASS.

The Culture Ministry allows the screenings at cinemas in line with legal procedures, Medinsky explained. "The law strictly describes the grounds for any refusal. There are none of them in case with Matilda. We are guided by the law, not private tastes."

"I have personally seen this film. I won’t discuss its content - this is just incorrect until spectators see it. But I confirm: there is nothing offensive in it either for the memory of Nicholas II or for the history of Russia’s monarchy," the minister said. Any discourse about the film until its release is groundless, he stressed.

The minister has called on Russian law enforcement agencies to ensure the rule of law in the situation with Matilda and curb any pressure on the state and cinema business from "activists with their socially dangerous methods of imposing their views."

"I ask to give a profound and fair assessment to their actions," he said. "Let’s show civic responsibility and stick to the law and common sense, and respect for each other."

The activists who are fighting against the film discredit the Orthodox Church, Medinsky stressed. The hysteria around the film has reached such proportions that its authors are persecuted by activists, who carry out arsons and make threats. Some Russian cinema networks even decided to withdraw the screening of Matilda "just over security grounds," he said.

Until recently the ministry has been trying not to meddle in the scandal around the film, but the latest events forced it to make certain comments, Medinsky said. "I don’t know what pushed Poklonskaya to initiate and support this fuss. Maybe this comes from her pure heart," Medinsky said, adding that he is not ready to guess on the activists’ motives.

The film by Alexei Uchitel, which depicts a romance between Nicholas II and ballerina Matilda Kschessinska before his marriage and coronation, is set for release on October 26.

Nicholas II and his family were executed after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution and canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.

A number of activists including MP Natalia Poklonskaya, Crimea’s former prosecutor, have launched a campaign against the film calling for its release to be cancelled and claiming that it will insult the feelings of Orthodox believers.

On Monday night, two cars were set ablaze outside the office of Uchitel’s lawyer, Konstantin Dobrynin, in downtown Moscow. The attorney posted photos of the charred automobiles and notes left at the scene saying "Burn for Matilda" on his Facebook page.

A group calling itself "Christian State, Holy Russia" sent nearly a thousand letters with threats to movie theater owners across Russia, urging them to drop the screening of Matilda.

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