Film about Russian czar’s romance to premiere amid hostility

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A film inspired by the love affair between a ballerina and Russia’s last czar is having its Moscow premiere despite sparking outrage from some Russians.

Hard-line nationalists and some Orthodox believers see “Matilda” as blasphemy against Emperor Nicholas II, who is glorified as a saint in the Russian Orthodox Church.

The controversy has highlighted the increasing assertiveness of radical religious activists and a growing conservative streak in Russia’s society.

The film loosely tells the story of Nicholas II’s infatuation with ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya.

What started out nearly a year ago as a petition campaign to protest the film took violent turns in recent months. Molotov cocktails were thrown at the director’s film studio and his lawyer’s car set on fire.

Director Alexei Uchitel calls Tuesday’s premiere “a victory for all reasonable people.”

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