Controversy about movie sparks violence


Radical Orthodox deputy distances herself from her coreligionists who tried to set fire to "Lendok" movie studio

by Ksenia Klochkova

Fontanka, 31 August 2017


At 3:00 a.m. on the night of 31 August, three glass bottles with inflammable substance were thrown into the "Lendok" movie studio, located in the neighborhood of the office of the "Rok" studio of the author of the movie "Matilda." Two hours later State Duma Deputy Natalia Poklonskaia, an ardent fighter against the movie about Nicholas II, published on social networks the question "To be silent and to wait?" Internet users drew some conclusions and Poklonskaia expressed others in a conversation with Fontanka.


In the night of 31 August two men, insofar as this may be surmised on the basis of tapes from a surveillance camera, approached building 12 on Kriukov Canal. Hiding between cars, one of them took out bottles with an incendiary mixture. Three Molotov cocktails flew into the windows of the second floor. The second young man stood lookout and, judging by everything, filmed what was happening with a camera. The incident lasted no more than a minute. The young men did not want to delay and ran off. A sill caught fire in the building.


Lendok security guards called emergency services. The firefighters managed to quench the flame in 12 minutes. In Lendok, which lost nothing, they called what happened a miracle. The incendiary mix hit a brickwork window, behind which is a wooden hall where film scenes are made and sound is recorded. If there were no bricks, everything would have burned up.


The nighttime escapade under the windows of the movie studio immediately was connected with the disputes about "Matilda." After all, it is obvious that they were aiming for Aleksei Uchitel's "Rok" studio, located in the next building, users of the social network concluded.


Something else was symbolic. The thirty-first of August is the birthdays of Aleksei Uchitel (he turned 66) and Matilda Kshesinskaia, who would have reached 145.


The director himself decided not to draw hasty conclusions.


"What is the reason for this attack should be established not by me, but it seems that all this is the consequence of previous threats. They arrive all the time, both at the studio and at movie theaters. Today I have a birthday, as does Matilda Kshesinskaia. I think that these are all complex coincidences," he said in a conversation with BBC.


To be sure, he noted in an interview with "Dozhd" that it seems to him that "inwardly Poklonskaia welcomes this."


Another matter for consideration was given by the State Duma deputy herself, who for a long time has led the movement against the film "Matilda." Two hours later after the incident in St. Petersburg, she published on social networks a video with the title "Lars Aidinger (the German actor who plays Nicholas II in Uchitel's film—ed. note) is a satanist!" Commenting on the video series in which the authors try to prove this thesis mentioned in the title, she wrote: "To be silent and to wait? What will be the next satanist sign? Perhaps the head of a goat, if there is not enough blood for everything?"


Internet users reacted immediately. On Telegram, VKontakte, and Facebook appeared collages: Poklonskaia against a background of flame and burning buildings. "Molotov cocktails were thrown into Aleksei Uchitel's movie studio in St. Petersburg. Who did this?" the users fretted. On Twitter they recalled the Black Hundreds: "So! Black Hundreds are revived. We thank Mrs. Poklonskaia. After about 100 years Purishkevich's successor is Mrs. Poklonskaia."


The medal for quick thinking in this stream of network creativity may be given to the authors of the Telegram channel Mash, the new offspring of Aram Gabrelianov. They replaced the face of Peter Pavlensky on a photo with the action of arson of the F.S.B. door.


Fontanka, deciding not to trust the bloggers, turned for comment to Poklonskaia herself:


--Natalia, do you know about what happened in St. Petersburg? Do you have a suggestion about who could have thrown Molotov cocktails at the movie studio? and Can you evaluate this?


--The proposition and assessment will be given by the competent agencies. I am not the St. Peterburg prosecutor nor the minister of internal affairs. I have been talking about such happenings for the course of a year and I have written corresponding inquiries so that competent agencies will take preventive measures, that is measures of a preventive character aimed at avoiding extremism and radical attitudes. Because before issuing a distribution certificate for a product on a national film, it is necessary to take into account all circumstances and the opinion of the public and the moods of people that are evoked by this product.


Yesterday they poured blood onto my photograph and a portrait of the Holy Emperor Nicholas Alexandrovich (yesterday feminists put out a film in which they poured menstrual blood on portraits of the emperor and the State Duma deputy, accusing the latter of discrediting women—ed. note). In this case just yesterday the materials were supposed to be registered with law enforcement agencies and an examination was to be begun.


Yesterday blood, today a Molotov cocktail. Who directed this? Who needs it? I think competent agencies will sort it out. Who wrote the script. Who directed this film of yesterday? Who organized such events today? In order to register all these facts in the book of offenses committed and crimes, the law enforcement agencies do not need to wait for statements.


--Can you address your supporters who are expressing their opinion radically and call them to a peaceful dialogue?


--That is an incorrect question. I do not know about which supporters you are speaking. I have a law on citizens' appeals. All statements of people that appeal to me I have sent to the appropriate agencies.


--That is quite understandable, but there are people who think like you that "Matilda" should not come out on the wide screen. Probably supporters of this point of view also used a radical method of expressing their position, throwing bottles with a flammable mixture at a movie studio. If each of the sides of the conflict calls their likeminded persons for dialogue, the degree of tension of the situation may abate.


----Perhaps Uchetil also should speak about the impermissibility of pouring blood on me and the emperor, but I should not act with regard to a Molotov cocktail. Who did this? Perhaps Director Uchitel should think about this. Perhaps this is all one script that you then should be asking me such questions. (tr. by PDS, posted 2 September 2017)

Background articles:
Orthodox activists threaten violence against movie theatres
February 7, 2017
Church and state warn dissenters against film about sainted tsar
February 8, 2017
Noisy public dispute about motion picture depicting Tsar Nicholas II
July 21, 2017

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