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Will controversial historical film Matilda be banned in Chechnya?

Will controversial historical film Matilda be banned in Chechnya?
Still from Matilda (2017, dir. Alexey Uchitel)

9 August 2017

Russia’s Ministry of Culture has promised to take into account a request by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov for Alexey Uchitel’s contentious upcoming historical drama film Matilda to be banned in Chechnya.

“The letter has been received and taken note of. This is Chechnya’s right,” reads a statement from the Culture Ministry’s press service. The statement comes almost two months after Mr Kadyrov sent his initial request.

Matilda centres on ballerina Mathilde Kschessinska and her relationship with Nicholas II. The unreleased film has already been the subject of considerable controversy and criticism both from representatives of the Russian Orthodox Church and government officials. Bishop Tikhon (Shevkunov), often referred to as the personal confessor of Russian President Vladimir Putin, dubbed the movie “slander” in its portrayal of Nicholas II, while earlier this year Russian State Duma deputy Natalia Poklonskaya collected 100,000 messages and signatures from citizens and officials against the film.

Earlier this week, Russian newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published photos of Mr Kadyrov’s letter to Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, which details the Chechen leader’s objections to Matilda.

Mr Kadyrov refers to thousands of statements by citizens and the results of psychological, linguistic and historical research, which contend that Matilda represents a deliberate mockery of the feelings of Orthodox believers and promotes the desecration of sacred objects and Russian history. He also makes reference to Russia’s Doctrine of Information Security, adopted in 2016, which aims in part to “neutralise information [...] aimed at eroding traditional spiritual and moral values and undermining the historical foundations and patriotic traditions associated with the defence of the Fatherland”.

In addition, the letter calls attention to the role of the Caucasian Native Cavalry Division or “Savage Division” in the First World War.

“The division consisted of residents of the North Caucasus and Transcaucasia, Muslims who voluntarily swore sovereignty to Nicholas II and pledged to protect the Russian Empire from the enemy, costing their lives. Until the end of its existence, the division remained faithful to the Tsar and the Tsarist army,” wrote Mr Kadyrov, who strongly disagrees with the unfavourable portrayal of Nicholas II in the upcoming film.

The premiere of Matilda is scheduled for 6 October 2017, while it is reported that Yekaterinburg-based director Sergiy Aliyev is preparing to release a film to counter the version of events depicted in Matilda, entitled The Lie of Matilda.

Source: Afisha (in Russian)