A Russian court convicted three men today for a January acid attack that nearly blinded the Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director Sergei Filin, bringing to a close a case that exposed the intricate, ugly internal politics of the artistic behemoth.
Soloist dancer Pavel Dmitrichenko received a six-year prison sentence for ordering the strike, which was actually carried out by former convict Yuri Zarutsky, who was sentenced to ten years. Andrei Lipatov will be jailed for four years for serving as Zarutsky’s getaway driver. The prosecutor representing Filin had asked for a nine-year punishment for Dmitrichenko, who claimed he had asked Zarutsky to harm Filin, but did not expect such a severe assault . Zarutsky, for his part, took sole credit for the decision to use acid on Filin.
Dmitrichenko appeared to have been angered by Filin's passing over him and his common-law wife, Anzhelina Vorontsova, for prominent roles in Bolshoi performances. The Bolshoi Ballet, which was founded in 1776, has a long history of Shakespearean-like scandal, with dancers fueled by envy and ambition taking extreme measures to get ahead, and directors accused of favoritism and susceptibility to bribes. In November, Bolshoi’s first American dancer Joy Womack quit, saying she was expected to pay a hefty bribe to be a featured performer.
Prior to the attack, Filin had received anonymous threats and been in conflict with Dmitrichenko. David Remnick wrote in a March profile for the New Yorker that Dmitrichenko's resentment soon came to a head:
In late December, Dmitrichenko confronted Filin, demanding the role of Solor, the male lead in “La Bayadère.” Filin, his assistant recalled, told him that he was not the “type” for Solor. Dmitrichenko was incensed and began to argue with him… The confrontation culminated in dark ultimatums. After failing to persuade Filin to cast him in “La Bayadère,” Dmitrichenko declared that he and Vorontsova would soon be the stars of the company, no matter what. According to Timergazina, Dmitrichenko ended the conversation on an ominous note. “I will organize a new year for you,” he said, “that you will not soon forget.”
But some in the company don’t believe that Dmitrichenko should be fully blamed for the incident. Remnick continues:
Several dancers signed a letter to the presiding judge, asking for leniency in the ruling against Dmitrichenko. Filin has undergone twenty operations attempting to restore his vision.
Hardly anyone at the Bolshoi is satisfied. Filin’s confidants continue to blame [dancer Nikolai] Tsiskaridze for creating a toxic atmosphere at the theatre; they are also convinced that the circle of responsible parties around Dmitrichenko is wider and that investigators still have work to do.