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16 january, 2006 | By Boris Sopelnyak

The Pas de Deux With the KGB (24680)

Rudolf Nureyev’s name has been cleared. From now on it belongs to Terpsichore alone, the patroness of dancing, and certainly not to Themis, the goddess of Justice.  

I am looking at the “Conclusion to Case Materials, archive number 50888” endorsed by Galina Vesnovskaya, senior assistant to the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation. The paper deals with the former leading dancer of the Kirov Ballet in Leningrad, Rudolf Khamitovich Nureyev (the numerous art critics who choose to spell his name with an i, that is Nuriev, make a mistake. I have at my disposal a photo copy of Rudolfs passport, and there it has a double e in Russian, i.e. the correct spelling is Nureyev. – B.S.) 

Though of modest size, the Conclusion will have to be perused passage by passage, for each section speaks with the voice of its age, the age when the countrys leaders, all those first secretaries, chairmen, and various other big wigs of whatever rank, felt free, certain of impunity, to do as they pleased to anyone anywhere. 

So, let us consider part one of that cruel and positively inhumane document. 

On April 2, 1962, the Criminal Offenses Chamber, Leningrad City Court, sentenced Rudolf Kh. Nureyev to seven years in custody with sequestration of property, under Article 64a of the RSFSR Penal Code on the charge of refusal to return to the Soviet Union from abroad while on a tour of France with the ballet troupe of the Kirov Opera and Ballet Theater, under the following circumstances. 

On June 16, 1961, on completion of the Paris tour, Nureyev and the rest of the troupe arrived at the airport in order to take a flight to London. Prior to boarding the plane, the theater director informed Nureyev that he was to depart to Moscow on orders from the USSR Ministry of Culture, which had canceled his trip to London. 

Instead of complying with these instructions, Nureyev applied to the French authorities for political asylum and refused to return to the Soviet Union. Nureyevs refusal to return to the USSR was used by the bourgeois press to unleash a campaign of slander, which caused considerable damage to the interests of the Soviet Union. 

The fact of Nureyevs refusal to return to the Soviet Union has been proved by the materials in the criminal case.

It has indeed. But what was it that prompted Nureyev to stay behind? What were his motives? Didnt someone goad him into this burning of bridges, and wasnt the airport episode a common-or-garden provocation? 

To answer this and numerous other questions, the KGB Directorate for the Leningrad Region initiated a legal action. The person who took over the case was one Captain Valdaitsev. Now, what Nureyev was charged with was high treason, no less, and in the event of his reappearance on Soviet territory, he was to be taken into immediate custody. So the matter was no joke. According to Article 64a of the penal code, high treason could earn Nureyev a death sentence. 

As usual, the investigator started by questioning witnesses. Among the first to be invited to the infamous Big House (the popular sobriquet of the Leningrad KGB HQ) was Rudolfs sister Razida, a qualified teacher. She told them about their father who had fought at the front throughout World War II, and their mother who had supported four children despite the enormous hardships of life in evacuation; she said that the family did not get their first accommodation, a small room in a communal apartment, until after the war, when their father had returned from the front. 

My brothers dancing talent was apparent already in the kindergarten, Razida went on. But our parents were dead against his attending a dancing class. The conflict worsened when Rudolf went to school; he would sneak out of the house without his parents knowledge to join a dancing class at the Teachers Arts Center or the Young Pioneers Palace, and I covered for him as best I could. Eventually he was singled out by the choreographer of the Opera and Ballet Theater in Ufa, capital of bashkiria, who offered my brother a job there. When Rudolf told his parents the news there was a tremendous row. Call that a profession, Father fumed. No one in the family has yet been known to prance around on the stage! And then I took my brothers side against our parents and insisted that Rudolf be allowed to follow his calling. Thus at sixteen he joined the ballet troupe of the theater while continuing his school studies part-time. 

And how did he get to Leningrad? 

In 1955 a Bashkir Art Week was held in Moscow. Rudolf attracted the attention of both Moscow and Leningrad choreographers and received invitations to attend ballet classes in both cities. My brother opted for Leningrad.  He was sent straight to the sixth grade In the ballet school, and two weeks later was promoted to the eighth. In 1958 he passed his finals and was offered a job at the Kirov Theater.

What can you say about his politics? 

Nothing. I doubt if he had any. I do not wish to sound bombastic, but he lived by art and for arts sake. Just consider: within two years he rehearsed ten leading parts in the Kirov ballet productions. Few people know that simultaneously he was learning to play the piano, and after the tour in Egypt, loath ‘to be deaf as he put it, he took up English and mastered the language in a very short period of time. Add to this his passion for visiting museums, theaters and the Philharmonic Society. What I am trying to say is that he was painfully aware of the gaps in his provincial upbringing and worked like a beaver to fill them. Being as busy as he was, he obviously had little time for politics. 

He is said to be a difficult person. 

He is nothing of the sort. He is a very kind, honest, caring and principled man. And very proud besides, which apparently makes him extra-vulnerable. Rudolf is rather quick-tempered, I grant you, he can blaze up at the slightest provocation, and then he is liable to turn brusque and even offensive. But his tantrums are soon over, and then he will apologize profusely and feel repentant. I am confident that he decided to stay in France on an impulse, in a state of temporary insanity, and is now eating his heart out unsure how to get out of this predicament. I do not doubt for a moment that with a little tactful help Rudolf will go back home. 

It was not Captain Valdaitsevs intention to help anyone; his task was of a rather different nature, so he asked Razida a trademark KGB question. 

Do you know what Nureyevs close ties were? 

I am not sure I know what you mean, said Razida. 

I mean his friends, girlfriends, in short his close contacts, his circle of acquaintances. 

He had admirers galore, but as for friends, alas, I cannot recall a single name, Razida sighed. The only person Rudolf considered really close was Pushkin.

Who? gasped the captain in disbelief, obviously thinking of the great poet. 

Pushkin. I mean Alexander Ivanovich Pushkin; he was my brothers dancing instructor at the ballet school. As far as I know, Pushkin continued to train him at the theater too. Rudolf admired and respected Pushkin more than anyone in the world. I know of no other close contacts, as you put it. 

No prizes for guessing: Alexander Ivanovich Pushkin was instantly summoned to the Big House and subjected to a lengthy questioning. 

Do you know Rudolf Nureyev? the investigator started with a perfectly moronic question. 

Of course I do, Pushkin shrugged his shoulders. He was a student of mine, you know. Rudolf was in my class at the ballet school for three years, and after he joined the theater troupe he was a regular attendee of my refreshment class for leading ballet dancers. 

So what can you say about him? 

He is an uncommonly gifted person. I have never met anyone quite so talented, Pushkin answered in some excitement. Besides, he is very purposeful and persistent. To complete a course at a ballet school in three years and straightaway become the leading man at one of the worlds major theaters, to dance the principal parts in ten productions, to win a ballet competition in Moscow and then also at the Vienna festival this adds up to a fairly outstanding record, you will agree. And considering the fact that he sustained an awful injury at one of the rehearsals, the price Rudolf had to pay for his achievements must have been truly great. 

An injury? asked the investigator interestedly. What sort of injury? 

He sprained his ankle so badly that he could not even walk, let alone dance. At the time he lived in the dorm, there was no one to look after him, so my wife and I took him in. We treated him as one of the family, and the feelings were mutual. We got so used to each other that even when Rudolf got well and was given a room in a communal apartment, he decided against moving in there, but lodged his sister in that room. And so we lived as one family you might say till the day when he went on the Paris tour. 

Why do you think Nureyev decided to betray his country and stay abroad? There was nothing to hold him down at the theater, was there, rather the reverse, he was sent to various competitions and festivals, he was allowed to go abroad, he was given accommodation in Leningrad… What else could he want? 

Youre right there, on the face of it everything was just perfect. But no one can know what went on in his soul. My guess is that Rudolf decided to stay behind in a state of emotional turmoil caused by the utterly unexpected decision to change his route. 

Alexander Ivanovich knew only too well where he was and whom he was talking to, so he preferred not to call all spades spades. Changing his route sounds innocuous enough, yet it was a clumsy attempt at whisking Nureyev to Moscow and possibly also starting a trial against him. Now, several decades later, when the hitherto inaccessible archives have been unsealed and top secret documents can be read and studied; there is not the slightest doubt about it. 

So what had one of the most gifted dancers at the Kirov Theater actually done? What secrets did he divulge? What state secrets did he betray? How did he undermine the might of that beacon of progressive humanity, the great and awesome Soviet Union? 

There is an answer to each of these questions. The answers are to be found in the explanatory notes and records of interrogations of the dancers, stagehands and administration staff of the Kirov Theater. 

Ballet Dancer Leaps to Freedom. This and similar headings graced the pages of a couple of dozen newspapers, naturally Western, that informed the world of Nureyevs altogether unexpected action. 

In fact there were no leaps, freedom was the last thing on his mind, he was urged on by just one feeling mortal fear that the KGB might lay its hands on him. And although it was the time of the so-called Thaw, Rudolf was very well aware what the change in his route implied at best he would be fired from the theater, at worst he would end up in prison. For there was no avoiding Article 121, and that meant up to five years behind bars. So Nureyevs choice of freedom was literal rather than political: he did not fancy living in a cell. No need to be coy about this matter: by staying in the West, Rudolf also opted for another kind of freedom the freedom of making friends with whomever he liked, in a purely sexual sense of the word. At that time gay people over there could already have relationships without fearing persecution, while in the Soviet Union Article 121 of the RSFSR Penal Code was devised specifically to deal with them. 

Now for the KGB operation in greater detail. It started on June 15, 1961, when the Kirov Theater director, Georgy Korkin, and KGB man Vitaly Strizhevsky, who had the cover job of deputy supervisor of the tour, were urgently summoned to the Soviet Embassy in France.

Here is what Korkin told the investigator about that episode. Incidentally, he had come to the Big House as ex-director already. And although Georgy Korkin was the last person in the chain of inept officials engaged in Nureyevs removal from France, in the truly Soviet style he was the first small fry to get punished. 

The Paris tour was over on the 15th of June, and on the 16th we were to leave for London, Korkin recalled. Suddenly, on the last day of our stay in France, literally at dawn, I was summoned to our Embassy. Not invited, mind you, but summoned. The order also included Strizhevsky. We rushed over there and waited Frankly, I thought we would be praised for the theaters excellent showing, but instead we were told that Mo scow had decided (thats right, they said Moscow, not the Culture Ministry or anyone else) to recall Rudolf Nureyev to the Soviet Union. I tried to remonstrate, saying that Nureyev had danced splendidly in Paris, that every French newspaper remarked on his exceptional performance, that the London public eagerly awaited his arrival, that his absence would affect the performance of the entire troupe, but I was told categorically that the decision was final and not to be questioned. 

So what did you do? Valdaitsev inquired. 

I did as I was told. The scenario, I must say, was fairly bizarre: I was ordered to announce that decision in the airport, precisely at the moment when the troupe would be going through passport control before boarding the London plane. I thought that unwise, as it would come as a shock not only to Nureyev himself, but was likely to cause an international outcry after all there were masses of foreigners around; we were not at Sheremetyevo but at Le Bourget. Yet they ignored me. 

Early in the morning the whole troupe handed in their bags for the London flight, Nureyevs among them. Incidentally, they contained nothing apart from his dancing costumes and childrens toys. Apparently, Rudolfs childhood was starved for toys in his parents home, and now he was making up for his childhood wants. Before going to the airfield I beckoned to Nureyev and told him that he was urgently needed in Moscow to take part in an important concert. He would be accompanied by one of our administrators, the interpreter and two stagehands. 

It cant be! cried Nureyev. He instantly turned faint, grew deathly pale, and his knees started to buckle. Several members of our staff ran up to him trying to reassure him and saying that it was okay, that having danced in Moscow he would fly over to London. But Nureyev seemed oblivious to everything. 

Thats true, he was on the verge of fainting, Vitaly Strizhevsky confirmed at the same interrogation. Later he recovered a little, kept saying that he did not want to go to Moscow, that he wished to be with the rest of the troupe dancing in London. We begged him to control himself, after all Moscow was Moscow, and there was nothing we could do, that the concert in the metropolis was extremely important, that a ticket for the London flight from Moscow had already been booked for him For an instant he believed us and began deploring the fact that his costumes were going to London and he would have nothing to dance in at the Moscow concert. 

Meanwhile the passengers of the London flight had mostly boarded the plane, and Nureyev asked permission to say goodbye to the troupe. Together with Comrade Romanov, an Embassy official, I walked him to the plane; he bade everyone very warm goodbye, and we returned to the departure lounge. I was to make sure that Nureyev boarded the Aeroflot plane and then catch up with the troupe. 

We went to a café and ordered coffee, but Nureyev would not drink his. He was very highly strung and nervous, so we never let him out of our sight. Suddenly who should step in the café but that Clara S.! Nureyev jumped up and rushed to meet her. 

Whos Clara S.? asked the investigator. 

One of his admirers, Strizhevsky elucidated. A pretty young girl rumored to be the daughter of a Chilean millionaire. She had been following Nureyev like Marys lamb from day one of the tour. We assumed that she was the reason for his night absences when he would not return to the hotel till the small hours.

You knew about his disappearances and did nothing? the investigator grew stern. 

What do you mean, nothing? Korkin exploded indignantly. Sure we took steps. I talked to him about it time and again, I pleaded with him and even threatened him. And do you know what he said? If you discipline me like the rest, Ill take my life. How do you like that? Between you and me, I decided then I would never again take him on a foreign tour. 

Me too, I reprimanded him, Strizhevsky joined in, I asked him to stop sneaking out at night and meeting dubious characters. To that he said that he would rather not live at all than live according to rules and regulations. 

Captain Valdaitsev was keenly interested to know what sort of dubious characters those were that Nureyev would sooner die than give up seeing. His queries could not be answered either by the chief artist, Simon Virsaladze, or by the head of the ballet troupe Vladimir Fidler, nor yet by chief administrator Alexander Grudzinsky. Quite unexpectedly, it was Nureyevs dancing partner Alla Osipenko who gave the mystery a name. 

I would like to stress that Nureyev was no more than my dancing partner, there was nothing personal Nor could be, she added after a pause. And it was not that he was rude, coarse and arrogant, he was not exactly popular with the other dancers because of that, but his great talent made up for his personal shortcomings, and we forgave him his outbursts. The matter was that too many of his admirers were homosexual; it was they he spent the nights with in Paris. 

So that was what it was! Then the root of the trouble was not a millionaires youthful daughter, but aged homosexuals. They were the ones to lead Nureyev astray; they were the culprits who had forced KGB men to take urgent measures for rescuing a Soviet citizen from their corrupting influence. But as I have said before, the operation had been poorly devised, and Nureyev gave them the slip; sadly, it proved his undoing. 

Money, Glory, Islands and Death  

However inept, the KGB scenario of bringing Nureyev back to Moscow was still a scheme. For a while everything went according to plan: the troupe left for London; Nureyev remained at the airport; the Aeroflot Moscow flight was about to be announced to carry Rudolf back home. But that young lady, Clara, had to turn up and upset the KGBs carefully constructed apple cart. 

After Nureyev had talked to Clara S., he returned to us and perched on the chair arm, Strizhevsky said at the interrogation. Clara had gone somewhere, but came back presently. Nureyev ran up to her, and after a brief conversation resumed his seat next to us, yet looked somewhat shaken. I asked him if anything was the matter. He mumbled something incoherently, jumped up and again ran to Clara. Wherere you going? I yelled. Come back at once, the Moscow flight will be announced any minute now. To that Nureyev grunted something unintelligible, and I knew that his mind had been made up and would not be changed. What exactly he had decided I did not understand, particularly since six uniformed policemen suddenly materialized out of nowhere, plus one plainclothes man, and they pinioned my arms and stood between Nureyev and me. Availing himself of the opportunity, Nureyev vanished into one of the many rooms around. 

We followed him there, Romanov and me, lodged a protest and telephoned our embassy. Soon the consul general arrived and we got a chance to speak to Nureyev. We implored him to come to his senses, explained to him that what he was doing was nothing short of high treason, that he was doing irreparable harm to the theater, to his relations and to himself, that he was putting an end to his career and worse, to his life. But Nureyev just kept saying that he did not want to go back to the Soviet Union. 

Then I offered to do what I should have done first thing, at the very start of the whole business. I said that I was ready to risk my job but would take on the responsibility, and suggested taking the next flight to London, continuing the tour with the rest of the troupe, and then returning to Moscow with them. Nureyev thought this over, but then said it must be a trap, that he had learned not to trust people, was not going to change his mind and asked to stop the interview. We were shown the door there and then. But we did not give up attempts to talk Nureyev out of it and asked for our lighting engineer Sergei Melnikov to be allowed to see him, as Nureyev was on more or less friendly terms with that man. Why dont you talk to him? After all, Sergei was the last person Nureyev spoke to, Strizhevsky advised the investigator. 

I found Rudolf in a state, said Melnikov when summoned to the Big House. I told him there was time yet to undo the harm, that the authorities would see his point and certainly forgive him, especially since Strizhevsky had suggested going to London where his numerous admirers were waiting for him. Too late, said Nureyev. Much too late now. Ive signed an appeal for political asylum. Oh, what the hell, I said, forget it; its just a piece of paper. It doesnt matter by itself; the trouble is that if you fail to return, all your friends and your entire family will be in for it. I know that, he said with a shrug, but I dont give a damn about any of them. No one, except Pushkin I know what I am doing and what it will cost me. As for going back, this is out of the question. Now that they can charge me with high treason, they can easily shoot me. Surely not, I said, whats there to shoot you for? You havent betrayed anyone. They know what for, Rudolf told me glumly. Life in the Soviet Union is out of the question for me theyll execute me. And here too Ill most likely commit suicide. Dont be silly, I cried jumping up. Tell this blasted Paris to go to hell and come home with me! 

He got up, too, gave me a hug, burst into tears and even made for the door, but the policeman grabbed me by the shoulders and pushed me out of the room. I had the impression that Rudolf could have been talked into returning to the country, but he was mortally afraid of harsh punishment. 

Alexander Grudzinsky was of the same opinion and had the temerity to say: I believe that shameful episode would never have taken place if Nureyev had not been ordered so rudely and tactlessly to return to Moscow. I dont suppose it would have done any harm to let him fly to London and come back to Moscow with the rest of the troupe. If it was all that necessary, he could have been arrested later, after the tour. 

Precisely. Unfortunately, these words were uttered not by the KGB chief who had ordered Nureyevs instant return to Moscow, but by an ordinary theater administrator, who proved to be far more intelligent and if you like more professional than the KGB bigwig. 

However, the thing was done, and Rudolf Nureyev was driven to make what later turned out to be a fatal step. The French press was raving about the dancers alleged leap to freedom, his fabulous contract with de Cuevass company signed by Marquise de Cuevas-Rockefeller in person, and about his success in the very first production by that company. 

The people who found themselves in a difficult situation were Soviet diplomats. They wrote notes, lodged protests, gave tongue-in-cheek interviews, but try as they would the world public refused to calm down. It goes without saying that transcripts of all those materials were promptly dispatched to Moscow. One such report-like paper by M.F. Kleimenov, first secretary of the Soviet Embassy in France, is certainly noteworthy. 

Soon upon arrival in Paris of the Kirov ballet troupe, word went round in the theatrical and media circles that one of the top dancers, Nureyev (Asiatic, as he was referred to in those circles) was not quite happy with his life and was considering defecting to the West. These rumors resulted in a positive pestering of the man with a view of persuading him to stay in France. The motives of his tempters were various. The Paris press printed lots of false stories, like Nureyevs affair with a French lady or even an Englishwoman. In fact the Nureyev hunt went along three lines, none of which was politically colored. 

The most active role in attempts to lure Nureyev away was played by Pierre Lacotte, a ballet entrepreneur who had gone bankrupt time after time, but continued to live in clover. The sources of his affluence were well known: Pierre Lacotte was a homosexual who was intimately acquainted with many persons in this exclusive circle that included quite a few major industrialists, bankers and various kinds of businessmen. 

Inveigling Nureyev into that corrupt milieu promised considerable advantages to Lacotte. In that he was assisted by journalist Thevenon and ballet critic Cournon, both of them likewise homosexuals. 

They met Nureyev in the Pam-Pam restaurant in Rue Aubert, right opposite the Opera building. Eyewitnesses say that Nureyev would not yield to Lacotte, and did not even bother to pretend that he saw what they wanted from him. 

Nureyevs reaction to special attention from Clara S. was equally lukewarm; she was a young whimsical millionaire in the habit of frequently changing her lovers. She took a fancy to Nureyev from the first day of their acquaintance and would not leave him alone, taking him to walks about Paris in the day-time and to restaurants at night. According to eyewitnesses, Nureyev found flattering the attention of a young, pretty, rich woman, but no one detected any signs of intimacy between them. 

A lot more effective was the third line of pressure that had nothing to do with either females or homosexuals, but was far more pedestrian, namely, commercial. This pressure was exercised by Paris Opera ballerina Claire Motte and also by the head of Marquis de Cuevass ballet company. The company had gone bankrupt and was on the brink of disintegration; they were desperate for a new star, and they set their sights on Nureyev. They praised him beyond all reason, danced attendance on him, promised that he would be made a fuss of in Paris, that America would shower him with money, and that generally the West was waiting for Nureyev. Those words made a particularly deep impression on him. 

The result of this brainwashing was that Nureyev was ripe for betrayal, but was still wavering. The flight plan worked out by participants of all the three pressure lines could go phut at any point as Nureyev had not yet made up his mind. Lacotte alleges that but for the lucky circumstance, i.e. the unexpectedly announced decision to recall Nureyev to the Soviet Union, the escape would hardly have taken place. Nureyev said the same to a newspaper correspondent: I saw my position in a flash; if I went back, I would never go abroad again. I was up against no choice. And I decided to stay. 

According to Serge Lifar, a well known person in the Paris artistic circles, by doing what he had done Nureyev destroyed himself as an artiste. He will never find a company up to his standards either in Europe or in America, said Lifar. And without a firm hand of a good choreographer, without collective discipline he will soon flower and will just as soon wilt. 

To all intents and purposes, Nureyev was aware of that. According to people he was in contact with, for the first seven of eight days after his defection he was depressed and had to have the doctor called in twice. Rehearsals, and then the festive atmosphere of his appearance in Sleeping Beauty on June 23 had a stimulating effect on him, but already after Act 3 he had a nervous breakdown. 

Now Nureyev finds fault with his partners, with the way the company is run, and so on. He cannot wait to go to America where, as he still believes, he will not only be pampered but will also be showered with money. 

As for his ballet career, his expectations proved right: he was idolized all right. Nor was money in short supply; Nureyevs earnings grew to such incredible proportions that he started purchasing not only apartments, paintings, palaces and ranchos, but whole islands as well. 

On the personal side, though, he was not happy. Each of his lovers was more mercenary than the next, and besides they were unfaithful to him. Nureyev pined away, sought consolation in low-grade joints, and finally contracted AIDS. It took him some time to realize that what he got was indeed AIDS, though all the symptoms were there: he had lost weight, he suffered from memory loss, and he started having fainting fits 

It was not till four years later that the doctors diagnosed his complaint. When Nureyev learned what had happened to him, he did not despair and give up. His method of treatment was unorthodox to say the least he worked until he dropped. He danced a lot, staged productions, conducted orchestras, traveled all over the world, and lived. The doctors were baffled: normally the immune deficiency virus makes short work of its victim, within a year or two at the most, but Nureyev fought his battle for all of eight years! 

As you see, Rudolf had more than his fair share of problems and worries, and he was very little interested in the KGB games around his name. But the reprisal machine had been turned on, criminal proceedings on the charge of high treason were initiated against Nureyev, and on April 2, 1962 the trial took place. It was a trial like any other, with witnesses called, parties to the case speaking, etc. But the interesting thing was that even the counsel for the prosecution, public prosecutor Ronzhin, discovered attenuating circumstances in the case. Here is what he said, among other things:

When passing a verdict, I request that it is to be taken into account that Nureyev is young, inexperienced, and has an unbalanced temper. There were irregularities on the part of our officials when he was told about the flight to Moscow. I ask for a minimum penalty for him. 

By and large, the prosecutors speech was a slap in the face of the KGB. Because the irregularities he referred to were the amateurishness, stupidity and mediocrity of KGB officials. In all fairness, it must be said that the top figures in the KGB made a pretty realistic assessment of the situation and fired or severely punished the participants of that operation. 

Let us remember that under Article 64a Nureyev faced a death sentence. The prosecutor asked for a minimum penalty, while the state-appointed defense lawyer, Ms. Otmegova, asked for a commuted sentence below the minimum, considering Nureyevs personality and the circumstances under which the offense was committed. 

The court took all that into account and, as we know, sentenced Nureyev to seven years in a correctional labor camp.

And now let us go back to the document cited at the beginning of this story. But before we do, there is a short commentary by Galina Vesnovskaya. 

The Office of the Prosecutor General received a letter from Rudolf Nureyevs sister, Razida Yevgrafova (Nureyeva) requesting her brothers rehabilitation. As is known, Rudolf Nureyev died in January 1993 and is buried in Paris at the Russian cemetery of Sainte-Genevieve-des-Bois. Already gravely ill, Nureyev had visited this country on three occasions, as dancer and director, among other things. Guarantees of immunity for him were pretty vague, for the verdict of the Leningrad City Court had never been reversed. Razida Yevgrafova pled that her brothers good name be restored; she wanted no one to ever think of him as a traitor. We considered her application and took the relevant decision. 

Here it is, this decision that rectified the fatal mistake of more than 40 years ago. Let me cite the last line of the initial section of the document. 

The fact of Nureyevs refusal to return to the USSR from abroad has been proved by the materials in the case. At the same time liability for this act, according to the penal legislation then in effect, could only occur in the event of it being committed to the detriment of the state sovereignty, territorial integrity or military might of the USSR. However, the materials in the case say nothing about said consequences ever taking place. 

As for the publications in the bourgeois press attached to the case that, along with testimonial evidence, form the basis of the charge, they merely highlight the fact of Nureyevs refusal to return to the USSR from abroad, which did take place, and interviews connected with that, which contain no hostile information directed against the USSR. 

Under these circumstances, the actions of R.Kh. Nureyev lack the elements of the crime he was alleged to have committed under Article 64a of the RSFSR Criminal Code. 

Besides, in accordance with the resolution by the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation dated December 20, 1995 on examining the constitutionality of certain clauses of Article 64a of the RSFSR Criminal Code that treat defection or refusal to return from abroad as a form of high treason, the said clauses have been judged not conforming to the Constitution of the Russian Federation and pronounced null and void. 

Given the above, R.Kh. Nureyev falls within the purview of the Law of the Russian Federation On the Rehabilitation of Victims of Political Reprisals. 

So. Rudolf Nureyevs name has been cleared. From now on it belongs to Terpsichore alone, the patroness of dancing, and certainly not to Themis, the goddess of Justice.


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