MOSCOW – Russian police have detained four people suspected of an arson attack linked to a movie about the last Russian czar's affair with a ballerina, officials said Thursday.
"Matilda," which is set to be released in October, has sparked harsh criticism from hard-line nationalists and some Orthodox believers in Russia, who see it as blasphemy against the emperor, glorified as a saint by the Russian Orthodox Church. The film loosely follows the story of Nicholas II's infatuation with prima ballerina Matilda Kshesinskaya.
Two cars were set on fire last week outside the office of the attorney for the film's director and signs reading "burn for Matilda" were reportedly found near the scene. Last month, assailants tried to set fire to the director's film studio.
Police spokeswoman Irina Volk said in a statement Thursday that three of the detained have been charged with arson. They include Alexander Kalinin, the leader of an obscure Christian Orthodox group who has publicly condoned the attacks.
The controversy around the film has highlighted the increasing assertiveness of radical religious activists and a growing conservative streak in Russia's society that worried many in the nation's artistic community.
The czar and his family were executed by a Bolshevik firing squad in July 1918. The Russian Orthodox Church made them saints in 2000.