* Acid attack followed years of scandal at Bolshoi
* Bolshoi manager faces growing criticism
* Theatre says media wages campaign against it
By Sonia Elks and Timothy Heritage
MOSCOW, Feb 25 Pressure is growing on the
manager of Russia's Bolshoi Theatre after a prime-time
television show criticised him over a "decade of scandal",
including an acid attack on its ballet chief.
The show, hosted by a top lawmaker from President Vladimir
Putin's ruling party, said General Manager Anatoly Iksanov's
more than 12 years at the helm had been marked by a decline in
the reputation of one of Russia's great cultural institutions.
It also questioned his handling of events since an acid
attack by a masked assailant on Jan. 17 nearly blinded Sergei
Filin, the Bolshoi Ballet's artistic director.
Iksanov was not available for comment but a spokeswoman
dismissed it as the latest in a series of attacks on the Bolshoi
by host Alexei Pushkov who is also the head of the foreign
affairs committee in the lower house of parliament.
The acid attack, for which no arrests have been made, has
drawn attention to bitter rivalries at the Bolshoi, including a
row between Iksanov and veteran dancer Nikolai Tsiskaridze.
"The Bolshoi leadership has not changed for many years,"
Post Scriptum, a current affairs programme that airs at 9:00
p.m. (1700 GMT) on Saturday nights, said in its latest edition.
"In that time, ministers and deputy prime ministers have
changed, the prime minister has changed three times, and the
culture minister has changed three times, but the leadership of
the Bolshoi amazes everyone with its stability."
Post Scriptum's report also criticised the standard of
artistic performances and Pushkov concluded by saying the
Bolshoi had "gone from the cultural pages to the scandal pages".
"After all, the task of the theatre includes providing
entertainment, and the Bolshoi Theatre is without doubt
entertaining us. If it's not doing so with loud premiers, then
it is doing so with loud scandals. And the management is, of
course, coping very well in this," he said.
Bolshoi spokeswoman Katerina Novikova said it was not the
first time Pushkov had criticised the theatre and that his
programme had not produced a balanced picture to reflect new
productions and the success of performances in Russia and
"Of course, it's a question of different tastes ... but at
least he should have tried to give an objective picture - unless
you have a different goal in your mind," she said.
Novikova has previously said the theatre is the victim of a
campaign being waged against it in the "yellow press".
FILIN RECOVERING IN GERMANY
Post Scriptum, a well-established programme on air for more
than a decade, underlines its editorial independence although
Pushkov is a senior representative of Putin's United Russia.
Intrigue is not new to the Bolshoi, which has weathered
scandals over more than 200 years of history and reopened to
great fanfare in 2011 after a $700-million, six-year renovation.
But the attack on Filin, 42, has shocked Russia. He is being
treated in Germany to save his sight, damaged by the sulphuric
acid thrown in his face outside his apartment late at night.
Vladimir Neroyev, chief ophthalmologist at Russia's Health
Ministry, said it was not clear when Filin would return home.
"His left eye does not cause such concern, but the right eye
is still in a bad condition," he told Interfax news agency.
The general manager of the Bolshoi is appointed by the
government. Iksanov has held the post since September 2000.
Post Scriptum highlighted recent problems at the Bolshoi
including an attempt to fire a ballerina for being too heavy in
2003 and the resignation of a deputy ballet director in 2011
after pornographic images of him appeared on the Internet.
The costs of the theatre's revamp, it said, had cost 16
times the original estimate. It also quoted leading cultural
figures as saying artistic standards had slipped as well, using
footage that in once case dated from 2006.
Composer Vladimir Martynov said the Bolshoi had become "a
grave of Russian culture". Actor and director Oleg Tabakov was
quoted as criticising the Bolshoi management for failing to stop
rumours swirling about life behind the scenes.
Regretting the public criticism of dancer Tsiskaridze,
Tabakov said: "You need to lead the whole team so that such
subjects do not even arise in the first place."
(Editing by Michael Roddy)