Moscow, August 9, 2017
The Russian Ministry of Culture has recently received two requests for the controversial film Mathilde not to be shown in certain republics of the Russian Federation. President of the Chechen Republic Ramzan Kadryov sent a letter to Russian Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky, which was followed later by a letter from First Deputy Chairman of the government of the Republic of Dagestan Anatoly Caribov, reports RIA-Novosti.
“I ask you to exclude the Chechen Republic from the distribution certificate for the showing of the film ‘Mathilde,’” Kadryov’s letter reads.
He also notes that tens of thousands of people of different faiths have asked for the film not to be released, regarding it as a deliberate mockery of the sensibilities of believers, and the desecration of Russian public and sacred history. Moreover, during the First World War, the Caucasian cavalry division, consisting of North Caucasus and Transcaucasia Muslims, had voluntarily sworn and pledged to protect the Russian tsar and empire with their lives, and they remained faithful to him and the royal army.
“To live with honor, we must remember our history, and be proud of and honor those who fought for us. This memory is sacred and noble. We, the descendants of the victors, should not only honor the memory of the defenders of the Motherland, but also raise the young generation in a spirit of respect for their history,” the Chechen head writes.
State Duma Deputy Natalia Poklonskaya, one of the prominent figures in the movement against the film, praised Kadryov’s decision on her Facebook page:
To ban a blasphemous film, insulting our history and faith, on the territory of the of the republic is a decision not everyone has the strength to do. To respect and be proud of our long history! To honor the precepts of our ancestors! This is not for the faint of heart. For this we must be brave and have respect for the sensibilities of others. Ramzan Akhmatovich’s decision is exceptionally courageous and worthy of our shared history and the feats of our ancestors!
For its part, the Ministry of Culture has stated that it has received Kadryov’s request and will take it into consideration. “We have received the letter, and have taken it into consideration; it is Chechnya’s right,” the Ministry’s press service told Interfax-Religion on Tuesday.
Mathilde director Alexei Uchitel has called on Chechen head Kadryov to view the film before having it banned. “Kadryov is an independent man; I think he should find out for himself if there is something bad there and whether the film should be shown in Chechnya or not. And to all the doubters—don’t believe what you hear, but watch it with your own eyes, and then decide,” the director stated. He especially urged people not to listen to Deputy Poklonskaya, stating that there is nothing in the film that should be offensive to believers.
However, Deputy Poklonskaya reported in April on a forensic examination of the film by team of doctors of psychology, law, linguistics, and cultural and historical sciences, which concluded that,
the image of Russian Emperor Nicholas II, canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church, created in the film Mathilde cannot but offend the religious sensibilities and not demean the human dignity of a considerable section of Orthodox Christians—the faithful of the Russian Orthodox Church, inasmuch as the film is aimed at forming a well-defined but false image of the Russian Emperor Nicholas II as an inept and morally corrupt person.
The experts analyzed the entire script of the film, as well as the available trailers. They note that the director uses manipulative techniques to substitute fact for opinion, and blasphemously combines religious values with vulgar sexuality. Among the more egregious falsehoods is the association of Empress Alexandra with occult beliefs and religious Satanism. Moreover, the actor playing the holy Royal Martyr Tsar Nicholas II, the German Lars Eidinger, has previously appeared in pornographic films, thus making his choice for the tsar obviously offensive to the faithful.
“There is every reason to believe that the above techniques have been applied deliberately,” the analysis reads.
The Russian Ministry of Culture has also acknowledged receiving a similar request on behalf of the Republic of Dagestan: “We have received a message from the Deputy Chairman of the Republic of Dagestan Anatoly Karibov with a request to prohibit the film ‘Mathilde’ of Alexei Uchitel from being shown in the republic. We will take the appeal into consideration,” the ministry’s press service stated.
Moscow mufti and Chairman of the Spiritual Assembly of Russian Muslims Albir Krganov has called Kadryov’s request a wise move, driven by the desire to avoid serious conflict in society, and based on the opinions of “respected people” in the Chechen Republic.
“There is a great controversy in society about the film ‘Mathilde;’ it is a controversial film. Some of our citizens say that the film offends their religious sensibilities, and offends the family of the tsar-emperor. Regions have the right, based on the opinions of the residents of those regions, to make such a decision,” said Mufti Krganov. He did not, however, that Russia is a free society, and everyone may form their own view of history and historical personalities. At the same time, he stated that, especially in the centenary year of the Russian revolution, Russians should be thinking about how to make a “good film about the Russian tsar.”