Russian church denies filing complaint against controversial opera

Map of Russia and Russian Flag adapted from images at state.gov

(Interfax – April 1, 2015)

The Novosibirsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church has denied having filed a claim against Tannhaeuser opera production at the Novosibirsk State Theatre of Opera and Ballet, privately-owned Russian news agency Interfax reported on 1 April.

In a statement to Interfax-Religion it said: “The Novosibirsk diocese of the Russian Orthodox Church points out that the diocese did not file any complaints to law enforcement bodies about opening administrative or criminal cases, let alone lawsuits to court.”

According to the church representatives, the Russian Culture Ministry earlier urged the Novosibirsk diocese to “withdraw its petition to the prosecution and carry out further discussions in the form of a respectful dialogue”.

However, according to an earlier statement by the Novosibirsk deputy prosecutor, Igor Stasyulis, the Novosibirsk metropolitan Tikhon had filed a complaint to the regional prosecutor’s office about launching an administrative case against Boris Mezdrich and Timofey Kulyabin, as reported by Interfax-Siberia.

The diocese had previously stated that dozens of claims from local residents were filed to the prosecutor’s office, the Investigations Committee and the Interior Ministry. In their claims, people called to bring those responsible for “insulting their religious feelings” to justice.

The church representatives commented that neither the former theatre director, Boris Mezdrich, nor the production director, Timofey Kulyabin, had apologised in public for insulting religious feelings, despite the recommendation made by the Russian Culture Ministry.

“We urge all involved not to use this situation to provoke a conflict around the Russian Orthodox Church, and also to cease physical threats toward our diocese clergy for the peaceful standing prayer they held,” the diocese said. They added that they are ready for an open dialogue with the creative intelligentsia, Interfax reported.

Earlier, the director of the Novosibirsk theatre, Boris Mezdrich, was dismissed after the theatre’s production of Wagner’s opera Tannhaeuser was accused of insulting the religious feelings of believers.