Revealed: secrets of Nureyev's defection

SECRET KGB documents have revealed that Rudolf Nureyev did not plan his defection to the West, but took advantage of a squabble between Kirov ballet leaders and Soviet security agents to flee.

The papers, which have been locked away in Communist Party archives until now, contradict the belief that Nureyev had planned his escape when he defected at Le Bourget airport in Paris, 37 years ago.

They show that the Kirov's artistic directors and the Soviet embassy in Paris ignored two KGB orders to send the dancer back to Moscow 13 days before his defection.

These details emerge in a new biography of Nureyev by Diane Solway. She uncovered the recently declassified Soviet archives - which have now been closed again to the public - that form the basis for her book. She also reveals for the first time that the dancer, who died from Aids in 1993, was smuggled to safety by a French border control chief who was a White Russian hostile to the Soviet regime.

Nureyev was one of the first major cultural figures to flee the USSR. His escape was seen as a premeditated act by a man opposed to the Soviet system. But Ms Solway spoke to more than 200 people close to the star who said he had been planning to return to the USSR at the end of the tour.

However, the KGB, angered by his defiance of curfews, wanted to send him home early in the tour. The Kirov ballet and the Soviet embassy regarded the KGB as philistines for wanting to send him home when he was making such an impact on audiences, and they refused to comply. The dancer was told he was to return to Moscow as he waited at the airport to fly to London, where he was to perform with the ballet company. He was so upset at the prospect that he panicked and threatened suicide. The flight to Moscow was two hours later than the London flight, which gave him time to appeal to friends and to Gregory Alexinsky, the head of French border patrol.

Ms Solway tracked down Alexinsky to a Paris nursing home and discovered that he had personal motives for helping Nureyev. He was a White Russian whose father had been imprisoned for criticising Lenin. He helped smuggle Nureyev through a back door to French police headquarters, where he was granted a refugee visa.

In an interview with the Independent on Sunday last week, Ms Solway said it was the Soviet government that turned Nureyev into a symbol of political and personal freedom, because of its incompetence. "Nureyev wasn't interested or motivated by politics. His defection was ... propelled by his instinctive need to be able to dance," she said.

In defecting, Nureyev knew that it was unlikely he would ever see his family again. Ms Solway said this loss had a huge impact on the dancer, who became desperate towards the end of his life to belong to a family and to have his own children - despite the fact that he was a homosexual. He tried to persuade a close friend, Charles Jude, to allow him to father a child with Jude's wife through a bizarre fantasy of mixing the sperm of the two men together. He also proposed that he adopted Jude, his wife and children and that they would all live together in a chateau bought by Nureyev.

"He seemed to have this wonderful and lavish life but the price he paid for freedom was not being allowed to see his mother until she was dying. The KGB punished him until the end," said Ms Solway.

'Nureyev: His Life' by Diane Solway is published on 9 November by Weidenfeld and Nicolson, price pounds 20

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
musicBand's first new record for 20 years has some tough acts to follow
Shoppers in Covent Garden, London, celebrate after they were the first to buy the iPhone 6, released yesterday
Liam Payne has attacked the media for reporting his tweet of support to Willie Robertson and the subsequent backlash from fans
peopleBut One Direction star insists he is not homophobic
Life and Style
healthFor Pure-O OCD sufferers this is a reality they live in
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvSeries 5 opening episode attracts lowest ratings since drama began
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Geography Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: Temporary Teacher of GEOGRAPHY ...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments