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
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UX Consultant

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: You will be working with a 8 st...

Recruitment Genius: Part-time Editor

£8000 - £12000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A unique opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Executive

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An exceptional opportunity has arisen for a pa...

Recruitment Genius: Kitchen and Bathroom Installers

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This provider of designer kitch...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border