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
News
Howard Marks has been diagnosed with inoperable cancer, he has announced
people
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch has spoken about the lack of opportunities for black British actors in the UK
film
Voices
Winston Churchill, then prime minister, outside No 10 in June 1943
voicesA C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
News
Rowan Atkinson at the wheel of his McLaren F1 GTR sports car
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us