MOSCOW -  The Russian government on Tuesday sacked the head of the Bolshoi Theatre following a series of scandals including the horrific acid attack on its artistic director in January.  The dramatic move to fire long-serving director Anatoly Iksanov appears to be the government’s attempt to restore order in a theatre that has in recent years been torn by internal divisions, rivalries and scandals.  “Without question, the (theatre) needs renewal,” Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky told a news conference.

Iksanov is being replaced by Vladimir Urin of Moscow’s Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theatre, the minister said, adding that he was confident that Urin “can unite the Bolshoi Theatre’s team”. Speaking alongside Medinsky, Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets added: “(Urin) will be able to do everything that first and foremost the company, all of Russia and the whole world are expecting because the Bolshoi Theatre is a star of the global calibre.” Urin for his part sought to allay fears that he would introduce major changes to the celebrated 18th-century theatre. “I am not planning any revolutions,” he said, adding that it had been a hard decision to leave his own theatre, where he was director for 18 years. When the Russian culture ministry first approached him with an offer to take charge of the country’s top theatre, he refused, Urin said.  “And only then, after seriously considering and weighing all the circumstances, I agreed. I would like to express gratitude that I have been given this honour — to become head of the theatre.” Iksanov meanwhile delivered a terse statement to the media, with a short thankyou to his former colleagues. “For all of 13 years we worked as a single team, a single collective,” he said. “Thanks to the Bolshoi.” Iksanov last month terminated the contract of his top critic and one of the Bolshoi’s biggest stars, Nikolai Tsiskaridze.  Following the acid attack on artistic director Sergei Filin — who is now at risk of permanent blindness despite surgery — Tsiskaridze called for the theatre’s entire management to be sacked and for himself to be put in charge. A top soloist at the ballet, Pavel Dmitrichenko, has been charged with ordering the attack and is now behind bars awaiting trial. The attack shocked ballet aficionados by revealing poisonous behind-the-scenes feuds at the Bolshoi whose world-famous troupe and iconic columned building make it a top cultural draw in Moscow. In another high-profile scandal, Gennady Yanin, the director of the theatre’s ballet troupe, was in 2011 forced to resign after pornographic images resembling him were posted on the Internet in an apparent smear campaign. That same year, when the Bolshoi reopened after renovation work to restore its imperial splendour, critics complained the six-year-long refit costing hundreds of millions of dollars was too expensive and took too long.