Writing for the New Yorker, David Remnick covers the Bolshoi acid attack and the larger ills that afflict the historic ballet company.
At around eleven, Filin, feeling tired and eager to see his wife, steered the Mercedes into a parking lot outside his building and headed for his door. The snow was icy and thick. Filin was reaching for the security buzzer when he heard someone behind him call out his name. Then the voice said, “Tebye privet!” — literally, “Hello to you!,” but more abrupt and menacing, as though someone were relaying an ominous greeting from a third party.
Filin turned and saw a man in front of him. He was neither tall nor short. He wore a woolly hat and a scarf wrapped around his face. His right arm was crooked behind him, as if he were concealing something.
A gun, Filin thought, in that flash of confrontation: He’s holding a gun and I am dead. Bolt! But, before he could move, his attacker swung his arm out in front of him. In his hand was a glass jar filled with liquid, and he hurled its contents at Filin’s face. A security camera in the parking lot fixed the time at 23:07.
The liquid was sulfuric acid — the “oil of vitriol,” as medieval alchemists called it. Depending on the concentration, it can lay waste to human skin as quickly as in a horror movie. Scientists working with sulfuric acid wear protective goggles; even a small amount in the eyes can destroy the cornea and cause permanent blindness.
Filin was in agony. The burning was immediate and severe. His vision turned to black. He could feel the scalding of his face and scalp, the pain intensifying all the time.
Always good to read Remnick on Russia…he was The Washington Post’s Moscow correspondent for a few years in the late 1980s.