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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Return of Pavlova's Ashes on Hold

LONDON — Plans to return the ashes of famed ballerina Anna Pavlova to Russia have been postponed after Moscow told the London crematorium where her remains are on display the deal should be put on hold.

Moscow Deputy Mayor Viktor Shantsev said Saturday that the city government is ready to organize the reburial of Pavlova's remains only after obtaining all the necessary documents and consent from all concerned parties, Interfax reported.

"All the city services are ready to perform the burial," Shantsev said.

But Golders Green Crematorium in northern London said Thursday that Moscow authorities suddenly withdrew a request to have the remains of one of the world's greatest dancers sent home, less than a week before the planned transfer was to take place.

Exactly who asked for the repatriation has been surrounded by confusion after the Moscow government recently denied that it was behind the request.

The Interfax report said representatives of the Moscow city government met with members of the "initiating group" Thursday and Friday and have already found two locations where Pavlova's remains might be buried. But it did not identify the group.

"We are very surprised by this sudden phone call reversing the request of the government of Moscow, on which we have been working together in full public view for many months," said the London Cremation Co., owner of the Golders Green site.

Director Harvey Thomas said both Moscow city authorities and the non-governmental Committee for Russian and Slavonic Art had been calling for years for the return of Pavlova's remains seven decades after her death.

He had expected to take Pavlova's ashes and those of her husband, Victor Dandre, to Moscow next week with the full blessing of Russia's federal government and Moscow's City Hall and present them to Novodevichy Cemetery, where many cultural luminaries are buried.

News of what he said was a U-turn in Moscow's position was relayed to Thomas by a late-night telephone call Wednesday from the Russian Embassy in London to his wife.

In the last two weeks Moscow authorities, Pavlova's relatives and the Kremlin have all distanced themselves from the plan. Russia's ambassador in London, Grigory Karasin, called for the repatriation of Pavlova's ashes to be postponed.

"Strong doubts remain in all strata of the Russian society about the legal and moral sides of this project," he said.

"In these circumstances … I feel compelled to appeal to the initiators of this plan to postpone its implementation until all delicate aspects are fully settled."

His statement added that Russia's government "considers the transfer of the ashes as a project of highly dubious legality."

Moscow's deputy mayor said the reburial could go ahead, but it is necessary first to obtain the consent of Pavlova's relatives, prepare all the necessary documents and decide where Pavlova's remains will be buried, in Moscow or in St. Petersburg, and also to organize the delivery of the remains.

"It is not up to us to solve all these problems," Shantsev said.

Andrei Dandre, whose grandfather was the cousin of Pavlova's husband, said if any Russian city was to be Pavlova's resting place it should be St. Petersburg, where she was born in 1881 and caused a sensation at the famed Mariinsky Theater.

She made her debut in the theater's corps de ballet in 1899 and a decade later was dancing with the great Nijinsky in Paris and embarking on gruelling tours that swept her through three continents. She died in a hotel in The Hague in 1931 and her ashes were placed at the crematorium close to her London home.