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Friday, 5 July, 2002, 12:46 GMT 13:46 UK
Wartime bomb found at Bolshoi
The Bolshoi Theatre, Moscow
The crumbling theatre is to undergo major renovation
An explosive device from World War II has been discovered during renovations at the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow.

A worker found the rusty mine on Wednesday after removing tiles that covered the floor of the famed theatre's fifth entrance, the newspaper Moskovskii Komsomolets reported on Friday.

That part of the Bolshoi had been used in 1941 as an arms and munitions dump, while the German army was besieging the Russian capital, the newspaper said.

An army team removed the mine and took it to a site in the Moscow suburbs where it was destroyed.

Artistic decline

The celebrated theatre was built in 1776 and is set to undergo an extensive programme of renovation and refurbishment work.

The Russian government recently announced it was to put $180m (123m) into restoring the theatre after a decade of artistic decline and financial troubles.

The Bolshoi has been described by President Vladimir Putin as "the symbol of Russian culture".

Four and a half years of rebuilding work would start in 2003, according to the theatre's general director Anatoli Iksanov.

Performances will continue while work is being done, and the theatre will only be closed for a few months during the summer.

Landmark

Since the collapse of communism, the Bolshoi has seen its government funding fall, and in recent years there has also been criticism of its artistic direction.

In recent years the building itself - a landmark in central Moscow - has been in desperate need of repair, with a leaking roof and subsiding foundations.

And the companies based at the theatre have also been troubled.

Putin sacked artistic director Vladimir Vasilyev in what was criticised as a "Soviet-style" presidential decree in August 2000.

Veteran conductor Gennady Rozhdestvensky, 70, was appointed to replace him in a shock move the following month, but left just nine months later after critics mauled his production of Sergei Prokoviev's opera The Player.

The Bolshoi's ballet company has also seen a challenge for the title of the best in Russia from the Kirov in St Petersburg, which has undergone a successful reinvention.

See also:

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