“Tsar”, a film chronicling the bloody life and times of Ivan the Terrible, wrongly portrays the medieval ruler as a crazed sadist, according to a historian who has called for it to be banned.
Vyacheslav Manyagin has asked Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to outlaw the film, which he claims is an insult to Russian statehood.
The blockbuster, released earlier this month, has triggered an ill-tempered debate in religious and historical circles at a time when the Kremlin is encouraging Russians to take patriotic pride in their often brutal history.
In the film, Ivan the Terrible is shown as a murderous tyrant who puts himself above God and punishes his real and imagined enemies with cruel and unusual deaths.
In one scene, the Russian ruler has his disgraced military commanders torn apart by a bear. In another, he has the head of the Russian church murdered. In a third, his enforcers burn a church and its occupants to the ground.
“Imagine that they made a film in America about George Washington in which the first US president was portrayed as a bloodthirsty maniac,” Mr Manyagin said. “This film slanders the Russian people and state.”
The “unjust” depiction of Russia’s first tsar as a monster would fuel Western stereotypes about modern Russia, he added.