Russian Ballerina Performs Scenes from “Swan Lake” on Frozen Gulf to Protest Development on Beach

When a natural area important to people and animals is threatened, locals feel obligated to speak out and protect these cherished sites. The protests can take many forms, but one Russian ballerina came up with a beautiful way to make her voice heard.


Ilmira Bagautdinova from St. Petersburg’s Mariisnky Theatre donned a full costume in temperatures as low as 5°F and performed pieces from Tchaikovsky’s “Swan Lake” on the frozen Gulf of Finland. The performance was her way of speaking out against the development of a port on Batareinaya Bay, located about 60 miles west of St. Petersburg. Last year, the Russian government leased the area to the Baltic Grain Terminal for ten years. Their plan is to put a $470 million production and logistics complex and grain terminal on the site by 2024.

The move has frustrated locals, who appreciate the beach for its recreation opportunities. It’s also an important area for wildlife. Those opposed to the development say the bay is part of a former protected wildlife zone and is home to rare plant species, gray seals, ringed seals, and waterfowl and migratory birds. Among those birds are swans, which Bagautdinova honored with her choice of ballet.

In a video of her dance posted to her Facebook page, she wrote, “A unique natural and historical place where swans nest in spring, families with children rest in summer, hundreds of fishermen go out on ice in winter, and the forest has trails for quad bikes and skiers. Nature in harmony with people. All of this is at risk of extinction.”


With her videos and pictures, she posted a link to a petition calling on Russian President Vladimir Putin to put a stop to the grain terminal project. So far, nearly 7,500 people have signed. The petition lines out the importance of the area to a variety of wildlife.

It reads, “This specially protected natural area is under the protection of the Ramsar and Helsinki conventions, as a habitat for waterfowl and semi-aquatic migratory birds, many of which are included in the Red Book of Russia. It is here that thousands of birds stop on their seasonal migrations along the Baltic-White Sea route. Also, rare plant species grow here: Ruprecht’s lily, Baltic hermit, seaside milkman, and the gray seal and ringed seal live.”

The petition goes on to note that there are already two ports on the Gulf of Finland, both within 60 miles of the planned site.

Bagautdinova says she didn’t mind braving the cold for the sake of preserving a unique natural place from the port project. To watch her dance, check out the video below.

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