He was never interested in politics, but Rudolf Nureyev was a KGB scourge for decades after his 1961 defection. The famed ballet dancer’s colleagues were glad to see him go—‘Rudik’ was a prima donna to management and competition for fellow performers—but the state was incensed, the Telegraph reports, excising him from history books and plotting to break his legs.
Nureyev’s escape was particularly damaging to the USSR because it came just months after Yuri Gagarin’s pioneering spaceflight. His name became so forbidden that an admirer had to procure his autobiography illegally and distribute it secretly. The KGB was also responsible for a mentor’s heart attack; an ex-lover, meanwhile, died mysteriously at age 37.