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Depardieu back in Russia to reside on Democracy Street

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

French actor Gerard Depardieu on Friday toured Moscow's Bolshoi Theatre as he visited his newly-adopted homeland of Russia before heading to the provinces to take up residence at his new address on "Democracy Street".

Depardieu, who was granted a Russian passport by President Vladimir Putin after complaining at high tax rates in France, was set to spend Friday in Moscow before travelling 650 kilometres to the provincial city of Saransk to register as a resident of Democracy Street (Demokraticheskaya Ulitsa).

Depardieu, 64, has proclaimed his love for President Vladimir Putin and called Russia a "great democracy."

"They will put a stamp in his most important document (passport) giving him permanent registration at a concrete address...The flat where Depardieu will be registered is in a building on Democracy Street in central Saransk," Russian state television reported.

The street is in the Lenin district of the city of 300,000 residents to the east of Moscow. The apartment where Depardieu will be a resident belongs to family members of the head of Russia's State Film Fund, Nikolai Borodachev, a friend of the actor, Russian news agencies reported.

Saransk is the capital of the Mordovia region, chiefly known for its network of prison camps where one of the jailed Pussy Riot punks is serving her sentence.

"I think I will spend a week there," Depardieu told journalists, cited by the Interfax news agency. He also praised his new apartment in the city.

"It is great and not all small for me. I wouldn't want to live in Moscow at all -- there are many people here and it's very busy," Depardieu was cited as saying.

"It's like a village, it's quiet there."

Depardieu will get his residency in an official ceremony in Saransk on Saturday, the RIA Novosti news agency reported.

Depardieu was given citizenship by Putin in early January after he squabbled with French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, who scolded his "pathetic" decision to become a tax exile in Belgium.

He has never committed to living in Russia, although Borodachev told Komsomolskaya Pravda daily in January that Depardieu wanted to build a wooden house outside Moscow.

On Friday he also toured the recently restored Bolshoi Theatre with culture minister Vladimir Medinsky and the theatre's director Anatoly Iksanov.

"What I saw made a great impression on me... When you say Bolshoi, there's electricity in the air. The Bolshoi prompts a lot of associations with great Russian dancers like Nureyev and Nijinsky," Depardieu said, gesticulating broadly.

He appeared unaware that both Vaslav Nijinsky and Rudolf Nureyev, two of the greatest male dancers of the 20th century, learned their craft in Saint Petersburg, not Moscow, and ended up emigrating from Russia.

Wearing a dark coat and open-necked shirt, Depardieu spent around an hour at the theatre, Russian television reported.

Culture minister Medinsky ceremoniously handed Depardieu a novella by national poet Alexander Pushkin, saying: "You'll have something to read in Saransk."

Depardieu was allowed to flout the Bolshoi's usual cast-iron rule that all winter coats must be left in the cloakroom, the ITAR-TASS news agency said in apparent shock, noting that the minister also kept his coat on in solidarity.

"He didn't hurry to the cloakroom and the theatre staff let the VIP guests walk around the Bolshoi in winter clothes."

Depardieu on Friday was later set to meet Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, the State Film Fund said Friday on its website. He was also due to open a newly restored cinema in a Stalin-era skyscraper.

His visit comes a few days before that of French President Francois Hollande, who is due to spend February 27 and 28 in Russia.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130222/depardieu-back-russia-reside-democracy-street-0