Russian police are searching for a masked attacker who threw acid into the face of Sergei Filin, the artistic director of the Bolshoi Ballet in Moscow. The dance company is one of the most prestigious in the country, and those close to Filin are saying the attack is just the latest in a series of intimidation efforts.

Doctors said it may take Filin, 43, six months to regain his eyesight after the attack, although his ability to see may be permanently lost. He was outside his apartment when approached by the attacker, who remains unidentified, according to Reuters.

“I was scared. I thought he was going to shoot me, honestly ... and I turned to run, but he chased me down,” Filin told the Russian REN TV. “He turned, and his face was completely covered, either a scarf or some bandage like a mask, only eyes [to be seen].” Filin spoke beneath a layer of bandages on his face.

Filin claimed he has been the subject of threatening phone calls and tire slashing in recent weeks, with his friends pointing to Filin’s position in the heart of Russian dance culture as a point of jealousy.

“This is clearly tied to his professional activities,” said Anatoly Iksanov, general director of the Bolshoi Theater. “He is a man of principle and never compromised. If he believed that this or that dancer was not ready or was unable to perform this or that part, he would turn them down.”

The victim is the sixth director at the Bolshoi since Yuri Grigorovich left the company amid a cloud of controversy in 1995, and as noted by the Associated Press, inadvertently kicked off a tumultuous period in which dancers and directors often disagreed. Filin’s leadership in particular has reportedly been a sore point for those under him.

Alexei Ratmansky, the Bolshoi artistic director from 2004 to 2008, blamed the tense atmosphere both inside and outside the dance theater.

“What happened with Sergei Filin was not accidental,” AP quoted Ratmansky as writing on Facebook. “The Bolshoi has many ills. It's a disgusting cesspool, of those developing friendships with the artists, the speculators and scalpers, the half-crazy fans ready to bite the throats of the rivals of their favorites, the cynical hackers, the lies in the press and the scandalous interviews of staff.”

As a result, Ratmansky wrote, “This is all one snowball caused by the lack of any ethics at the theater.”