Tuesday, 18 March 2014

"Back in the USSR"

So with the long anticipated release of Austria's song, 'Rise Like A Phoenix' by Conchita Wust, it means we are still waiting for Russia. The Tomalchevy Twins will sing 'Shine', but they are still yet to premiere the song, despite a promise by eurovision.tv that it would be up yesterday. Russia will be of much interest at this year's Eurovision following their current performance on the global stage. And so I ask...who is going to give Russia points at the contest in May?

First off, let's mention their new anti-gay legislation. Everyone reading this will know all about Russia's interesting ("backwards") law against informing under-18's about homosexuality. If you don't, then it's brilliant explained by Grekov (2013) here.  This is going to have very interesting implications for Eurovision - a competition striving to break free of politics and political stigma. For a start, Eurovision has an extremely large LGBT fanbase, all of whom are not the best fans of Putin at the moment. Countries like the UK will not vote in favour of Russia this year. Despite the best efforts of EBU, politics will play a role in voting patterns like this. The UK gave 10 points to Russia last year, and they were a well deserved 10 points, 'What If' is a beautiful song, but I can't see many picking up the phone to vote for Russia even if they do have a stormer. It's sad really.

And then there's Crimea. The current war has reintroduced many of the old east vs west tensions which we all thought were slowly coming to an end in this ever-increasing globalized world. Again, if you're under-read on the topic, the BBC does explain it pretty well here. Ukraine's voting will be of much interest here - with the nation divided in political turmoil, I hardly see the voting system going un-rigged. Once more, it's really quite sad. But nonetheless, very interesting. Will Ukraine give points to Russia? As I've already established, the facts are that politics will once again play an unhealthy role in deciding the outcome of the result. And then there are the juries - what pressure the juries will be under from Ukraine!? Without doubt they will be heavily burdened by Ukrainian officials, and they will almost very likely be bribed by both Russia and their own political leaders. It seems very apparent that Russia will be marked 1st from the Ukrainian jury - whether or not this results in douze points is a different matter. This flows in nicely to my next point: the juries and the rest of the USSR.

Russia has fortunately many borders - this means that they share much of their culture with a great number of countries. This is especially the case since the fact that many of Russia's closest friends in the contest are former Soviet states. I'm not saying that diaspora voting has been free of politics, especially in the 00s, but the 10s are a new decade, where the right songs have generally done the best. Culturally, Russia has done well from Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and so forth - all former Soviet states (statistics thanks to ESC Stats - don't forget to vote in their poll!). Where these countries vote in the contest will be of much interest; will countries vote in favour of Russia for fear, in Ukraine for support, or boycott voting for them in protest against Crimean invasion? Additionally, Azerbaijan didn't give Russia any points last year, sparking discussion amongst fans and Azeri officials as to why. The officials were not too impressed by their jury, and this could potentially lead to an unfair swing in favour of Russia at this year's contest by the Azeri jury among others. And we all know how corrupt Azerbaijan's voting has been criticised of in the past, most notably in last year's contest with allegations of paying students to vote for them. The former states of the Soviet Union have a decision to make, and although I initially thought that Russia would do top 3 however poor the song, I am reminded by the consequences of the Iraq invasion by the United Kingdom at the 2003 contest. It was not only the first time the UK finished last, but also the first time we received the old 'nul' points. Quite remarkable considering how a mere 6 years earlier we dominated the contest. Russia's invasion of Crimea will not go down well with the olden Eurovision countries in the west, but the reaction of the former USSR states will speak volumes about how many states view the Russian situation.

It's a sad year for the Eurovision Song Contest - politics will once again become a central issue for the voting and the EBU will undoubtedly be left with quite a headache after the competition has ended. With no country currently hot favourites to win, the contest is wide open; the bookmakers have gone with Armenia, I've seen polls ranking favourites from Hungary to Romania, the UK to Norway, and history tells us that in a year as wide open as this, the draw will become pivotal in deciding the winner. I still stand by the fact that if Azerbaijan and Sweden swapped places in the 2011 draw then Eric Saade would have walked away with the prize instead. If Russia get a favourable draw many will argue corruption and bribery - if Russia get a poor draw many will argue there's political motivation behind their placing. If Russia were to win - well let's cross that bridge in the small chance it'll happen.

But let's not forget that it is the Eurovision SONG contest!

Russia's representatives are the Tomalchevy twins. They are proven performers having won the 2006 Junior Eurovision Song Contest (you can view the video here). Since winning the contest they have gone on to make a name for themselves in the Eastern region of Europe - and people do vote for big names they recognise (forget has been Engelbert Humperdinck, I'm talking about the likes of Kaliopi - FYR Macedonia; Zelijko Joksimovic - Serbia; Patricia Kaas - France) and so when people do vote, they will remember the twins. The chances are that the song will be good as well. Russia have given us some great Eurovision tracks in the last decade and I see this year as no different despite what is happening on the political stage. However, the fact that there is so much speculation about how well Russia do, and who gives them points, indicates the precarious position of the contest this year. Perhaps I am overstating the problem, feel free to share your opinions and comments! Much discussion is very welcome.

Note: the success of the Winter Olympics in Sochi will still be in the minds of televoters and jurors alike - this is likely to play a part but I think the LGBT laws and Crimean invasion are of more pressing points.


  1. Что же вы там на Западе все с ума сошли с этим крымским вторжением? Почитайте о Крыме, посмотрите сколько там живут русских и посмотрите, как они радуются, что вернулись "домой", в Россию. Вы зазомбированы прессой Запада своего и не видите ничего перед носом. Крым сам захотел войти в состав России и правильно сделал. Главное - люди, а им с нами, в России, будет хорошо. А Евровидение, ну что сказать - умные люди ни коем образом политику не будут приплетать сюда, будут голосовать за понравившуюся песню, а глупые идиоты - ну что ж тут сказать. Да и думаю не самое главное победа - главное участие. Песня у наших девчонок хорошая и выступят они достойно!!!

    С уважением, Дмитрий Хрусталев

  2. Hello Dmitry! Sorry for taking so long to respond to your comment!

    I think as a UK citizen, the representation of the Crimean invasion will always be portrayed differently by my media to yours. I do not think I am an expert on such issues at all, I was considering the impact on the song contest. I hope that Eurovision fans will leave their political ideology at home and vote for their favourite song, but history has told us that this isn't the case, for example, the 2003 contest. However, I admit that you make a very valid point: it's about the taking part and not the winning. Perhaps this is often forgotten by fans like myself. I conceive that Eurovision acts as a national identity or perhaps more suitably, a cultural identity and so it should ultimately be about the taking part. And yes, the twins are very lovely girls who do not deserve to be treated as a representation of Putin in the finals, no matter what our opinion on Russia!