The Eurovision Song Contest, a phenomenon that has mobilized tens of millions of Russians in front of the screens for almost three decades, was not broadcast by any channel in the Slavic country this year. “Politicized,” “gay catwalk,” and “Western propaganda” were some of the insults leveled at the competition after the finale. The reason was that Russia and Belarus were expelled a day after their artillery opened fire on Ukraine, the 2022 winner of this European faction.
This edition was only viewable through the official channel on YouTube. Until 2018, even after the annexation of Crimea and the start of the Donbass war in 2014, the program had very strong allegiance. Viewership exceeded 33% of viewers each year, sometimes peaking at around 50%. There was only a similar precedent in 2017, when Ukraine prevented Russian singer Yuliya Samoilova from participating because she had performed on the Black Sea Peninsula, which had been taken over by the Kremlin.
Slavia Simonova, the singer chosen by Russia to represent her at the 2022 Eurovision Song Contest before the European Broadcasting Union banned her from the competition, in a 2019 performance. Maillard. Lucy
Despite the ruling party’s alleged disinterest and censorship – the last independent television broadcasting publicly, Dozhd, was blocked for its coverage early in the conflict – the Eurovision final in Russia drew streams of ink. On the one hand, many Russians, including some figures close to the Kremlin who showed no interest in the competition, criticized the Ukrainian victory and, in part, advocated the creation of a parallel competition for the former Soviet republics remaining in Russia’s sphere of influence. On the other hand, fans enjoyed it as always, despite its politicization.
Kremlin smear campaign
The spokeswoman for the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zajárova, accused the festival on her Telegram profile with a snapshot of the performance of the winning band Kalush Orchestra. “Without Ukraine’s victory at the Eurovision Song Contest, the picture of what happened to this country would not be complete. Traditional costumes and musical instruments, two Baba Yagá on the strings (of the cellos), breakdance and songs about Azovstal. Europe applauds getting up. The curtain is falling,” said the representative of Russian diplomacy, alluding on the one hand to the witch of Slavic folklore shared by both nations, and on the other hand to the Ukrainian militants of the Mariupol steel plant, who resisted for almost three months.
Leonid Slutsky, chairman of the State Duma committee on international affairs and the new chairman of the populist PLDR after the death of Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the third in parliament, did not miss out. “Finally, it shows that Eurovision is not an instrument to promote “cultural values”, but all Western standards and their one-sided approaches,” the politician complained in his social networks. In addition, he criticized that Ukraine received the highest score from Poland, Latvia, Romania and Lithuania, countries that Moscow wants to expel from NATO, and from Moldova, which they threatened to cut off gas and after the turn their separatist Transnistria region to take over towards the European Union.
The last Russian Eurovision winner was Dima Bilan, winner of the 2008 edition. “Ukraine has won the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time thanks to public voting, but honestly their guys are great,” said Bilan’s producer Yana Rudkovskaya. However, his favorite country was Spain.
His praise was in stark contrast to the tirades heaped upon him by various celebrities who had openly shown their support for the Kremlin in the past. “I had no doubt that Ukraine would win, not an iota,” said famous Russian producer Yósif Prigozhin, who said Eurovision had ceased to exist for him but kept talking about the festival throughout the week. “I’m a mega-tolerant person, not homophobic, but I don’t want to see a gay parade in Eurovision format either. I’m not against these people, but against being prevented from thinking in our own way,” said one of the signatories in 2014 of a cultural manifesto in support of Putin and his intervention in Donbass.
Numerous media repeated the debate opened by Prigozhin and Belarusian musician Dmitri Koldun about the creation of an alternative festival to Eurovision. The latter, who owes his fame to his victory in the television competition Fábrica de estrellas, explained that there are already numerous festivals like this in their countries and that they no longer need them. “You can live without Eurovision and its copies,” he said.
Another public voice was that of TNT director Tina Kandelaki, who called the competition a “farce”. “You can give Ukraine all the awards in advance, from an Oscar to Zelenskyy to winning the Olympics,” he told Telegram.
“It doesn’t matter who wins, it’s just fun”
Some Russian media also approached the Eurovision final exclusively from the political side. “No sensations: instead of being disqualified, Ukraine was awarded the victory in the Eurovision Song Contest,” headlined 78, the Izvestia Group’s telekanal, on its website; “How Ukraine tried to politicize Eurovision,” noted another Regnum agency article. In general, however, reporting in many newspapers was perfunctory and contained only a few paragraphs.
Several newspapers, including Western ones, highlighted the alleged irregularities of the competition, and some used the current situation to joke about the fighting in Ukraine. “Next time it will be in Azovstal,” headlined an article in the newspaper Ura, which collected opinions from social networks in a completely biased manner, including only those closest to the ruling party. “Ukrainians won’t talk about victory” and “Fortunately, Russia won’t participate anymore,” were others.
Despite the abuse in the propaganda war against Ukraine, many Russians enjoyed a good evening and nothing more. “Ukraine’s performance was good, but not much. Last year I saw them as winners,” says viewer Vera Konistratenko. “We have known for decades that competition is politicized. In any case, politics hasn’t been excluded from other places either: from sports, from art, from the Sputnik vaccine…” he adds, referring to the censorship some Russian artists have suffered in other countries after the US invasion Troops Russians in Ukraine.
“As always, I saw most of the performances in the finals and I liked it,” tells us another loyal viewer, Ruben Bunyatyan. “I would be lying if I said I expected a different winner than Ukraine, that was obvious, but personally I don’t care who wins Eurovision. It’s just fun to watch and listen to all these songs. I don’t care about these accusations of political bias,” he insists, before pointing out that Russian television itself is using the festival “to try to demonstrate the decadence of a Europe mired in homosexuality and all that nonsense.”
The Russian reality, however, is that many citizens in a country that passed the so-called “Gay Propaganda Law” nine years ago don’t think so. “I liked him as a kid, but he’s become too gay. Now it’s a stupid competition and I haven’t seen it for a long time,” says Nina, whose vision is shared by many other people in the Slavic nation and who repeats the same arguments: “I’m not against gays, but I’m against theirs Propaganda.”
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