The final night of Eurovision 2008, or respectively, the voting results have enraged many a commentator and sparked a long distance dispute between Western and Russian media. The reason was simple: it occurred to the Western journalists that voting in Eurovision is not about the quality of singers, but voting with a strong political undertone.1
On the other hand, their Eastern colleagues asserted that quality speaks for itself.2
It is hard to say why indignation came this year when the previous one was very similar. Political undertone, especially in nationalist form, has deep roots in the Eurovision song contest and in the past few years voting has been based upon many principles very different from the aesthetic ones. Yes, in the past it was possible to notice voting side effects, usually in the form of a state passing some points to its neighbour; however, that was it. Today’s situation is considerably graver. Apparently the problem lies in the growth of Russian nationalism which affects Russian diaspora living abroad as well as a feeling of an uncertainty in the Eastern countries of Europe, in which they certainly do not play the central role.
In 1997, Russian songstress Alla Pugacheva ranked 15th in the Eurovision song contest and resembled much to a beaten dog; nevertheless, a rather furious dog. The Russian star, who could not understand that she had not chosen the right ball, tried to turn her defeat into something like an insult to all of Russia. Although, this did not result in more than a few interviews for Russian media which lamented in a similar way. Simply put, Yeltsin’s Russia did not suffer from exaggerated nationalism like it does today. Perhaps if Vladimir Putin had been in power at that point of time; at best, a Russian submarine would have emerged at Irish shoreline in order to demonstrate that Russia will not tolerate any insult to its citizens.
Luckily in the times of Putin’s reign, Russian songsters have fared quite well in Eurovision thanks to its neighbours’ exemplary voting and the Russian diaspora abroad; so for now, we can sleep peacefully. To top it all off, even a Russian singer won this year and that allowed Prime Minister Putin to express his emotions freely: “This is not just a great personal success of Dima Bilan. This is another of Russia’s triumphs.”3 Additional triumphs described, as such, by the Russian media include the victory of Zenith St. Petersburg in UEFA Championship and the victory of Russian hockey at the World Championship. We do not know exactly which triumphs Mr. Putin had in mind, but it is likely that those are from the same zone, because one would hardly find others in the same area. This some what reminds us of the glorious victories of the socialist camp at sport tiltyards during the cold war. When it was not possible, at least not anywhere else, that the frequently doped sportsmen defeated the vicious imperialist.
Ukrainian songsters also do fairly well; although, due to nationalist feelings that Ukrainians fail to admit, someone could do better at Eurovision than their contestants. When this year’s Ukrainian delegate ranked second, she received a letter from Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, whereupon Yula, clairvoyantly seeing the entire enchanted continent and excited men in front of their tellies, comforts the singer stating that she was the best; however, fell a victim to a pan European conspiracy: “Dear, reputable and sweet Annie! I congratulate you from my entire heart on your victory at the Eurovision. Yes, that is correct, on your Victory. I know you were the first, however virtuous and delicate Europe could not put up with Ukraine hosting the Eurovision twice in the past four years. I saw the glowing eyes of viewers (especially those of the so-called stronger half) and I felt the tremendous impression and energy with which, Annie, you enchanted our entire continent. I saw and felt the great and invincible power of Ukrainian beauty and talent.”4
Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko took even a rougher stance in the Ani Lorak case when he graced not only the singer herself, but also Russian singer Philip Kirkorov, who prepared Lorak´s show5, with the title of national artist. Just like the audience dully watched its „kumir“6 and his entourage in the video on Youtube, Ukrainian media demurred to the entire affair similarly.
Ukrainian singer Andriy Danilko better known as Verka Serduchka ranked second in the same contest last year and the president did not utter a word. The president could have had some aesthetically-moral constraints, but what makes Serduchka worse than Kirkorov? But most importantly, a wide array of artists, who are much better than a Russian songster of dubious quality, work in Ukraine without the president being aware of them.
Let’s just hope that this is a misfortunate oversight of a person who puts himself into the position of a guard of spirituality in Ukraine and not a reflection of Viktor Andriyovych’s real taste. And not afirm that the Ukrainian president belongs to the same category as his former or current Russian colleague.
At the end of the introductory part of our essay, let us briefly ponder the voting procedure itself. After the balloting in 2007 was finished I watched a Russian television channel, where a heated discussion took place in studio between the representatives of Russian „popsa“, famed experts and actually anyone else. An ejaculation of nationalism of all sorts and forms was epic indeed. If we make a concise résumé of statements expressed there, then we will come to the conclusion of basically two theses: Europe loves Russia and Europe has acknowledged the dominance of orthodox culture.
Measured by the results of last and this year’s voting, it would be better to replace the statement “Europe loves Russia” with “Russia loves itself”. Apart from votes as from truly devoted neighbours such as Armenia or Belarus, votes from the other „loving“ neighbours; in fact, represent votes from citizens who have not come to terms with the independence of the country for which they live and they long for the former Soviet Union, personalized by great Russia. These people would vote for Russia even if much worse atrocities than this year happened on the stage.
The case with votes from farther foreign countries is similar. Serbia and Moldova are probably clear to everyone. Traditionally, Serbia perceives Russia as its protector and in the example of Moldova the word Transnistria should suffice. The voting of Cyprian off-shores can be hardly explained as an expression of pro-Russian feelings of Cypriots themselves and the same is true of the Czech Republic. If Karlovy Vary, a city where a Czech is hard to find, was the only place in this country that balloted, then it must have been enough. In the case of Germany we could perhaps talk about the old-new relations of both countries, but I would rather bet on Russians, who love their country, but prefer to live the furthest possible from it. On the other side Montenegro has been a surprise – one would expect far more votes from a country in which locals own scarcely anything.
In what concerns the victory of orthodox culture over the rotting Western one, then last year was truly hardcore. First came a well-singing Serbian girl „daringly lesbian chic-tinged acted“,7 second came a transvestite, third, fifth and sixth places were also occupied by representatives og orthodox countries, however only a Bulgarian contestant sang in Bulgarian while other Slavs instead picked English. Dominance of orthodox culture? No, only another sign of nationalist idiocy.
And now a few words to the feeling of Eastern uncertainty. In my previous contribution published on this website I pondered the disdain of Russians, who are living in Kiev, have for Ukraine.8 It is not only apparent only there, but also further in Europe. Nevertheless, it is impossible not to see the uncertainty of Russians that hides behind their often pompous behaviour abroad. They roll Europe with their petrodollars, but the more intelligent ones realize that they are not able to achieve real respect from Europeans. And from Putin to the quirkiest nouveaux riches they long for such respect. But Europe does not and does not respect them. So we will show you who you do not respect - Bilan on you.
If the fact stated by the German newspaper, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, that around ten million dollars9 were spent on Bilan’s spartakiade, is true, then this is just another example of Russian effort to cope with its feeling of uncertainty. You have to ask yourself the question whether it is possible to find another European country that would spend such an amount on a single event. Hardly, is the answer. And why would they, when European values lie somewhere else. Until now, this has not been well understood in Moscow. According to them, Russia is standing up from its knees and the world has to feel it. Every day and everywhere.
Therefore let’s not fume at the results of the Eurovision contest and leave our reservations and deeds for those cases in which Russia truly overacts. We have had and will have more than enough of such opportunities.
I recommend to weaker personalities, who are upset over the last few years of Eurovision, not to even turn on their TV next year on the day concerned. What Europe will witness in Moscow, has never happened yet. It will kind of resemble the 1936 Olympics in Berlin on a smaller scale. The big ones will turn up in Sochi. Glee will come, too. „Lutchezarnyi“ Fil, an Ukrainian national artist, will be the presenter and will perform in a Peter the Great costume from Yudashkin. Allegedly they resemble each other. With Peter, of course.
1 Morris, S., Eurovision contest voting is no laughing matter, says Wogan. www.guardian.co.uk/music/2008/may/26/news.russia/print
2 Сафронова, И; Ремизова, M., "Евровидение-2008": круговая порука Востока. www.kp.ru/daily/24103/329454/
3 „Это не только личный успех Димы Билана, но и еще один триумф всей России." http://www.utro.ru/news/2008/05/25/740178.shtml
4 http://korrespondent.net/ukraine/events/472818/?p=14&mode=DESC Original version of the congratulatory letter is available on the web page of the Ukrainian government: www.kmu.gov.ua/control/publish/article?art_id=133874483
5 Who wants to take a look at the pictures from this “event” we recommend them to go to the following story Ющенко Сердючці не дав, а Лорак і Кіркорова не забув http://tabloid.pravda.com.ua/photos/483fd7ebbaaaa. To those who want to enjoy the performance of a national artist and are fans of awkward experiences, we recommend, with a considerable dose of mischief, the following video on Youtube: www.youtube.com/watch?v=diaCV5JcYtU . It really is worth it.
7 Eurovision glitter brings hope to gay Serbs
8 Лабуть, П., Englishmen in New York или русские апостолы в Kиеве. www.russkiivopros.com/index.php?pag=one&id=49&kat=9&csl=15
9 Schmitt, P.-P., Russland: 272 Punkte. www.faz.net/s/RubF61F727A255045429E0C89F4919A4B1B/Doc~E2B7AFEDFAF9F4AD781A1901979CA7FEC~ATpl~Ecommon~Sspezial.html
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