Rewind to 2009 and ‘I Don’t Wanna Put-in’ was the song that boogied with controversy when Georgia selected their song for Eurovision in Moscow. Rumblings and meetings in EBU buildings deemed the song to be political in nature and Georgia withdrew from the contest.
Fast forward to 2014 and some of the band that ‘Didn’t wanna Put-in’ are singing in Moscow to many Georgian’s dissatisfaction. Many recoiled in distaste to see Moscow this month hosting a so-called Tbilisoba, an annual, Oktoberfest-style festival of Georgian arts, national crafts and cuisine held in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
After 2008, some Georgian showbiz stars quit on Russia, and Tbilisi discouraged cultural exchange events. That approach changed with the Georgian Dream’s advent to power in 2012, and the lifting of the Russian embargo on Georgian food-products.
Yet, still, part of Georgian society thinks such performances are inappropriate so long as Russian troops remain stationed in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and help separatists prevent the homecoming of thousands of ethnic Georgians who fled these regions. They see irony in the same pop stars participating in Moscow’s Tbilisoba who previously performed in patriotic, anti-Kremlin concerts in Georgia.
Nini Badurashvili was one of the singers who took to the stage at the Tbilisoba in Moscow recently. She was a member of the band Stefane and 3G who wanted to bring ‘We don’t wanna put in’ to Russia for Eurovision 2009. With the trade embargo lifted between both countries since 2012 there is still an undercurrent of unsaid conduct so it would seem for cultural exchanges between both countries.
Badurashvili has been criticised for singing at in Moscow this month yet she said in her defence that her
“Moscow Tbilisoba performance was meant for the Russian capital’s sizeable Georgian Diaspora, and that foreign-policy disputes should stay out of it.”
The organiser of the event Mikheil Khubutia said
“The Georgian and Russian people’s love each other genetically,” on Maestro TV.
Georgia’s cultural society appear to be divided on this matter. Earlier this year, to show solidarity with Russian-besieged Ukraine, the internationally acclaimed, state-funded Georgian National Ballet Sukhishvili cancelled their sold out show in St. Petersburg, Russia
During a March tour of Ukraine, the Sukhishvilebi, as they are known, added a Ukrainian flag to their signature military dance, performed a Ukrainian folk dance, and ended at least one show with a hearty “ukrainas gaumarjos!” (“Victory to Ukraine!”) .
“I don’t think this is the right time to be performing in Russia,” Nino Sukhishvili, director of the company, said of the cancellation-decision at the time. “No matter what we say, sports and culture are politics.”
We all know the stance of Eurovision on politics but the participating countries seem to be in conflict with that sentiment internally. We saw and heard clearly this year at the contest in Copenhagen the boos that were made towards the Tolmachevy Sisters when they scored in the contest.
Is there a growing sentiment in the former USSR states against Russia? Will this see any chance of Russia ever wining the contest again if there remains such feelings towards them? Should a singer be the object of protest from the West over their government’s actions? No matter if they send the best song and performer to the contest will politics over shadow the song?
With the prospect of the resurrection of Intervision and the growing of Turkvision, are these signs of a drifting Europe on a cultural and social scale? It would appear that even if Russia improve their relations with their former USSR member states there is still deep-seated divisions locally that can negate points being awarded for the song and singer.
Is the contest moving into a new era? If one looks towards Hollywood as a barometer of where the mainstream look for characters who are the villains to come from you can see how it has changed over the years. During the cold war it was always a Russian Villain and then as China and North Korea emerged onto the political stage the characters came from those regions. Then with the growing of the political unrest in the Middle-East they became the choice of Hollywood for their villains. It seems as if we are coming full circle again with Russia as the pop-culture villains.
Are we going to see singers, sports people and cultural individuals blocked from reaching their potential if political actions and stereotypes are upheld?
Where next if “We don’t wanna put-in” do we go with Eurovision and Europe?
Author/Editor in Chief Garrett Mulhall