Editorial : Let’s Talk About Russia & Eurovision

russia collage

A few days ago there were a lot of posts across Facebook about the potential of Russia being the host nation for next year’s Eurovision Song Contest. With Sergey Lazarev and ‘You Are the Only One’ still leading the list of the Bookie’s favourites, Russia are going into 2016 as the favourites to win.

Like every song there are those who love it, those who think it’s OK and those who think it’s awful – if you’re interested I put myself in the middle of those groups, there’s nothing wrong with it, but I find it a bit of a bog-standard cheesy piece of pop, that will need outstanding staging and performance to lift it beyond that, there is definitely far better in the contest (but that’s just my opinion!)

Like I said, the discussion was not around what people think of Sergey’s song, but about what happens in 2017 if Russia win. There is already talk of demonstrations, boycotts, ticket sales and politics as the fans of Eurovision can see very clearly what is coming.

Russia has a pretty impressive Eurovision record having participated in 19 contests, so far they have amassed two 3rd places, four 2nd places and one win in 2008 when Dima Bilan represented Russia with the song ‘Believe’.

So the contest arrived in Moscow for the first time, and many fans made the journey from all over Europe to one of the largest contests in ESC history. There were already signs and rumbles back then of the way Russia and it’s treatment of LGBTIQ people was heading. Moscow Pride (yes, there did used to be one) was organised for the day of the final (16th May) The parade was denied authorisation by Moscow officials on the basis that it would destroy morals in society and statements were issued stating that protesters would be treated toughly and that “tough measures” would be faced by anyone who decided to join in the march. Many artist spoke out against this, including that year’s winner Alexander Rybak, who declared the contest itself the “biggest gay parade”.

Since 2009 LGBTIQ rights have seriously deteriorated in Russia. In 2013 the Propaganda Law was signed by Vladimir Putin and was approved by 91% of the Russian population in a poll. Many activist and critics responded by saying that the broad and vague wording of the law, made it incredibly and deliberately ambiguous and open to all sorts of interpretation. It could easily be seen now a crime to publicly make statements in support of LGBT rights, hold any sort of parade or demonstrations, state that any homosexual relationship is equal to a heterosexual one, or to  even display any recognised symbol of the LGBTIQ community, such as the rainbow flag or any of the other pride flags and it would be illegal to kiss a same-sex partner in public.

In 2014 The Tolmachevy Sisters represented Russia and they received the force of opinion from the audience in Copenhagen at both their semi final and final performances and when they were awarded points in the voting, the loud booing was so obvious from the crowd, this was attributed to the treatment of LGBTIQ people in Russia and partly the political situation in Ukraine at the time.

At the 60th Anniversary Conference in London, Pernille Gaardbo the Executive Producer of the 2014 ESC shared about how she comforted the distraught girls following that incident. It troubled the EBU so much that ORF employed anti-booing technology the following year in Vienna so that the sounds of any audience booing could be removed from the broadcast. It was Polina Gagarina who was next to fly the Russian flag at Eurovision in 2015, her song received some criticism and she was called a pawn in Russia’s game, but there is no denying that it was very, very good and worthy of the 303 points it received.

Polina came 2nd, but was visibly upset during the voting when she was constantly booed as Russia received any of the top points. Presenters Alice Tumler & Mirijam Weichselbraun had a tough time during the voting as Russia went into the lead and this did not go down well in the hall. Alice spoke from the stage during the voting saying  “Our motto is ‘Building Bridges’, and music should stand over politics tonight.” Green room host, and previous years winner Conchita Wurst spoke to Polina during the voting and urged to audience to give her support and stating that she deserved to be in the lead. In many interviews Conchita has been very vocal about how she thinks that booing the Russian contestants in 2014 & 2015 is against the spirit of Eurovision and she considers it very rude and disrespectful.

As a result of this conversation Polina received much criticism because she spoke with and she held hands with Conchita during the segment. Russia, of course, had been very outspoken about Conchita’s win the previous year with politicians demanding to boycott the contest purely based on Conchita’s being there, Russian politician Vladimir Zhirinovsky even said “Fifty years ago the Soviet army occupied Austria. We made a mistake in freeing Austria. We should have stayed.”

So with a 2nd place in 2012 & 2015 and high placing in recent years is it time for Russia’s second win at Eurovision and what would that mean for the contest? In a Russia where flying rainbow flags is illegal and displaying even a hint of being gay can get you beaten up, what happens if Sergey wins? Many fans are saying they would boycott out of protest for the spiralling of LGBTIQ & Human rights in Russia, others are saying they would be afraid to go in case they were targeted by homophobic Russian police, others are saying the would be sure to attend as a sign of not allowing the Russian politics to overshadow the contest and others saying they would go because it would probably be easier to get tickets (!)

IMG_2991Rainbow flags during Polina Gagarina’s performance at last year’s Eurovision Song Contest.

We want to know what you think? If Sergey wins and next years contest then held in Russia, would you go? How would you feel about it? What would be your reason for your decision?

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Author: Lisa-Jayne Lewis
Source: Eurovision Ireland

35 replies »

  1. Most European countries abide by certain standards of freedom, equality and public safety. Russia denies all of these and rather regards them as weak and regressive. As a British person I would hope the BBC will pull out of the competition should Russia win. Its about freedom and equality, things that dont come easy to Russia.

    Lets show what we stand for.

  2. what nonsense . normally in Russia to LGBT people are at least in the big cities because we have a lot of them. and if you were in our country and only listen to the TV don’t need to judge

  3. I have never visited Russia but hope to in the not too distant future. When I first became a eurovision fan more than 40 years ago this would have been unthinkable. Things have come a long way and yes may have a way to go. However, you don’t alter centuries of entrenched attitudes in a couple of decades. A number of other participating countries fail to protect minorities by law; politicians in Turkey and Serbia hold vehemently anti gay attitudes. Homophobia is just that, a fear. You counter that by engaging with people and demonstrating that there is nothing to fear. If Russia wins, nobody should boycott. I would love to go but the time and the cost make it prohibitive. Those who can should and prove that there is nothing to fear from gay men and women, that we don’t wish to bring about the moral collapse of Russia. And while we’re at it, stop trying to turn this family show into a gays only affair.

  4. I am from Russia and I’m gay. Yes, most of people hate gays and everything connected with LGBT. But the situation itself isn’t catastrophical. Look, Sergey Lazarev is gay, Philip Kirkorov, he wrote Sergey’s song, is gay as well and they represent Russia at the ESC. Also there are some gay celebrities.

  5. Hello!
    I am writing on behalf of the Russian mini ESChome community (ru) .
    I am writing through an interpreter, because it’s easier, I hope you will understand me.

    I am sad. You’re strange. Very strange. From Russia, you just do not get points, because the song we do not like anyone, forgive.
    At the expense of Lazarev. You probably do not know, but we sent a tank, music tank.

    Lazarev is the most popular singer in Russia and Eastern Europe. Steeper it only Dima Bilan. Why ? We’re going to win. We do not take the victory now, send in the next year Paulina. In fact, we send the strongest party from Russia, which by the way gay. Everyone in Russia knows about this, and you do not know? Nonsense!
    Let’s be honest. We spent the best Eurovision Song Contest in 2009. We spent an awesome Olympics in 2014. Do you think we are not able to spend a heavenly Contest in 2017? For you the best Euro in some of Croatia? The poor and awful? Or elegant and beautiful in Russia? At that spend a lot of money?
    About gay.! We then sent a gay man in 1995. We sent a lesbian in 2003. We sent almost gay in 2006 and in 2008, but Russia again homophobic. Now we send almost gay icon Eastern Europe and again we homophobes. Guys! What’s wrong with you? Really?

    Now, whether gay should go to Russia?
    Yes! Because you just have to remember a few rules. Do not kiss in public and do not cuddle. And then now I’m just break all your stereotipy of homophobic Russia. In Russia, would react badly and hetero couple that is in public kissing and hugging.
    They will say that the bad man with a woman kissing and hugging in public. We do not accepted! We neither gay nor straight do not show their feelings in public, it is bad form! And someone with whom to have sex, it is a private matter, not only in public places, we are a secular country!
    So suffice to say bad things about Russia. We can not publicly show their feelings to everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation. These are our manners and customs. We have so accepted! We do not lezim to you with their traditions, and you are not to go to us. We are an ancient country and gay we were still under Catherine the Great (historical fact) and everything was fine.
    Come to Russia. Live a 2 weeks. For example, Moscow. This is a civilized city, no worse than London. And completely sure of the correctness of my words.

    And now, the list of those countries, who in Russia are the favorites.
    France, Croatia and Bulgaria
    With love from Moscow

  6. I’m from Russia. excuse me, but what you wrote here – this is nonsense. there are many gays in Russia, my friend is Gay, and another is Bisexual . they are live well. there are fighting against Russia in your countries. Did you forget, as the group Tatu was shoted from big distance, because organizers feared that they could kiss? and this is was the Russian artists! so if Russia again would sent a gay group now they would be shoted the same as in 2003, because they are from Russia!
    you made war against Russia because of a few politicians homophobes, which are exist in each country. If Russia will win, we will make an elegant show , and we look forward to all of gays. We will take all with love. gay men in 2009 in Moscow felt fine itself. P.S. Lazarev is latent gay. he hides his orientation.

    • The people may accept, but the establishment doesn’t!!! Sorry, but For me it’s the official message sent by Russia that is not acceptable. If you are a normal free thinking Russian then it’s up to you and your fellow country men to stand up and show the world we are all equal and valued. I have no ill will against the people of Russia, we are all humans, but I do resent the fact that I am, legally, a degenerate in your country. Aside from that, the song is good but there is better 😊

      • Alec: The Equality in Russia (Gay Marriage) won’t will come to Russia at least in 20 or 25 years as minimum. The need first learn about some human rights and then change their marriage concept + their surrounding neighbors as The Baltic States, Ukraine, Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, etc.. also need change their mentality to adapt to the Western valuers. Their Eastern mentality does not changes so fast as the Western one and they keep their traditional valuers. Mostly of Russian gay men is not need about claim rights to be respected as in the West does. If you are afraid to be in Russia for ESC next year due your concerns about your safety then don’t go here but i’m tired of this exaggeration about the security of gay in Russia during an international event.

      • And this is the reason of this article: “The song is good , there we think there are good another ones , so that’s why we don’t want Russia as a winner and that’s why we always talk about homophobia”😅

    • 3 dislakes without any comment:) you are so pathetic😂 you just must say that you do not like Russians, that’s why you wrote your bad comments about homophobia.

  7. I guess why much Western Gay Histeria over ”Oh my goodness we going to Russia next year for ESC 2017, we are afraid to be bullied, insulted, beaten or harassed by the Russian police or by the local Russian citizens due their orientation at the event? This is ridiculous!! if those people don’t want go for Russia due that they prefer their LGBTIQ comfort than ”Face the Bear” then they shouldn’t go for any ESC if it held in Eastern European countries like Armenia, Belarus, Lithuania, Poland where the situation is not far from Russian reality!

    Also Russia after ESC 2009, they did a serial events in the past like Miss Universe and Winter Olympics where the gay people who attend was well treated and safe at all! Also don’t forget that for next year and 2018, Russia will host the Confederations Cup & FIFA World Cup (two sport events much more bigger than ESC Inself) and if Russia wins and host ESC next year, could be used as indicative that how the Russians can tolerate others cultures & customs different than their traditional valuers, if they can’t tolerate it, then more international sanctions will come to them and likely EBU warning to notice of expulsion, maybe make them think! but there’s no denying that this year is their turn to win and people must accept that the Sergey’s song is one of the best this year, and if he wins hoperfully Channel One will host it in Saint Peterburg at the newly Gazprom Arena making ESC 2017 as the biggest ever from this decade!! 🙂

  8. Tell me , why should participate in the competition if you do not give a victory, even if the song number and actually pull a victory ? Only due to the fact that this victory obitet gay ? not all of Europe inhabited by gay !you would have been nice to hear a boo your country just because they do not like politics ?! it’s horrible!I wish Sergei victory ! Russia truth in this , one of those who must take a crystal microphone !

  9. are you serious? stop listening to your lying media. I live in Russia and there is no aggression and if he wins then let in 2017 though gays from all over the world will gather at us. equally we all will be happy. do not believe what your TV says . we have a very hospitable country ,regardless of whether you’re gay or hetero

      • why would I lie? I don’t know what village you live there may have never seen gays and therefore it’s weird? I live in Moscow and see LGBT couples and anything . and kissing the improper people not only them , also neprilichno heterosexual couples in public places to show their feelings. it was the Eurovision song contest 2009 was the 2014 Olympics so that the whole world will remember her forever. will the world Cup in 2018 and what ? think the Eurovision song contest in 2017 will be bad? it will be the most awesome all of Europe will remember it forever. so even though gays from all over the world attracts all of us will accept and all will be happy. and manners are totally the same for everyone

  10. I think it’s important to remind people of the obvious 🙂 This is a song contest. The best (or rather most popular song) will win, and the winning country will host next year. Fair and square.

    I’m all for for gay liberation, and I am against discrimination in any form. Still, I find this discussion rather one-sided. As Martin points out – there are also lots of straight (male) fans of the contest. A lot of the fans going to see the contest live are straight too. Not even bad Petra Mede-jokes can change that fact 🙂

    ESC is not meant to be a contest of which countries have the most “right” opinions or anything, but it’s a music contest. Maybe we should just end it there? I think the Russian entry is a well made pop song. Not really musically innovative, but a good one of it’s kind.

    Personally still, I actually hope Russia will NOT win. 1) it will cause an outcry among some fans. For the wrong reasons – not because they dislike the song 2) Some people will complain about the natural right for Russia for hosting, because they don’t like their politics etc. I am awfully sorry that some people think so, but they do!

    And the booing against Russia. Disgraceful to listen to. One thing is: The singers representing Russia can’t be blamed for the politics of their country. I also find it chilidish, rude, irrelevant and not (erm….) very intelligent. And it certainly does NOT make good TV. If anything, I think the audience booing make more fools of themselves, than anything else…

    Such things are really not good for the contest we all love! ESC is meant to bring countries together, unifying them with music. Yep – “building bridges”. The evening of the year when nationality, culture etc means less – what really means something is the universial langage of music. Which is more unifying than any EU-directive 🙂

    And booing Russia, hoping they will not win because of politics, threatning not to go to ESC if they host….that’s not really the “spirit of the contest” in that respect. At least not how I think it. So take a deep breathe and remember….Even if ESC might be the most “serious” thing around for many of us fans, it’s STILL about fun and entertainment. If one lets politics go in the way for the fun of it….one is making problems for him/herself.

    I hope my answer was balanced, and not offending anyone. It shouldn’t offend anyone. But I think it’s important to see things from different sides.

    • What a great answer! I’m so glad that to hear it! I’m from Russia. Yes, Russia has now hard time and terrible politicians:(But there are so much nice people! Conchita was second in Russian televoting. Adam Lambert (open gay) has performed in Russia and will perform soon, thousands of people came and will come to see his live.mudyx should stay beside politics

  11. Great article and worth talking about. So many have their heads buried in the sand and only want to talk about “the music”, but I wouldn’t to Russia nor support their staging of the Eurovision while Russian LGBTQI people and the people who visit would be targeted and viewed as sub-human. Thanks Lisa.

  12. Hello Lisa!
    I just talked to Holger days ago about going to ESC in Russia! I think we will stay at home for several reasons! Mostly for the people of the Russian embassy wanna see my sheet with my income and profession! I don’t want this to travel to Russia! But anyway, I don’t think the bookies are right 😉 Like this article a lot!

  13. I am all for keeping polotics out of Eurovision, however in this case it’s really not an option. Considering the high LGBT following the contest has my feelings are that countries such as Russia should be denied participation. A country that legislates against a section of society,to me, is not “building bridges” or “coming together” in the true spirit of ESC. It’s like tobacco companies sponsoring the olympics!!!! I would not feel comfortable going considering this and I could not in good conscience support a regime who considers me a “non human”. Having said that I really don’t think it will arise as the song is overrated, also I think that the new voting system will go against Russia as the public vote will now have a greater effect on the outcome of the competition. That is our way of protesting against such regimes!!

    • are you serious? stop listening to your lying media. I live in Russia and there is no aggression and if he wins then let in 2017 though gays from all over the world will gather at us. equally we all will be happy. do not believe what your TV says . we have a very hospitable country ,regardless of whether you’re gay or hetero

  14. I guess your article reminded me why I much prefer wiwibloggs or oikotimes to this site. I want to read about music and performance and not about politics. I think you need to remind yourself that you are not a political journalist to start with. Or are you trying to be one? just compare your rating and number of comments with Williams at wiwibloggs and you will see the difference.

    • Hi V, thanks for taking the time to read and comment on this article, all feedback is appreciated from our readers. For the most part we do focus on the music and performances both current and historical at ESC, but personally I like to look a little bit further afield from time to time and I realise this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea but there are Some who enjoy this type of discussion. Thanks again, and yes I too am a big fan of Wiwiblogs. ☺️

    • v – you have some very valid points. And even if I don’t feel like being the one to “tell” what escireland should write about or not – it is indeed a pity how some people let politics go in the way for the enjoyment of a simple pop song.

      I could write a lot about that. But I think – as of yet – it’s enough to share a simple “thesis” of mine: politics + music = mismatch. At least usually. And definiately in this case!

      • Thanks for you reply Steinar. I always appreciate feedback on articles that I write as do the rest of the Eurovision Ireland team. We know that some people will like some of the things we write others will disagree or think that we shouldn’t write about certain topics. That’s what is great about ESC we all have our thoughts and opinions and I most certainly respect those who don’t agree with me.

  15. If Russia were to win and host in 2017, I would not go – partly because I would not feel safe or comfortable, partly bacause I would not wish to contribute a single rouble to the economy of a country that oppresses gay people and behaves aggressively towards its neighbours. But I would not condemn anyone who did decide to attend – it is a choice every individual has to make.

    I would also not be too disappointed to see Sergey win – not because he is an attractive man, as the article suggests, but because his song is not a hypocritical piece of propaganda, as was the case in the last 3 years.

    • Well Lisa, I should maybe stress that my point was not which netsite is “better” or “worse” than another. Neither was it to tell what you should – or should not write about. I just wanted to say, in a polite manner, that I agree with her / his general opnion. That ESC is not / should not be, about politics. And that it’s better to leave politics aside 🙂

  16. There’s a lot of ifs before anything is concrete here…

    Even though he’s the current favourite, I don’t think that Sergey is a likely winner – top 5, yes. If ‘A Million Voices’ had been Russia’s entry this year, this would have been a hot topic as Polina would have been a nailed on certainty to win, in the realms of Alexander Rybak and Loreen territory.

    I’m a straight guy (yep, there are still some UK male Eurovision fans out here of that persuasion) so I cannot really empathise with the LGBT community as to their worries about what a Russian victory might mean. I have yet to go to an actual ESC ‘on the ground’ – would I go next year if Russia won? Don’t know – maybe, maybe not but there wouldn’t be the same anxiety and fear in my mind that might be there if I wasn’t heterosexual.

    I have always been of the belief that booing musicians because of their nationality is not an effective way of protesting but for a lot of fans it is THEIR way of stating their position and that is their right to do so. I hope that the protests continue in Stockholm in the same way as before and they are not muted purely due to the sex and attractiveness of this year’s Russian singer in the eyes of those who had previously booed two 17 year old sisters and Polina Gagarina…

    • Thanks Martin, always appreciate when people comment on the articles. I do agree if Polina was in this year then this would be a very topical issue. There was lots of discussion about it on Facebook the other day and you know how us ESC fans love to discuss and debate things in great detail!!

  17. They came second in 2012 & 2015 not 2013, and I hardly believe Russia will be winning this year, just because Sergey is currently leading the bookies doesn’t mean he shall win. In 2014 the bookies only started to predict conchita would win during the Eurovision night. And I strongly believe that the bookies currently have it wrong and that this year ESC might be going to a country that has never won before. It’s obviously too early to predict since we haven’t seen the staging of each performance yet!

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