by Graham Pierrepoint
Any fans of the Eurovision Song Contest – which traditionally takes place in May each year – will likely know that Russia is arguably one of the competition’s most successful countries to take part, having come extremely close to winning the competition over the past few years. Russia has finished in the top three in the contest’s final no less than four times in the past decade, putting previously successful nations such as the UK to shame – yet despite their barnstorming third-place effort in 2016, with ‘You Are The Only One’, it appears that the nation will not be taking part in this year’s contest. The reasons for this are fairly involved, though it appears the matter is far from resolved.
Ukraine are hosting 2017’s contest after pulling off a shock victory in the judge voting stages of last year’s competition. As a result, the nation has taken action against Russia in a move that many have taken to condemn – a travel ban has been imposed upon Russia’s selected singer, Julia Samoilova, for reasons based upon her previous visit to Crimea, an area which was annexed by Russia from the Ukrainians three years ago. This has led Russian broadcaster Channel One to refuse to show the contest next month – a further move which the European Broadcasting Union has advised will all but confirm the country’s departure from the 2017 line-up.
The controversies between Russia and Ukraine are well known, and while bloc voting allegations have plagued the contest for some time, the event has been well-known for its supposed hardline stance on the banning of political lyrics and gestures in the songs that are performed. Despite the organizers’ best efforts, therefore, can sometimes be an occasion for European politics to rear up – and this year, the controversy has started before the event has even gotten underway.
It’s the first time that a host nation has chosen to ban a performer from the stage entirely, and the move has been criticized by fans and professionals alike. However, there have also been accusations of Russia having chosen to promote their singer to the contest for political reasons – however, the country had advised that they would not aim to cause controversy by choosing an act that may inspire political contention. In any case, the contest will go ahead on May 13th in Kiev – and millions of Europeans will continue to tune in despite the dramas that may be unfolding.