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Let’s Talk About Russia

Russia and Ukraine have history. Long history, recent history and serious animosity. So why not use Eurovision to bring that tension to the rest of the world? Here’s 5 lessons we can learn from this year’s competition;

Julia Samoylova Credits: EBU, Channel 1 Russia
The Russian Contestant – Julia Samoylova
Credits: EBU, Channel 1 Russia

Background; Since the Russian annexation of the Ukrainian region of Crimea, Kiev have issued travel bans to mainland Ukraine for all people who entered Crimea illegally; ie via Russia and sans visa. Knowing this, Russia sent an artist well-known to have performed in Crimea to this year’s Eurovision. The hosts denied Julia Samoylova a visa and Russia have subsequently withdrawn both from entering and broadcasting the 2017 competition. Here’s what we can learn from that ;

1. Play By The Rules

Eurovision is a massive global event and obviously it has rules. Equally, Ukraine as a country has its own set of rules. They’re called laws and you can’t really go about breaking them just because you feel like it. Of course, Russia knew all of this from the start so you have to assume they were breaking them for a reason and yet…

2. Don’t Be Bitter When It Doesn’t Work Out

Apparently, the EBU offered Russia two alternatives; let Julia perform by satellite or send someone else. Russia’s response? Pull the whole thing and refuse to broadcast the competition at all. Following either of those suggestions could quickly have made Ukraine look like the bad guy, and ultimately played into Russia’s hands. Unless…

3. Know Your End Game

Let’s assume that by deliberately sending an artist known to have performed in a conflicted territory, Russia were hoping to draw some attention to said conflict. Russia however, still deny any state involvement in Crimea, so what were they actually hoping to do? Make Ukraine look bad? Get people to pay attention to a conflict they actually don’t want you to think about? Distract from some other human rights offences (Eg Chechnya?) If it’s not clear, it didn’t work.

4. Disability Is Not A Gimmick

Just because they weren’t clear on their message didn’t mean Russia weren’t throwing everything they had into spreading it. Yes, wheelchairs get sympathy votes but if you’re going to blatantly try to piss off another country don’t use a disabled person to do it. It’s not fair on them or the audience and ultimately sends a message that Julia was chosen not because she deserved to be but because she could help bring sympathy to Russia’s fight. As well as being downright offensive, this perpetuates the idea that a person with visible disabilities can only ever be taken at face value as a disabled person and never as the sum of their parts.

5. The EBU Are Serious About Getting Rid Of Politics

Amongst negotiations to solve the visa issue the EBU have apparently also discussed possible future sanctions for Ukraine. A spokesman even used the word “angry” to describe their feelings about the host’s behaviour. Of course the EBU often make threats to countries infringing the rules, the difference this time is that we won’t know til next year just how serious they were.

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