Wiwibloggs continues our new series in which we are taking a look at all of the countries currently participating in the Eurovision Song Contest and why we love them. Today we’re flying east and saying dobro pozhalovat to the land of the nesting doll and Tetris — Russia.
The world’s biggest country has served million-dollar voices and emerged as an absolute powerhouse at Eurovision since debuting in 1994. Serving fire and ice, suns and mountains, and even a figure skater on a mini ice rink, they’ve waltzed their way into the top five no less than nine times since debuting. Russia has also showcased diverse faces from across their giant landmass — from manic Moscow to below-zero Buranovo, and even one Mamo singer from Ukraine. Sure, they might be here to throw a party for everybody — but don’t let their festive atmosphere fool you. They’re here to win.
Let’s look at 10 reasons why we love our eastern neighbours.
1. Breaking (and baking) bread between the old…
There’s just something so endearing about seeing your grandma baking bread on stage while happily ordering you to party. With a combined age of over 500 (ladies never tell their age), the Buranovskiye Babushki, a group of eight elderly women from the north of Russia, made old young again — beating out stiff competition in both Eurovision 2008 winner Dima Bilan and one half of T.A.T.u in Yulia Volkova to represent Russia at the contest in 2012. They delivered one of the most meme-worthy performances of Eurovision history — full of love, warmth and a side of dough. They may have fallen behind Sweden’s Loreen to take second place in the final, but they will always hold a special place in our hearts.
2. …and the young.
The Tolmachevy Sisters are twins who, at only age 17, shone their way to a seventh place finish at Eurovision in 2014. The girls had a winning track record — having taken out Junior Eurovision in 2006 aged just nine years old. The girls may have been young in age, but they brought a mature performance well beyond their years to Copenhagen, seesawing (both physically and emotionally) through a very tough performance and a very tough crowd. (The audience, critical of Russia politically, booed the sisters’ qualification into the final and again during the grand final). The girls have much to be proud of — delivering a flawless performance and truly outshining all expectations placed on their young shoulders. PS. Shout-out to their stylist for joining them at the braid!
3. Showcasing the beauty of ageing in 180 seconds
Before big-face LEDs were all the rage in Eurovision 2017, Anastasia Prikhodko served face in her performance at Eurovision in 2009. In a tribute to active ageing, the Ukrainian-born representative for Russia showed a complete transformation from her twenties to seventies — and started the selfie trend, no-doubt. Thematically she seemed to discuss the process of becoming your mother, visually nodding to the lyrics of her song.
4. Emphasising ‘ability’ in disability
Julia Samoylova faced her unfair share of hurdles on her Eurovision journey. A talented singer with an edgy avant-garde look, she became only the second participant at Eurovision who uses a wheelchair after Poland’s Monika Kuczynska in 2015. Julia stayed strong after being banned from entering Ukraine for Eurovision 2017, finally getting her chance in Lisbon in 2018 with the aptly-titled “I Won’t Break”. The blonde stunner literally rose above all others in her semi-final, becoming a mountain top decorated with embellishments and projection art. While she may not have made the final, we applaud the Russian broadcaster for showcasing talent among all its artists — and for sticking by its word to give Julia her moment rather than merely using her as a political pawn.
5. Resilience and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude
They say if you don’t succeed at first, try and try again. Cue Dima Bilan. The Russian ‘Enrique Iglesias’ first entered Eurovision in 2006 with “Never Let You Go”, ultimately finishing second and launching an international pop career. He didn’t let a silver-place finish deter him from achieving his Eurovision dream, returning to the contest two years later in Belgrade with “Believe”, dressed entirely in white and flanked by a world-renowned ice skater. His stirring performance saw him take out the contest, marking Russia’s only win to date and sending a strong message of self-belief.
6. Literally defying gravity
Say it with me now: thunder and lightning it’s getting exciting! That electric phrase is now synonymous with the shape-shifting Sergey Lazarev. The 2016 representative and pre-contest favourite brought his surreal clip for “You Are the Only One” to life on the Stockholm stage, climbing walls while rotating like he was in a scene out of the film ‘Inception’ — without the Hollywood budget and editing. His performance drew audible gasps from the crowd and viewers at home, and shot the handsome crooner to first place with the televote. Rumours will no doubt continue to swirl of a Bilan-style comeback to the contest — and we can only imagine what freakish choreography Lazarev will bring along.
7. Kicking off the international career of Kirkorov
There is arguably no bigger personality to come out of Russia than the enigma that is Philipp Kirkorov. Despite coming only 17th at the Eurovision Song Contest in 1995 in Dublin, Kirkorov has gone on to become a five-time winner of the ‘Best Selling Russian Artist’ award at the World Music Awards ceremonies, and continues to be heavily involved with Eurovision to this day. He’s launched the Eurovision careers of Lazarev and Bilan, as well as this year’s entries from Azerbaijan Aisel and Moldova’s DoReDos. The singer is sewn in as part of the fabric that holds Eurovision together, and will no doubt continue to show his love for the contest in years to come.
8. Knowing ‘bigger means better’
When Russia won Eurovision in Belgrade in 2008, they were focused on one thing only — making their hosting of the contest the most memorable in history. Staged in the Olympic Indoor Arena in Moscow, the stage was contemporary and avant-garde, containing 30% of the world’s LED screens at the time. Acts were beautifully encompassed by a gigantic stage and crowd twenty-five thousand strong. Almost ten years on, the contest remains contemporary and fresh, proving that Russia do bigger, better.
9. Bringing pink tanks to the Red Army Choir
Russia’s hosting of the contest brought unique Russian charm to Eurovision. Each postcard gave us an introduction in the Russian language, while Russian ballet dancers entranced us with their beauty. The most memorable interval act, however, was Russia’s Aleksandrov Red Army Choir treating viewers to a medley including “Katyusha/Kalinka” and an epic hip-hop drum cover. The absolute highlight was a duet between the choir and T.A.T.u with their worldwide hit “Not Gonna Get Us”, flanked by a giant pink army tank and hip hop dancers. Because this was the face of modern Russia.
10. Believing in the power of positivity
In a world where things can seem very doom and gloom, Russia has often brought empowering ballads to uplift us from our woes. Julia Samoylova sang about self-empowerment in 2018, Polina Gagarina told us that we won’t be lonely anymore with “A Million Voices” in 2015, and Dina Garipova asked “What If” — if we buried our guns and came together as one. Russia’s acts have always given power to positive, promoting the founding principle of Eurovision as a contest to bring nations together, despite their differences.
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