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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Tbh as a child I was creeped out (not necessarily in a bad way) when I watched Russia’s 2009 entry, perhaps because of how slowly she was ageing and it hit me. It did however caught my attention and I was hooked. Now as an adult I realised how beautiful and emotional that performance was and still gives me goosebumps. Mamo is my all time favorite Russian entry (besides babushkas ofc) and I wish they could send something as emotional as that.
Just have to say you forgot one of my favourites Peter Nalitch & Friends – Lost And Forgotten https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nFEwKjpDD2c
Vse nas nenavidyat, no my sil’ney i luchshe! Spasibo za podderzhkoy moi rodnie
How the fans treated the twins in 2014 and Polina in 2015 i am still a shamed off. They cried. They are artists. They are not the goverment. 2 of the Eurovision fans 2 worst moments.
They had great songs from 2000-10. But since 2011, so generic, mass produced, unoriginal and boring songs
Russia – one of the strongest of Eurovision Song Contest. Would love to see Sergey back to win.. 🙂
Their winning song was bad and Dima’s accent wasn’t helping, but the staging was even worse. The crawling, sweaty Dima trying desperately to look sexy and erotic, while the song has absolutely nothing to do with sexiness or erotica. And then there was this Plushenko guy on tiny ice, waving his hands around like his life depends on that, because he doesn’t really have any room to actually skate. It was a salad of unrelated gimmicks, 0 actual concept. I don’t know how it won. 2008 was a pretty bad year, with tons of novelty acts, but there were better… Read more »
11. Their support and advocacy of the LGBT community
O no hang on!
Not funny at all. There are homophobes everywhere.
Yeah, but not everywhere homophobia is an official state policy anchored in law. Especially when we compare it to the other Eurovision countries. No need to try to ignore this fact. It will get worse if you will. People are actually suffering there, you know.
Homophobia is not an official state policy, who told you this? LGBT ropaganda is forbidden but not LGBT itself. The difference is big.
What is really unpleasant, non-constructive and even dangerous is Russofobia as a state polisy of some Eurovision counries and it will only get worse if you continue to believe your media.
Yeah, but what exactly is ,,LGBT propaganda” supposed to be…? Like, I’ve never heard the term ,,Straight propaganda” being said anywhere. It’s nonsense in my opinion.
Prides are not allowed and rainbow flags are not hung everywhere – that is about all. Gay marriages are not allowed as well but are they allowed in each and every European country? Nothing of the kind.
Multiple gay clubs exist, gays live their lives among straight people and some of them have children. So what’s wrong?
Well, it’s more than that tho! Homosexuality is not officially a mental illness in Russia anymore, but by having that unbelievably stupid ,,anti gay propaganda”-law they act like it is. They’re not treated as normal People, they can’t live their life the way straight People can, the Government wants children to be ,,protected” from homosexuality… And that’s in the law as well. I’m not saying all Russians are homophobes (how could I?), but that dumb law is not just a law, it’s an invitation for People to discriminate others.
Homosexuality has never been officially a mental illness in Russia. I agree that the anti-gay propaganda law is pretty stupid but thanks to its stupidity it influenses nothing. Gays are treated as normal people provided they behave as normal people, and they do. Anyboby who behaves not normally will be treated as ubnormal whether he is a gay or not. As for invitation for People to discriminate others. Well, I am invited, but I don’t have a need to disctiminate other people and the law is not the reason for me to start having this need. The same goes for… Read more »
Yeah okay, but in the comment above you made it seem like this law wasn’t ”that bad” and not a problem.
I said that homophobia is not a state policy. And this law doesn’t influence much.
And I suggest that we stop the discussion since the topic of the article is not devoted to this problem. Peace))
Indeed, Russia is here to win. That’s why they tend to try too hard with often exaggerated effect. However, they really know how to make a good song. And when it comes to performances – “Mamo”… That was just incredible.
For me best 3 song from Russia was in russian language. My TOP 3 from Russia
1. 1994 (deserved to be in TOP 2 that year with Germany )
2.2009 (deserved to be in TOP 10)
3.1997 (deseved to be in TOP 10)
I like song from 2000,2012, 2013, 2016
They don t deserved to be in final 2010,2011, 2014
Underrated in 1994, 1997, 2009
Overrated in 2006,2007,2008, 2014,2015
I still think it was so disrespectful that everybody was booing at Russia in 2014 and 2015… People say they want to keep politics out of Eurovision and that they want to celebrate music and come together for one week every year. Like, you’re not exactly engaging in that idea by treating a country so badly because of their politics. I get it, Russia’s not really the most popular country when it comes to that aspect, but can’t we just forget about all that bs ? For one night at least? These people (The two Sisters and Polina)are not responsible… Read more »
Polina is such a cutie. She was so lovable <3
Lots of overrated songs (especially tAtU and “Believe”) but I respect the hustle. I think their best is actually their debut, “Vyechny stranik,” a brilliant little song. I also like “Northern Girl” and (cliche though it may be) “A Million Voices.”
sergey needs to do a dima comeback and win
Russia have definitely helped shape the popular image of Eurovision as this big, flashy, Europop spectacle (some of that is also owed to Sweden, Ukraine, Turkey, Greece, Romania, and to a lesser extent Latvia and Moldova). As such, there are plenty of Russian entries that have never really clicked with me. I especially don’t get how tuneless slogs like Ne ver, ne boysia and Believe did as well as they did (and I say this as someone who enjoyed All the Things She Said and Never Let You Go). I never totally clicked with You Are the Only One either.… Read more »
They know how to do a feel-good anthem.
#4: I’m not sure we should be “applauding” Russia for the way it used Julia Samoylova in 2017 and 2018. Editors: a little bit more cynicism needed here I think in the name of accurate reporting.
It looks like that not blaming Russia for everything seems inaccurate for you but try and imagine that Julia was used not for some dirty purposes but for diversity. It can be true, why not.
Shine was an absolutely amazing song with a flawless performance! 😉 The politically booing was a shame for the tolerant Europe!
After Ukraine, Russia is my favorite country in ESC. From the stunning Julia Samoylova to the amazingly talented Tolmachevy Sisters, all the way to the dancing grannies from 2012, they are always among the most spectacular countries in the contest. They either serve the best upbeat entries like in 2003, 2007, 2012 or 2016, or they send the most stunning ballads in 2006, 2008, 2009, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2018. Their entries are so amazing almost every year, and I’m surprised Russia doesn’t do better, as they have (only) 1 win on the list.
The 2009 contest was one of my favourites, absolutely loved what Russia did as hosts