Eurovision fans were left gasping on Monday when Russia announced it would organise its first national final since 2012. Stirring the confusion, Russia’s public broadcaster Channel One did not reveal any details other than its broadcast date, 8 March. No artist names. No song titles. Just the date and a rather amusing TV advert.
Earlier, Channel One’s entertainment producer Yuriy Aksyuta said the national final was a move to give power to the people after years of internal, behind-closed-doors selections. In a press release, he said:
“In past years, we usually resorted to [an internal selection]. But this year, we all wanted viewers to have the final say. Viewers will be presented with compositions that will meet the Eurovision requirements.”
However, several people in Russia’s music industry have criticised Channel One about its move towards a national final.
Russian entertainment professionals criticise national final
One of the critics is prominent producer Yana Rudkovskaya, who served as the chairperson of the Russian professional jury at Eurovision 2018. Rudkovskaya called the decision “illogical”. Speaking to Gazeta.ru, she said:
“Like a person who knows that kitchen from the inside, I can say that as a rule, the prizes can be known in advance. Therefore, it is necessary to send a more famous artist, who has already conquered international charts and is perceived as ‘our own’ in the countries of Easter Europe. For such an artist, there are much higher chances for a victory than for a new person.”
“Little Big are very popular in many countries. Therefore, I don’t understand why you cannot send them. In my opinion, it would have been more logical to just send them.”
Moskovskij Komsomolets music editor Artur Gasparyan criticised the secrecy of the national selection. The journalist told Moscow television channel 360:
“In the middle of the night, the whole country unexpectedly came to know that a national final for Eurovision would start a few days after. Such a thing doesn’t happen in any other country that takes part in the contest.”
“We don’t have anything besides an advertisement, unexpectedly emerging from Channel One, that says that we are suddenly going to choose a participant for Eurovision. From whom we are going to choose, who these participants are, from where they appeared, how they were chosen… everything is completely unknown.”
?? This is the TV advert confirming that Russia's national selection for #Eurovision 2021 will air on March 8 at 20:00 Moscow time.
"On International Women's Day, on the first day of Maslenitsa, we are deciding with the whole country who is going to Eurovision." pic.twitter.com/XxnkzOJ3hZ
— wiwibloggs (@wiwibloggs) March 1, 2021
Can we expect a fair national final?
In his interview to 360, Gasparyan expressed concern about the possibility of a rigged result.
Channel One (which alternates its Eurovision duties with another broadcaster RTR) has only organised two national selections since 2000 — in 2005 and 2009. In both instances, the Russian media reported irregularities with the voting.
In the same article as Gasparyan, music critic Sergey Sodedov recalled the televoting of Russia’s national final of 2005:
“Dima [Bilan] led after his beautiful performance. But in the last minutes of the voting, his difference with Natalya Podolskaya became less and less, and in the last seconds, she took over from him. In the results, Bilan finished second, and Podolskaya went to Eurovision.”
“[Dima Bilan’s then producer] was indignant that it was all a deception, that it was all unfair. He revealed that they asked him for a bribe of 300 thousands euros to participate in Eurovision, but he refused.”
“Televoting is great, but if it will be fair and if the phonelines will work, that’s the big question.”
We should stress that producers deny any and all allegations of wrongdoing and irregularities in said national selections, and there is no hard evidence to substantiate the above claims.
At this moment, it seems that Channel One will not reveal any more information with regards to the acts before Monday. Another unnamed insider told a Russian media agency that the acts would be presented only during the live show.
What do you expect from the upcoming Russian national final? Which acts do you want to participate? Do you want Little Big to return? Let us know in the comments below!