28th Sep 2023


Russia on Eurovision: 'Bacchanalia for Western perverts'

  • The Eurovision 2023 finals were held in Liverpool, UK - at the behest of last year's winners, Ukraine (Photo: Michael Doherty)
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Enjoyed watching the Eurovision finals last weekend?

That's because you're a "pervert" being brainwashed by Western propaganda, according to Russian state media coverage of the event.

Read and decide

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  • British prime minister Rishi Sunak at a Eurovision party (Photo:

It wasn't shown on Russian TV — for the second year running — because the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organises Eurovision, banned Russian participation last year in protest at its horrifying invasion of Ukraine.

Russia's Channel One and the Ostankino radio station have quit the EBU in protest.

And Russia's main TV show, Vesti Nedeli, hosted by the EU-blacklisted Dmitriy Kiselev, didn't even mention Eurovision last weekend.

"The time for bullshit is over. Now that this contest has completely shown that it is nothing, I believe we should not mention it at all," Russian music critic Sergei Sosedov said in a separate comment.

But that didn't stop other mainstream media, such as Ria Novosti and Tsargrad, from lambasting the event as a failure and a spectacle of Western decadence.

"Total Bacchanalia: How is the Eurovision Song Contest going without Russia?", was the title of one Ria Novosti article.

The story highlighted the Croatian and German entries for their cross-dressing looks, noting that Croatian men wore "bright make-up" and "panties", while a German vocalist "dyed his eyes" and wore a "latex red tight-fitting suit".

It also dwelled on the fact the Finnish singer "rode around the stage on his dancers".

Another Ria Novosti story noted that Hungary and Turkey didn't enter the contest due to its "gay agenda".

But it was Tsargrad which really went to town in Russia's culture war against Western values, by naming its "five most disgusting songs" in a show "where, thank God, the Russians didn't go."

The songs "should only be broadcast on special sites for perverts", it proposed.

"Judging by the favourites, 'Eurovision-2023' is based on three pillars: Satanism, blood, bestiality. Like, in principle, all contemporary European politics," it also said.

The five acts it singled out were Denmark, Finland, Croatia, Germany, and the Czech Republic.

The Danish singer was a "handsome boy" who "dressed up like a Barbie doll", it said, while Finland's male artist "transforms into a blonde woman (it must be impossible to win Eurovision without it)", it added.

The German song "Blood & Glitter sounds very similar to Blood & Hitler", Tsargrad said.

"They represent demons in hell, jumping around in high heels, shining their naked butts, spilling blood and sprinkling themselves with gold sequins," it also said.

And the Czech act was "full of devilish images, flashing against icons. Orthodox, of course" and represented "Slavic identity" as a "bloody porridge" eaten by the heroine of its video-clip.

While Eurovision has long been beloved by Europe's LGBTI audiences as a celebration of inclusion and diversity, it has also been targeted by Russian propaganda for years for the very same reasons, even before Russia's Eurovision suspension last year.

"Why does Russian TV/media lard its presentation of Eurovision with homophobia and anti-EU propaganda? Well, the short answer is that it is very easy to do so, it checks a lot of marks in the propaganda checklist," said Lukas Andriukaitis, from the US-based think-tank the Atlantic Council.

"This year, we also had a bunch of wacky, colourful performances, like Sweden or Finland, which could easily be twisted into saying that this is 'LGBTQI propaganda'," Andriukaitis said.

"Eurovision acts are often quite sexualised, emotional, full of people with shocking outfits (or outfits that don't cover so much), which also helps to visualise and convey the message of Western moral decay," he added.

This type of content has become standard in Russian media ever since the Kremlin began its values war against the West some 10 years ago.

Russian propaganda pageants in Crimea following its annexation in 2014 depicted the West as a black devil raping virginal mother Russia.

Russian president Vladimir Putin also promised to save Russians from Western trans-sexual bogeymen in his speech on the annexation of four more Ukrainian regions last year.

Russian venom

But the Ukraine invasion and related EU sanctions on Russia have added a new layer of venom to Russia's views on Eurovision.

"Russia and the Russians should close the topic of 'Eurovision' forever, as unworthy of discussion, and concern themselves with their own competition, in which they will sing in Russian," one of the Ria Novosti articles proposed, in a mirror image of Russia's attempts to create economic autarky.

Russian media laughed at the fact Eurovision had fewer entries than in recent years for financial reasons.

It repeated accusations of plagiarism against the Swedish act.

And it suggested that EBU was trying to woo back its two Russian members because it needed their money, by blocking Ukrainian president Volodomyr Zelensky from giving a speech and by failing to strongly highlight that Russian-annexed regions in Ukraine were Ukrainian in its visual maps of participating countries.

But even if that was the case, Eurovision 2023 will still "be remembered for ... how Kyiv tried to use the European music contest for propaganda", another Ria Novosti story claimed.

"At the opening of the finals in 2023, [Ukraininan singer] Verka Serdiutchka performed with her song Dancing Lasha Tumbai, where she loudly proclaimed to the world: 'Russia, goodbye!'," the article complained.

"It was a soundtrack, so the organisers knew what was going to be said on stage," it added.

The fact Finland and Sweden were so popular was because they were both joining Nato, the story alleged in a conspiracy theory.

And the fact Sweden won was a compensation for its delayed Nato entry due to Turkish objections, it claimed.

"Sweden was given the contest as support. You're not in Nato, but we're with you," the Ria Novosti article said.

"Ordinary taxpayers in Europe are sick and tired of this topic, as outrage at the monstrous spending of the EU to support Kyiv is growing in every single country," it added.

"It is a political competition, paid for by the British," Russian singer Yury Loza also said.

The EBU declined to answer EUobserver's questions on whether Eurovision has become a de facto celebration of pro-LGBTI values or if its existing members had any obligations to curb hate speech.

According to official EBU guidelines, Eurovision is meant to be a politics-free zone.

Despite that, for Andriukaitis, the Atlantic Council's propaganda expert, it always had "a political layer".

But if the Kremlin tried to portray it as an anti-Russian conspiracy, it was missing the point, because Eurovision politics was a reflection of the democratic freedom of expression in Europe, he added.

"The points that the countries give often reflect political events," Andriukaitis told EUobserver.

"People gave points to Ukraine due to the war as a sign of support," he said.

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