According to Eurovision rules, there is a ban on “lyrics, speeches or gestures of a political or similar nature” and while the contest does not allow political statements in any song, organizers have found themselves in the awkward position of being forced to make a decision about her live performance based on politics. of a political or similar nature”.  However the term ‘political or similar nature’ leaves room for wide interpretation.   And while the Contest does not allow political statements in any song, organizers have found themselves this year in the awkward position of being forced to take sides in a political decision about Russia’s live performance.

In late March 2017, the Ukrainian authorities issued a  three year travel ban on the artist chosen as the Russian entrant to the Eurovision Song Contest, Julia Samoylova. The Russian singer, who has spinal muscular atrophy and has been confined to a wheelchair since childhood, defiantly entered Crimea to perform there a year ago. The Ukrainian security services determined that Julia had illegally entered Crimea, annexed by Russia, to perform.  The act of a Russian entering Crimea is a criminal offense under Ukraine law.

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In an unprecedented move never done in the history of the competition, the contest organizers offered Julia the opportunity to participate by performing live in the 2nd Semi Final via satellite.  The organizers desperately tried to remedy the situation to maintain the non-political nature of the contest but ultimately Russia refused and withdrew from participating in the contest for 2017.  Unfortunately for the organizers they were forced to respect the laws of Ukraine and bow to the politics of war. So for the first time in 16 years Russia will not participate in the Eurovision Song Contest.

And there are even rumours of a future Eurovsion ban for Russia. The latter is due to a belief that Russia knew a ban would be implemented after investigating Julia.  Many believed Russia would not send an artist to Ukraine after their loss to Jamala.  So when news broke that Russia never booked hotel rooms for its delegation is Kiev, many suspected a political stunt.

Top 5 Eurovision Political Controversies

1. Cliff Notes a Scandal

According to a Spanish documentary, dictator Francisco Franco rigged the 1968 Eurovision Song Contest to boost Spain’s flagging tourism. British crooner Cliff Richard, whose entry “Congratulations” was a popular favorite, lost to Spanish entry “La La La” by Massiel. Many years later, it continues to play on Sir Cliff’s mind. “I’ve lived with this number two thing for so many years, it would be wonderful if someone official from the contest turned around and said ‘Cliff, you won that darn thing after all’

2. Georgia Doesn’t Want a Putin

Georgia’s official entry for 2009 was banned by a multinational panel of judges for violating a Eurovision ban on songs with overtly political content. The Georgian entry, “We Don’t Wanna Put In” by Stephane and 3G, reflected sentiments about Georgia’s recent war with Russia in a series of bad puns about Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin: “We don’t wanna put in/Cuz negative move/ It’s killin’ the groove/I’m gonna try to shoot in/Some disco tonight/Boogie with you.” The European Broadcasting Union asked Georgian Public Broadcasting to either change the lyrics or select a new song. But Georgia refused, denying the song was political and blaming the rejection on pressure from Russia, and subsequently withdrew from the contest.

3. Greece Vs. Turkey

Following Turkey’s 1974 invasion of Cyprus, the tenuous relations between Turkey and Greece spilled over onto the Eurovision stage. Greece withdrew its entry in the 1975 contest in protest over Turkey’s inclusion. In 1976, Turkish TV refused to broadcast the Greek performance “My Lady, My Lady” as it was suspected of being about the invasion. The animosity continued for years in the contest’s scoring system, in which each country gets to vote on every song: Greece famously liked to award top marks to Cyprus, while Turkey always gave Greece the cold shoulder. Scoring tensions did ease between the two countries up until Turkey’s withdrawal from the Contest in 2013.

4. Stolen Points

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov asserted that 10 points were “stolen” from Russia’s contestant in the final of the 2013 Eurovision Song Contest where Russia received no points from Azerbaijan – a result Azeri officials claim was an error. Russian singer Dina Garipova came in fifth with 174 points in the contest hosted Sweden. Denmark’s Emmelie de Forest won with 281 points and Azerbaijan’s Farid Mammadov came second with 234 points. “When 10 points are stolen from us, from our contestant, it does not make us happy…” according to Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, seeming to blame Contest organisers and not Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan said it cannot explain how it awarded no points to Russia, when Garipova came second in its phone poll. Azerbaijan has always had a strong history of awarding its top votes to Russia. The head of the Caspian Sea state’s public broadcaster, Jamil Guliyev, said Azerbaijan had in fact given Garipova 10 points. An inquiry was ordered but even with the additional 10 votes, the outcome of the contest would not change.

5. History, political statement or Both?

You don’t have to go far back in history to find this last controversy.In 2016 Jamala took home the trophy for “1944” where she wails for the more than 240,000 ethnic Tatars from Ukraine’s Crimea region that Stalin had deported from the region during the Second World War. With no direct statements about the current conflict or Putin, organizers did not feel the rules for no political statements were broken as it was a recounting of “history”. However, fans and of course Russia felt it was a clear political statement in violation of the rules.

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