Russia will not participate in the Eurovision Song Contest 2017. This has some consequences for the entire competition.
An extra place in the final
Russia has entered the competition 20 times. Since their debut in 1994, they only failed to qualify once. That was in 1996, when the semi-final was an audio-only selection that was never broadcast. So their participation to that edition of the contest isn’t really official. In the 90’s Russia seemed to be a beginning country and didn’t score as well, so they decided not to participate in 1998. And because they didn’t broadcast the contest in 1998, they weren’t allowed to enter a year later. But since 2000, Russia has been one of the favorites for the title almost every year. They managed to win the competition once, in 2008. Dima Bilan won with the song Believe, scoring 42 points more than second place Ukraine. They finished second for four times, and they won the bronze medal for another three times. So needless to say, Russia would have qualified again this year.
But now that they aren’t entering, there’s an extra place in the final for another country from the second semi-final. I think it’s a nice opportunity for a dark horse to qualify to the final and become popular over the period of time between the semi-final and the final. That’s something that has happened before in the contest so I don’t see why it couldn’t this year. I think of Ireland while saying this. I believe they now have a chance at qualifying, something they didn’t really have when Russia was still in the race.
12 points go to … ?
A lot of countries have the habit to always award Russia with some points. Over the years, Russia has received most points from Estonia, Belarus, Moldova, Latvia and Armenia. But this year, these countries won’t be able to vote for Russia in the contest. That way, there are a lot of available points to award to other countries. That can completely turn the score board around and possibly change the entire ranking at the end. I think it will be a nice change to see for what country Belarus will vote. In my language (Dutch) we translate Belarus to Wit-Rusland, which actually means White-Russia. So it never really is a suprise when Belarus gives points to Russia in the contest. And I know it’s mostly the juries to blame for that. But that’s another issue.
Since 2014 there have been multiple problems between Russia and Ukraine. That year, the Russian contestants, the Tolmachevy Sisters, received a lot of negative comments about the whole situation. It was obvious that the contest wasn’t completely separated from politics. In 2015, Ukraine didn’t enter because of the financial difficulties they had. So that year there weren’t any problems and when Ukraine returned in 2016, the problems seemed unexisting. Until the song was announced. 1944 was a song about the deportation of Crimean Tatars in the Soviet Union in the year 1944. The song featured the story from singer Jamala’s grandmother. The song was about a political event and it caused a lot of controversy. But because it was the story of her grandmother, it wasn’t completely political for the EBU and Ukraine was allowed to enter with the song. And they won. No matter how you explain it, this song is political and it is about the rivalry between Ukraine and Russia. The moment they won, it was obvious that they wouldn’t let Russia enter without any problems. But now that Russia won’t enter, the problems have disappeared, for this year.
I think this issue between both countries will go on until the political situation is solved. The Contest is meant to be unpolitical but it never really is. Armenia and Azerbaijan have problems and the problems reflected on the competition. I don’t think Russia will withdraw again later. I think Ukraine and Russia can both enter without causing any troubles. But I do believe that if Russia or Ukraine wins again, the other country should make the decision to withdraw. I think it’s better to run away from the problem than to face it, at least in this issue.