The annual Eurovision song contest held over the weekend provided some interesting insights into contemporary European politics. The annual contest pits one artist or band from each country against each other, with the winner determined by a combination of popular national vote and expert judges.
Eurovision was created in the aftermath of World War II to encourage closer ties between the countries of Europe. Today it regularly draws a massive television audience. While organizers of the event regularly proclaim it to be non-political, politics regularly seeps over into the event.
During the semifinal round this year, the Russian entry, a pair of 17 year-old twins named Anastasia and Maria Tolmachevy, were book by the audience in protest over Russia’s intervention in Ukraine. And in the final this weekend, Austrian artist Conchita Wurst, the onstage drag persona of Thomas Neuwirth, won the final round of voting performing a ballad “Rise Like a Phoenix” in a skintight dress, glamorous makeup and hair, and a full beard.
Wurst’s victory marked the first time in almost fifty years that Austria took home the trophy. But her victory was widely seen as a protest against anti-gay legislation in Eastern Europe, particularly Russia. Russian politician Vitaly Milnov had described Wurst as a “pervert” and accused her of turning Eurovision into the “Sodom show.” Others in Eastern Europe decried Wurst’s performance as an illustration of Western decadence. Petitions in Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus unsuccessfully sought to remove the Austrian performance from their national broadcasts—a violation of the rules of the competition.