Nationalists, Russia Find Ukraine′s Eurovision Song Quite a Drag | Culture| Arts, music and lifestyle reporting from Germany | DW | 02.04.2007
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Nationalists, Russia Find Ukraine's Eurovision Song Quite a Drag

Ukraine's Eurovision Song Contest entry is causing friction at home and abroad. Verka Serduchka is accused by nationalists of enforcing negative Ukrainian stereotypes while the Russians see her song as a political snub.

Drag queen Verka Serduchka is causing more than her fair share of commotion

Drag queen Verka Serduchka is causing more than her fair share of commotion

The Eurovision Song Contest will soon be upon us once again, giving fans and detractors alike another opportunity to watch the annual back scratching -- and back-stabbing -- which makes the event more than just a bunch of above-average karaoke singers trying to get the better of each other.

For those not in the know, the annual contest, held since 1956, pits active member countries of the European Broadcasting Union against one another. Each country submits a song to be performed on live television and then voters from the participating countries cast votes for the other countries' songs. It is seen by many as a festival of kitsch, adored or disdained for its campy, over-the-top presentation of usually forgettable three-minute songs.

The contest is as much about allegiances as it is about competition. It doesn’t matter if a particular song is terrible or not, if one country considers the other a friend, then it will get the vote regardless of its entry’s quality.

While this low-level political bargaining has always been a part of Eurovision, the light-hearted entertainment event has rarely been overtly subversive. However, this year may be the first time that actual protests may stem from the presentation and lyrics of a particular contestant.

That contestant is a Ukrainian drag queen called Verka Serduchka. A cult star in "her" native country, Verka was the choice of the people by a massive majority in the competition to become Ukraine’s entry with the song “Dancing.”

Stereotype prompts demonstrations

However, the first potentially political row revolving around the song has started at home with Ukrainian nationalists up in arms over Verka’s image.

While they seem to accept the fact that a drag queen is representing the country, they have taken umbrage over Verka’s portrayal of a stupid Ukrainian villager, saying she could damage Ukraine’s image abroad.

It has riled the nationalists to such an extent that demonstrations aimed at getting Ukraine pulled from Eurovision were staged across the country on Sunday.

Snub to former Soviet master

Wahlen in der Ukraine

The square is in the song, the protests aren't

Russia, which has already made its feeling against Verka known, is likely to become even more irate when Verka belts out her apparently anti-Russian lyrics in front of an international audience. It seems that the chorus refrain of "Russia goodbye" has been interpreted as a snub to Ukraine’s former Soviet master.

The Russians have also taken offense to the reference to a Kiev square that was the focus of anti-Russian protests during the 2004 Orange Revolution, despite the fact that no mention of the demonstrations which signaled Ukraine’s westward shift is included in the song.

Should Verka win a moral victory and actually perform the song on the show, it could prove quite an eventful night.

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