Eurovision Bars Russia From This Year’s Song Contest

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The Eurovision Song Contest, a cultural phenomenon that was the springboard for Abba and Celine Dion and is watched annually by 200 million people, has decided that no Russian act will be allowed to participate in this year’s contest.

In making the announcement on Friday, the organizers alluded to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, citing fears that Russia’s inclusion in the contest would damage the reputation of the world’s largest music competition, a showcase meant to promote European unity and cultural exchange.

The exclusion from the famously over-the-top celebration of kitsch may seem like a trivial matter, but if Russia becomes a cultural pariah on the global stage, it could intensify tensions within the country.

President Vladimir V. Putin is credited with restoring Russia’s stability after the political and economic chaos of the 1990s. Russia began competing in the wildly popular song contest in 1994, has competed more than 20 times, and its participation has been a cultural touchstone of sorts for the country’s rebound and engagement with the world.

In 2008, when Dima Bilan, a Russian pop star, won Eurovision with the song “Believe,” Mr. Putin weighed in promptly with congratulations, thanking him for further burnishing Russia’s image.

The decision by the European Broadcasting Union, the coalition of public media organizations that oversees the contest, to block Russians from the contest followed the cancellation of two major European sporting events in Russia on Friday. European soccer’s governing body voted to move the Champions League final, the continent’s biggest soccer competition this year, from St. Petersburg to Paris.

And the governing body of Formula 1, the international car racing organization, canceled the Russia Grand Prix, which was scheduled for September, citing “impossible” circumstances.

The European Broadcasting Union said it had decided to block Russian performers after consulting with its membership, which includes broadcasters from 56 countries, including Ukraine and Russia.

Just a day earlier, it had said Russia could compete. But Ukraine and public broadcasters in Finland, the Netherlands, and Iceland had called for Russia to be excluded, and Finland on Friday said it would not compete in the final if Russia participated.

The contest features performers from 39 different countries singing and dancing to a diverse range of songs. Maneskin, a tattooed, four-person Italian rock band, won last year’s competition and Barbara Pravi, a French solo artist, came in second after singing a plaintive song of longing backed by a piano and cello.

Russia, which finished ninth in last year’s competition, was originally given a spot in this year’s semifinal, which is scheduled for May in Turin, Italy. The contest organizers did not say how removing the Russian act would affect the structure of the competition.


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