Eurovision

Ukrainian media react to Vidbir drama

Fingers pointed at everyone as self-reflection makes Ukrainians look inward.

What’s happening in Ukraine?

On Monday, the Ukrainian broadcaster announced that MARUV, the winner of Vidbir 2019, would not be representing the country in Tel Aviv due to contractual disagreements between the parties. The broadcaster is currently in talks with alternative performers to represent them, and are even considering a withdrawal. We will take a look at what the Ukrainian media say about the unfolding events in Ukraine.

Oh, sweet people…tell me what is happening?

Public figures in Ukraine, and beyond, have taken to social media and the news to express their opinions on the selection and its aftermath. One of them, the host of Vidbir 2019, Serhiy Pritula believes that representative of Ukraine should have a clear civic stance, implying that Maruv lacks one, commenting:

We are really asking the international community to help us in the fight against Russian aggression, to impose sanctions, arm our army, debunk fakes, etc. And then some girl or boy turns out and says that “not all are bad people there [in Russia], I carry the world with music and about uniting people!” You really do not understand that in this way you legitimize on our part what the aggressor imposes on the world?!

Pritula argues out that Eurovision is not apolitical, arguing that the artist acts as an ambassador for the nation and thus it is crucial that the representative displays a clear stance on their view on Russia. Producer Igor Kondratyuk, speaking to Radio Svoboda agrees:

Music is out of politics – I do not subscribe to this thesis since March 2014. Music cannot be out of politics, nor out of culture generally. This thesis does not stand in times of war.

Kondratyuk proceed to tell young people in Ukraine There are apolitical young people who feel that they are not concerned. The impression is that they live in Sweden, not Ukraine” thus highlighting the seriousness of the conflict in the country.

Just take a look at me deep inside and you’ll see…

Turning away from Vidbir some, like journalist Oksana Denisova, believe that the corruption of the state is the root of the issue, criticizing Ministry of Culture for failing to create a sound strategy against disinformation but rather using the state power to attack critics and opponents.

This is what happens when the humanitarian vice-presidents of your government, without hesitation, a month before the presidential election, propose to cancel the results of an honest vote of the audience, because they don’t like parts of society. Despite these results being fair, whatever they are.

Oksana Denisova

Denisova outlines how the corrupt ways of nationalism have penetrated the state systems making them easy to abuse. Indeed, the lack of communications strategy by Ukraine’s institutions have enabled Russian figures to express outrage over Maruv’s treatment . Some individuals have extended Maruv an invite to represent Russia in Eurovision 2020, whilst others suggesting the Russian secret services rigged the voting.

I’m your anti-crisis girl

Presidential candidate Volodomir Zelensky, used a Facebook video to criticise the members of the government, whose family members have recently been accused of smuggling military tools from Russia: You can use spare parts [from Russia] in exchange for the lives of our soldiers, you can [trade] sweets, but you cannot send Maruv. [to Eurovision]”, accusing the state of artificially dividing the nation.

This notion is also supported by other commentators such as Igor Kondratyuk who argues that the broadcaster turned a blind eye to artists with Russian connections expecting drama to follow later on. Maruv does not escape Kondratyuk’s critique who claims that she should have been smarter than to argue that politics are not exclusive from music, especially in Eurovision .

Political scientist Yury Romanenko talking on Facebook stated You’re [the singer] not needed at the competition as a singer, but as an ideological workerhighlighting once again the issue at hand. Taras Chornovil, another political scientist, argues that improvements have to be made in the selection as to avoid such things from happening again, highlighting the unprofessional approach of the producers of the show .  

And Ukraine – is it cool?

While the fans have taken the issue close to heart, as one of their favourite acts from the national final season has had her victory pulled out of her hands, it appears that the issue is deeper that some believe. It is clear that the commentators on Ukrainian media cite politics at the root of the issue. That should not come as a surprise as the country is due to hold presidential elections at the end of March, and politicians are as hungry for political points as Ukraine is for another victory at Eurovision.

The drama is fuelled by politicians such as Vyacheslav Kirilenko, the deputy Prime Minister, who quickly became one of the loudest critics, arguing that any Ukrainian artist representing Ukraine should not tour in Russia. The sentiment, shared by the Eurovision 2016 winner Jamala in particular, led to demands on artists to acknowledge Ukraine’s territorial integrity and the broadcaster moving goal-posts mid-contest.

We are people of the planet, we live human lives.

Sadly, for Ukraine, the actions by the broadcaster and politicians have turned into a political blunder, attracting international attention, placing Maruv in an uneasy position. Nevertheless, Maruv publically confirmed on live television that Crimea is part of Ukraine and expressed her will to cancel concerts in Russia. She was not ready, however, to become a “slave” to the broadcaster.

At the end of the day, we have to take into account Ukraine’s internal domestic politics. It is a fact that Ukraine is at war with Russia, with parts of the country illegally annexed by it, and therefore this issue is a very sensitive one to the nation and its understanding of self through cultural expressions. It is about more than just a song to Ukraine, it is about its identity and its territorial integrity. For many, that is difficult to understand as they do not live in a war-torn country.

However, if Ukraine intends to continue its journey towards European integration, its politicians will have to be smarter than raising scandals for political gains. The country has to respect the choice of its people even when the results might be upsetting. Rightly, as some commentators’ state, the broadcaster should alter its selection procedure to avoid such fiascos in the future. If the performer has a strong position on the conflict, it should be clearly stated from the onset of the contest, not the night after their victory.

Ukraine in Eurovision 2019

As we have previously reported, the state broadcaster, UA:PBC, and Maruv did not come to an agreement on the contract. UA:PBC are currently in talks with other artists to decide who will represent the country in the Eurovision Song Contest. Earlier today, Freedom Jazz rejected the offer to participate in Tel Aviv.


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