Russia’s 2014 Eurovision entry was roundly booed as the teenage Tolmachevy twins paid the price for their country’s aggression in Ukraine and homophobic laws.
But Russia has undergone a dramatic Eurovision reinvention and is now one of the favourites to win tonight’s competition in Vienna, with an anthem appealing for peace and a new era of global tolerance. Singer Polina Gagarina’s song, “A Million Voices”, was greeted ecstatically during the semi-finals.
And even if elements in the crowd do turn sour in the final, television viewers are unlikely to hear them. Organisers have introduced “anti-booing technology” to avoid Gagarina suffering the same fate.
Special sound reducers have been installed should the acrimony towards Russia’s continuing actions in the Ukraine be reflected again in an audience reaction described as “very embarrassing” by producers.
Opening her entry with the phrase, “We are the world’s people/Different yet we’re the same”, Gagarina seeks to distance herself from Russia’s anti-gay legislation and draw a line under previous controversies.
“We believe in a dream/ Praying for peace and healing/I hope we can start again,” sings Gagarina, who shocked less tolerant forces at home by planting a backstage kiss on Conchita Wurst, the bearded cross-dressing singer who won for Austria in 2014.
The head of the Russian Orthodox Church, Patriarch Cyril, said he hoped Russia loses tonight, warning that “all of those bearded singers” who “impose that which is repulsive to our culture” will come to Moscow for next year’s final if Europe chooses Gagarina.”
The Eurovision Song Contest 2015 is on live tonight from 8pm on BBC 1