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Amid Controversy Over Gay Rights and Ukraine, Austrian Drag Queen Wins Eurovision 2014

Published: May 13, 2014 (Issue # 1809)



  • Conchita Wurst, left, trounced the Russian entry at the Eurovision song contest Saturday.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

  • The Russian Tolmachevy sisters came in seventh, one place behind Ukraine.
    Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Voters from across Europe on Saturday selected Austrian singer Thomas Neuwirth, better known as Conchita Wurst, as the winner of Eurovision 2014. Russian singers Anastasiya and Maria Tolmacheva took seventh place.

The Austrian singer is best-known for performing as a bearded drag queen, an act that has startled many in Russia and prompted Vitaly Milonov, a deputy in St. Petersburg's legislative assembly, to send a letter to Russia's Eurovision organizing committee asking that no further Russian performers be sent to Eurovision, as in his opinion the competition promotes homosexuality.

"The participation of the clear transvestite and hermaphrodite Conchita Wurst on the same stage as Russian performers on live television is obvious propaganda for homosexuality and moral decay," Milonov wrote. In July 2013, Russia passed a law forbidding the spread of "propaganda" of "nontraditional sexual relationships" among minors, a measure that has been widely criticized in the West.

Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin also criticized the choice of Neuwirth as the Eurovision winner, writing on Twitter that "Eurovision showed the eurointegrators their europerspective — a bearded girl."

Neuwirth told Reuters that his beard was "a statement to say that you can achieve anything, no matter who you are or how you look," adding that his whole Conchita Wurst persona is a statement on tolerance. Despite the criticism of Neuwirth from Russian government figures, the Russian Eurovision team supported his victory. Russian singer Filipp Kirkorov, who helped write the Russian Eurovision song "Shine," called on Russians to respect Neuwirth's victory.

"They do not judge the victors, it was the song that won, and in my opinion it was a beautiful song," Kirkorov said, adding that "with a beard, without a beard, a woman, a man — it is unimportant, this is a competition, a song contest. This time, Europe voted this way."

Neuwirth was not the only source of controversy at the contest — ongoing controversy over Russia's alleged involvement in the separatists movements in eastern and southern Ukraine caused many commentators to speculate that politics would hurt the chances of Russia's Tolmachevy sisters.

Russia's recent annexation of Crimea caused further confusion, as Eurovision organizers chose to count votes from the region as votes from Ukraine, stating that the policy was because Crimean phone operators continue to use Ukrainian telephone codes.

The Tolmachevy sisters were booed by the audience on May 6 when they qualified for the finals, while Ukrainian singer Mariya Yaremchuk was greeted with cheers. Yaremchuk finished in sixth place, one spot ahead of the Tolmachevy sisters, who were warmly received by the audience at the finals. The Tolmachevy sisters have avoided making any statements on the situation in Ukraine.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during today’s “Djembe and Vuvuzela,” a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of today’s round table discussion on “Interaction with Trade Unions” being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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