Russian National Idea Reborn at Eurovision-2012
07 June, 2012
Russian National Idea Reborn at Eurovision-2012

This year, it was the first time in my life that I regretted my not having been able to attend the Eurovision Song Contest, which took place in Baku, Azerbaijan. I would really love to be in the spectators’ stands of the Baku Chrystal Hall in the days of the competition to loudly support the Russian participant Buranovskie Babushki (Buranovo Grannies). This folk group, composed of 8 woman aged from 44 to 76, was in my opinion, the brightest entrant of the contest.

Their song Party for Everybody, performed partly in Udmurt, partly in English, won the second place and was very warmly received by the international public. Traditionally, Russia sends to the Eurovision Contest the dwellers of its pop-music Olympus. In the previous years, the crystal microphone was contested by the queen of the Soviet and Russian pop Alla Pugachiova, the popular duet ‘t.A.T.u.’ and the famous young singer Dima Bilan, who finally brought the long-awaited victory for the country. But this year the professional jury and ordinary people, choosing the lucky beggar to represent Russia at the Eurovision, made an off-beat decision.

Among the big variety of performers they chose the amateur folk ensemble, composed of women for the most part, born before the Second World War. And the voters did not lose. Buranovskie Babushki amazed the European public by their clockwork singing, the folk clothing and charming bast shoes. The final 2nd place, along with a hearty reception of the European public is not less, than the victory. Even Estonia during the voting gave 8 out of 12 points to Babushki. Very persuasive a move, taking into accounts the cold relations between two countries. The success of the Buranovskie Babushki in Baku is much more than just a triumph at the international musical contest. Eurovision is not a place where the musical legends are born, except probably for ABBA and Celine Dion. It is a place where the countries’ brands are promoted. Therefore the winning country walks with the right to host the next Eurovision.
And Buranovskie Babushki made a really impressive contribution to the Russian image on the international arena. This non-glamorous band destroyed the wide-spread stereotypes and demonstrated that modern Russia is not just petrodollars, for which the western-style life is bought. Russia is primarily people, who remember, respect and cherish their traditions. Exactly the things, on which every strong culture is based!
The European effect of Buranovskie Babushki is just one side of the coin. The other refers to their impact in Russia. It is significant that this particular group was chosen to participate in the international competition this year. These are the elderly women, leading traditional lifestyle hundreds of kilometers away from Moscow, in Buranovo, the village in Udmurtia. Born in the Stalinist era, most of them had a difficult life of the ordinary soviet women. Being used to work a lot, they still spend hours looking after their kitchen gardens. Their life is still busy and full of concerns. But they do not forget about the beautiful. Grannies get together in their local club to sing traditional songs, mostly in Udmurt, the language of several ethnic groups living in the Urals. And watch out! They collect all the concert earnings for only one purpose – to build a church in the native village. Their 30000-Euro Eurovision prize will be spent for the same goal. Is not it so weird for the modern world, so generous and so a la Russe?! Modest, sincere, wise and down to the Earth – they are a dignified face of Russia. They represent Tolstoy’s dream about genuine people, which he believed can be found among the countryman. And for the contemporary Russians they are a symbol of forgotten values – love for the motherland – big and small – and respect for the roots. The selection of Buranovskie Babushki to represent Russia at Eurovision this year shows that these values are back in demand.
The neglected question of the national idea is again on the agenda of the Russian society. Thus goes on the “big changes” in the Russian minds, starting with the protest meetings. In the documentary about Buranovskie Babushki, translated by the national TV-channel on the eve of Eurovision, Pavel Pozdeev who was one of the first to get a sight of Buranovskie Babushki said: ‘It was as much the musical project, as the PR-project. The goal was set to organize an action to propagate the value of the Udmurt language in particular’. If so, the project certainly reached its goal and even overcame the expectations of its authors. Grannies from the Buranovo village not only promote the Udmurt language – they promote the whole Russia inside and outside the country.
After the triumph of the band in Baku, president Putin congratulated the grannies and told the media he was going to visit them in their native Buranovo. Having his reputation cooling down in the country, he wants to get warmer in the glory of the new-born national heroes. If I were him, I would probably do the same thing. There is so much for the president to learn from the people, who did in one evening what he was not able to do during 12 years in the office – to make a real Russian party!