After crashing ignominiously out of the Eurovision semi-finals on Tuesday, Greeks are now pinning their hopes for restoring their wounded national pride on the Russian entry. The dramatic shift in alignment is reigniting fears that a “failed state” on Europe’s eastern flank could cause a rift of historical proportions harking back to the Cold War.
Bookies’ favourite “You Are the Only One”, performed by Sergey Lazarov, was co-written by a Greek, while the effect-laden stage show is also designed by a Greek. But the kinship between the two countries goes beyond this tactical alliance. The two nations are bound by centuries of deep religious ties fostered by the Orthodox church and reignited after the fall of the Berlin wall and the re-emergence of Russian nationalism. Greece enters its seventh year of austerity measures after coming close to bankruptcy in 2009, and Russian backing was seen at times as offering an alternative to the onerous terms of the EU-IMF bailout. Greece’s overtures to date have yielded no tangible results but the latest turn of events appears to have swung Athens’s allegiances decisively. Greece’s western partners, including the EU and the United States, are troubled by the possible impact of this development on energy supplies given Greece’s nodal position in the “pipeline politics” that are unfolding in the region, but also issues as diverse as the war in Syria, the refugee crisis, and the potential geostrategic impact of the return of Greek peaches to Russian supermarkets.
Since joining the singing contest in 1994, Russia has gained the admiration of Eurovision-watchers for its ability to put forward entries of breathtaking crypto-fascist camp, while enacting domestic legislation that would see the mainstay of the Eurovision audience bundled off to Siberia. Russia set new standards for man-on-man Euro-tainment when it won the contest in 2008 with a song featuring a guest appearance by the eternally boyish Olympic Figure Skating champion Evgeni “Plushy” Plushenko.
The Russian leadership, and President Putin personally, are known to take Eurovision very seriously as a tool of geopolitical prowess. After not receiving the customary douze points from Azerbaijan in 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reacted in typically sanguine fashion, stating:
“Ten points were stolen from us, well not from us but from our participant… This does not makes one happy. We will agree on a unified course of action so this outrageous action will not remain without an answer.”
Disappointment over the Eurovision “Grexit” heightened tensions between Greece and its creditors. Following the result, Greek Minister of State Nikos Pappas gave what is widely regarded as a car-crash interview to Deutsche Welle’s Combat Zone. Clips aired gleefully in the Greek media showed a rattled Pappas attempting to halt the interview twice while struggling with the dictionary definition of “sunbathing” in relation to the refugee crisis, and finally storming out as the credits rolled. It has now been revealed that the interview host, perma-tanned convicted “John” and noted coke fiend Michel Friedman, had deliberately provoked the outburst by singing under his breath throughout the interview the refrain of the Greece’s failed Eurovision entry , Argo’s “Utopian Land”, “we are the rise of the rising sun”, while he closed the interview mouthing “See you in Stockholm – not“, prompting the Minister’s final walk-out.
Greeks on the streets of Athens are showing no regrets for the outcome. “This is not a Europe I want to be part of,” sighed taxi-driver Makis as he stared slack-jawed at a naked Belorussian caressing a virtual wolf onstage in Stockholm. “Gorbachev knew what he was doing with these guys alright.” He then pledged his new allegiance by spitting at the screen when the Ukrainian singer took to the stage to perform “1944” a sub-Mariah torch song about Stalin’s persecution of the Crimean Tatars.
POSTSCRIPT: On the night, Russia got its douze points from the Greek jury and dix points from the people (who preferred the Cypriot nu-metallers), but the Orthodox axis was not enough to assert the dominance of the “Blond Race”. And just to rub it in, the new voting system allowed the popular vote to award Ukraine the poison chalice of having to bust its budget on next year’s show. It’s only a matter of time before the global conspiracy behind this upset is exposed.