In 1945, following a visit by the USSR's Dynamo soccer team, George Orwell wrote that sports are “war minus the shooting.” He also said that “serious” sports have “nothing to do with fair play.” Earlier today, May 21, 2013, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov seemed to echo this spirit, when he commented on his country's fifth place finish in this year's Eurovision Song Contest.
At a joint press conference [ru] with his counterpart from Azerbaijan, Lavrov denounced supposed voting irregularities surrounding Russia's representative, Dina Garipova, whom he believes should have earned another ten points from Azerbaijan's voters. Claiming that the points were “stolen,” Russia's chief diplomat called the anomaly “an outrageous act” and promised Russian retaliation. There is a precedent for such Eurovision reprisals: in 2009, Azerbaijani national security officials responded [ru] to its own lackluster performance by calling in for questioning several citizens who voted “unpatriotically” in the contest. Such uproar has even prompted a statement from this year's Eurovision organizers, who warned that “any form of political pressure on professional juries” would have consequences.
Dina Garipova performs her song, “What If,” in Eurovision's final round, 18 May 2013.
While Eurovision 2013 is over and Russia's contestant has been defeated, Russian Twitter users continue to find entertainment in Lavrov's bellicose comments. Many juxtaposed the federal government's sensitivity about Eurovision voting to its largely indifferent attitude about election violations in Russia's own, real elections.
Mocking Russia's recently-instituted webcam-monitoring project for polling stations, Oleg Kozyrev tweeted:
В следующем году с целью обеспечения прозрачности голосования на Евровидении Владимир Путин установит в домах всех европейцев веб-камеры
Next year, in order to ensure Eurovision's voting transparency, Putin will place webcams in the homes of every European.
Noting Belorussian President Alexander Lukashenko's similar complaints about Eurovision, activist Ilya Yashin wrote:
ЕС заявлял о фальсификациях на выборах в России и Беларуси. Лавров и Лукашенко заявили о фальсификации на Евровидении. Шах и мат, европейцы.
The European Union declared voting falsifications in Russia and Belarus. Lavrov and Lukashenko declared falsifications in Eurovision. Checkmate, Europeans.
Twitter user VRebyata wrote sarcastically:
В ходе Евровидения оказалось, что Российские власти могут проявлять чрезвычайную принципиальность в подведении итогов голосования
In this year's Eurovision, it turned out that the Russian authorities can indeed display special commitment to vote tabulation.
Oppositionist and anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny spun Lavrov's comments into an attack on Russia's leading political party, tweeting facetiously:
Глава МИД Лавров заявил, что в ответ на неправильный подсчет голосов на ‘Евровидении', ‘ЕдРо’ получит дополнительные 15% голосов на выборах
Foreign Affairs Head Lavrov has announced that, in response to the incorrect counting of votes for Eurovision, United Russia will receive an extra 15% of the votes in [future] elections.
Billionaire and Novaya Gazeta newspaper co-owner Alexander Lebedev teased Lavrov with feigned congratulations:
Молодец Лавров по случаю Евровидения!Это и есть внешняя политика
Well done, Lavrov, on [dealing with] Eurovision! Now that's what I call foreign policy
Twitter user Stanislav Burdelyov joked that Vladimir Putin's longtime domination of Russian elections affected voters’ behavior, writing:
Дина Гарипова не выиграла Евровидение потому, что россияне по привычке проголосовали за Путина.
Dina Garipova didn't win Eurovision because Russians [everywhere] are used to voting [only] for Putin.
Ridiculing Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev's dwindling political clout, Andrey Girich tweeted:
Надо было Медведева на Евровидение отправить
They should have sent Medvedev to Eurovision [instead of Garipova]
Twitter user Bernard Galt tied Lavrov's hostile remarks to Russia's two other ongoing entertainment-news imbroglios: a nationwide road-trip by former porn star Sasha Grey, and Gérard Depardieu's latest police-motorcaded visit [ru] to Chechnya. Galt wrote:
Депардье ездит с мигалкой. Саша Грей читает лекции в Екатеринбурге. Лавров возмущается, что на Евровидении украли голоса. Упоротая Россия
Depardieu drives around with a siren. Sasha Grey is giving lectures in Ekaterinburg. Lavrov is is outraged that they stole our votes on Eurovision. This country is stoned.
With over 300 retweets, the best-loved Eurovision-related quip belongs to a Twitter account called Fake_MIDRF (The Fake Foreign Affairs Ministry of the Russian Federation). That anonymous satirist mocked the country's past attempts to retaliate against perceived slights by foreigners, alluding to Russia's ban on U.S. adoptions (known as the “Dima Yakovlev law” inside Russia):
В ответ на кражу голосов на “Евровидении” у России будет принят закон Дины Гариповой о запрете концертов иностранных граждан в РФ.
In response to the theft of our votes at Eurovision, Russia will enact the Dina Garipova law, banning music concerts by foreign citizens in the Russian Federation.