A GROWING tide of homosexual “endless madness” across Europe, according to the deputy leader of the Russian Communist party, has given the Russian government enough cause to revive its Soviet-era alternative to Eurovision – Intervision Song Contest.

Russian leaders did not appear to take the victory of an Austrian drag queen at this year’s competition very lightly and they have taken the “retrograde” step to bring back a heterosexual alternative, according to Australia’s First Lady of Eurovision, Julia Zemiro (pictured above).

Intervision is set to return to the airwaves this October when the few countries that have signed up to take part in the competition alongside Russia– China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – all gather in the Winter Olympics city of Sochi.

With this decision, Russia is continuing to head down a trajectory that will see it become further isolated from the European and global community, according to Zemiro.

“What a retrograde step. Russia at the moment has not been proving itself to be supportive at all in terms of homosexuality, we’ve seen all the stuff that has been going on there in the last few years,” Zemiro told the Star Observer.

“We’re talking about a government that is really retrograde and cruel and violent.”

Recounting the first Eurovision that she went to in Moscow, 2009, as a part of the SBS team, Zemiro said that it was clear that the Russians were not going to be able to handle all of the communities that make up the Eurovision fan-base.

“At one point the SBS team were talking to each other and wondering how the Russians were going to deal with something that is partly a ‘gay’ event, there are other aspects that contribute to making up Eurovision obviously but the gay fan following is very sizeable,” she said.

“Fair enough at one point the Mayor of Moscow at that time banned any pro-gay marches through the streets but were very happy to have anti-gay ones going on. I remember the Dutch contestants, the Toppers, said that if they got through to the final, they would boycott it.

“I thought to myself, ‘please get through’, because this would be a really powerful thing to do. Of course they didn’t get through, maybe if they hadn’t played their cards and revealed what they were going to do, they may have got through.”

Following Conchita Wurst’s victory with her booming power ballad Rise Like A Phoenix, Russian leaders declared Europe had succumbed to “moral decay”.

“This is the end of Europe,” railed Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the leader of the Liberal Democratic party of Russia.

“It’s rotted away. There are no more men and women. There is just ‘it’.”

Valery Rashkin, the deputy leader of the Communist Party that spearhead the revival of Intervision, demanded that Russia leave the competition.

“The last Eurovision results exhausted our patience,” he told the Interfax news agency.

“We cannot tolerate this endless madness.”

Pointing to the results of this year’s competition, Zemiro seemed exasperated with people claiming “Europe was going gay”.

“This accusation that ‘the gays have taken over Eurovision’, I mean firstly, who cares? Secondly, I’m not into analysing everything about the contest but if you look at the top three songs from this year, you couldn’t get more different songs from different backgrounds,” she said.

“The three most popular songs happened to be a drag queen singing with a fantastic song, second was Sweden who absolutely would have been the winner if Conchita hadn’t been in it. It was a perfect Eurovision power ballad done in the traditional style that families would love but would also be on the radio.

“And then third, this out-of-the-box indie/country number from the Dutch band, the Common Linnets. Now I can’t think of a fairer top three being voted on because you’ve got three clearly different songs with three very different audiences, you could say.”

For people who paid close attention to the tallying of votes during the final, Zemiro said that it was not until the very end when Wurst started to pull away from the other two leading songs.

“So I just think it’s ridiculous to say that any one group was ‘taking over’. It’s a naïve way of looking at things,” she said.

She added that it was fairly common practice for some countries to pull out of Eurovision for a year or two, but it was the lengths that the Russian government was going to that will ultimately fail.

“I think it’s really going to backfire on them. I think it’s going to make Russia’s job even harder if they do participate next year. If they don’t? Big deal, lots of countries don’t compete every year because they can’t afford it, or they have political problems or they have a problem with the voting/judging.”

“If Russia decides to take a break, then take a break by all means. Miss it. Do your own contest and do what you want but that kind of attitude won’t be missed.”

The inclusiveness of Eurovision is what makes the competition an important statement in a continent that is often divided. It was the threat to this that upsets Zemiro the most.

“I think that this is most sad part: whenever we walk out into those crowds in the dress rehearsals and to the actual nights where Sam and I often get to film our intros, we’re sitting next to families, older people, young people, gay, straight, all from around the world,” she said.

“And that is the point of Eurovision. It is not about exclusion, it’s all about being inclusive. I’ve had the best time in those audiences next to everyone.

“Maybe it’s annoying [the more conservative elements in Russia] that Sweden last year and Denmark this year acknowledged that there’s a strong gay following, namely down the front of the crowds. What a grown up thing to do.”

Ruminating over why Wurst appears to have become such a threat to the Russian way of life, Zemiro said the Austrian was challenging norms in a very public way.

“She challenges the idea of what men and women are supposed to be and look like and what gender is. Some people are deeply deeply troubled by that. I think she presented an all-inclusive persona,” Zemiro said.

However, the revival of Intervision may not all be bad news, according to Zemiro.

“Oh but wouldn’t it be fun to watch. Let’s imagine if it was on, it might actually go back to the older style of Eurovision that some people miss when it was crazy and crap,” she said.

“So it might be an interesting experiment and to see what ratings it gets but I can imagine it would be a pretty small competition. Good luck to them.”

Doing her bit to throw her support behind Wurst hosting next year’s Eurovision competition, Zemiro said that she was more than qualified.

“I got to interview her twice and she strikes me as someone who is highly intelligent. She’s a drag queen that doesn’t have to crack a joke every five minutes and she’s very sharp. She’s a really switched on human being with a big heart.”

“Someone asked her if she was going to represent Austria again next year and she said ‘Oh no, but I am free to host’. Can you imagine? How fantastic.

“So she might host it next year and Russia might find that reason enough to boycott the competition. Good luck to her.”

(Photo credit: SBS)


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