Time to turn to Eurovision’s biggest country in geographical size and population – and often the country which generates the strongest feelings and controversy. This is very rarely to do with the artists themselves that compete for Russia, so this isn’t going to be where I discuss the wrongs of Russia’s actions on LGBT rights or its foreign policies and actions. With 1 win, 4 runners up placings, and a further 6 top 10 placings, they are a Eurovision force to be reckoned with.
Nevertheless, I suspect my top 5 may generate some controversy – my top 5 choices are likely to be very different to the ones that most of my friends would put together if they were doing this same list!
5. Natalia Podolskaya “Nobody Hurt No One” (2005, 15th place, 57 points)
This one will test your memory I bet! Not the most well known of past Russian entries, but I like its rock-y nature, and just stands out a bit from the bulk of their Eurovision back catalogue. Also helps she can sing strongly live, something many of their entries in the 2000-2012 couldn’t do (yet still did well!)
4. Alla Pugacheva “Primadonna” (1997, 15th place, 33 points)
You won’t have seen this one coming either – from back in the days when Russia was still a fledgling democracy under Yeltsin and a relative novelty at Eurovision. The incomparable Alla Pugacheva gave a bravura performance -and no surprise she was confident given she was the biggest selling and most well-known music performer in the Soviet Union. She enjoys iconic status in former Soviet countries and performs to this day.
3. Buranovskiye Babushki “Party for Everybody” (2012, 2nd place, 259 points)
Yes, it’s a bit of a novelty entry but is the genuinely happiest and most fun of all Russian entries. Also notable that it is, at time of writing, the last Russian entry that was selected via a public vote in a national final. The “Russian grannies”, as they were known, sing in English and Udmurt – the only time that language has been sung at Eurovision.
2. Dima Bilan “Never Let You Go” (2006, 2nd place, 248 points)
Dima is Russia’s sole Eurovision winner, though it’s his first song in 2006 that was runner up to Lordi rather than his 2008 winning song that makes it into my top 5. He’s of Karachay orgin – a Turkic people from the Northern Caucasus. He’s spoken out in favour of LGBT rights, which makes him a good egg in my book – coupled with decent songs and a smouldering look!
1. Anastasia Prikhodko “Mamo” (2009, 11th place, 91 points)
The last song to be sung (partly) in Russian was in 2009 when the contest was hosted in Moscow – and the singer who sung that song and represented Russia on home turf – was Ukrainian! She no longer sings in Russia (you can guess why) but she is my favourite of all Russia’s Eurovision entries. The staging is clever – you see an image of her ageing as the song progresses – the emotion is there, and it seems to chime with the more mournful, reflective side of the Russian character. I’m not sure this will be a popular Russian number 1, but it’s my choice!
Well, I bet that surprised you! I am well aware of the recent entries who I have left out of this but I hold to my view. Comment below if you have an alternative top 5, or favourite entry.