For the first time our televote winner (Italy) lost to the juries’ favourite (Sweden). Meanwhile, in second place lies Russia. In this article I take a look at where Polina Gagarina’s support came from. There are a number of surprises!
First off, kudos to the Russian delegation for doing what many fans wish their country would do: pick a very popular, age-appropriate singer with a song that suits the Song Contest. Polina’s powerhouse vocals and moving vulnerability equally contributed to her success. Without both, A Million Voices could have been a maudlin, cringeworthy three minutes. Instead we got arguably the best Eurovision anthem since Love Shine a Light.
All sorts of ESC fans who—with good reason, it must be said—feel a fair bit of antipathy towards any Russian entry that purports to defend peace (in light of invasions of Georgia and Ukraine) or love (in light of their homophobic laws). Last year Russia sent a couple of teenagers with such an entry and the public reacted viscerally negatively. In 2013 they sent a similarly themed song. Another peace song from Russia? Are they trying to wind us up?
I include myself in this group. When the song was initially released, complete with a preview video featuring couples, families and lots of children, I felt rather nauseated. I noted that the singer was beautiful, and the song was well done. Then we started to get videos of her live performance. I was moved by her performance—and felt badly for being moved.
The question that kept cropping up in my mind was “if I believe her when she sings this, am I being manipulated?” I decided to give her a pass until I got to Vienna. Very quickly I was convinced Polina Gagarina meant every single word she sang. Which is when the penny dropped:
Could all 130+ million Russians be warmongering homophobes?
Almost certainly not. And on two evenings in May I surprised myself by dropping a handful of € voting for A Million Voices.
From the results this year, clearly I was not alone. In fact, were the result based on televotes alone, Russia would have scored points from every single country whose televotes were valid (San Marino only uses a jury because their phone system is within Italy’s). The aggregate televote score for Polina was 286 points, 80 behind Italy and 7 ahead of Sweden.
Here’s a breakdown:
- 12 points: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Estonia, Israel, Latvia
- 10 points: Czech Republic, Georgia, Germany, Moldova, Serbia
- 8 points: Albania, Cyprus, Denmark, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Portugal
- 7 points: Austria, Belgium, Finland, Greece, Ireland, Montenegro, Poland
- 6 points: Macedonia, Hungary, Romania, Spain
- 5 points: Slovenia, Netherlands
- 4 points: Australia, France, Sweden, Switzerland, UK
- 3 points: Norway
- 2 points: Iceland
The lowest televote rank was 9th in Iceland. Not many entries performance this well across such a broad range of markets. Each of these countries had 26 (if they were competing in the Grand Final themselves) or 27 (if they hadn’t made it out of their semi-final) songs for which they could vote.
So we can say that Europe loved this song—at least enough to vote for it. But we also know that televoters sometimes vote for songs for reasons other than the performance. If we look at the lists above, all of the songs that gave Polina douze points are either ex-Soviet states or a country with a large Soviet diaspora community (Israel). Two of the five countries that put Russian in second place were ex-Soviet; another two are ex-communist but not consistent supporters of Russian entries. And then we have Germany, hardly a supporter of Russian entries. The rest of the list is balanced across Europe.
So we can say that a few diaspora countries that supported Russia this year have done so in the past. But that’s only half the story
The juries also really liked A Million Voices, but not as much as the public. Russia was third with the juries on 234 points, 15 behind second place Latvia and a whopping 119 points behind jury vote winner Sweden.
Here’s how the jury votes aggregate—which are fascinating:
- 12 points: Azerbaijan, Denmark, Romania, Spain, Australia
- 10 points: Belarus, Serbia, Belgium
- 8 points: Armenia, Estonia, Portugal, Austria, Greece, Ireland
- 7 points: Germany, Moldova, Albania, Finland, Netherlands
- 6 points: Latvia, Malta, France, Switzerland
- 5 points: Hungary, Sweden, UK
- 4 points: Israel, Czech Republic, Poland, Iceland
- 3 points: Italy, Slovenia
- Null points: Norway, Georgia, Cyprus, San Marino, Lithuania
- Juries disallowed: Montenegro, Macedonia
In each stratum of support we see countries from across Europe—a balanced distribution, but much more support than rejection. 32/37 juries gave some points to Russia. Among the five countries that blanked Polina were two ex-Soviet states (albeit both with tiny Russian ex-pat communities and a fair bit of antipathy towards Russia as of late), and another with a large ex-pat population (Cyprus). All of which passes the sniff taste: nothing unusual here.
We also can see that the other frontrunners this year, Italy and Sweden, both gave Polina Gagarina relatively low jury scores: perhaps strategic, but nothing that would have been decisive for the final result. The members of the Scandinavian bloc loved (Denmark), liked (Estonia, Finland) were meh (Iceland, Sweden) or didn’t like (Norway) A Million Voices; again, nothing untoward here.
Two entries received points from more countries than Russia. Both Sweden and Italy received points from every other participating country—though Italy’s single point from San Marino was, strictly speaking, merely one point more than Russia.
When these two score components are combined—by combining the 1-27 rankings of televotes and total jury rankings, also 1-27—throws up a few surprises.
- 12 points: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Armenia, Estonia, Germany
- 10 points: Denmark, Romania, Spain, Australia, Serbia, Belgium, Portugal, Moldova, Latvia, France, Italy
- 8 points: Austria, Greece, Ireland, Albania, Finland, Israel, Czech Republic
- 7 points: Malta, Switzerland, Montenegro*
- 6 points: Netherlands, Hungary, Sweden, UK, Poland, Macedonia*
- 5 points: Slovenia, Georgia, Cyprus
- 4 points: [none]
- 3 points: Iceland
- 2 points: Norway
- Null points: San Marino, Lithuania
Here’s where our massive skew in scores for 2015 becomes apparent. Fully 25 (out of a possible 39) countries gave Polina Gagarina 8 or more points in this year’s Grand Final. Sweden’s average score was 9.36 points: Russia’s was 7.77 points. In terms of top marks, Mans got douze points from 12 countries versus 5 for Polina. But Italy got nine 12s—closer to Sweden than Russia. But not nearly as many 10s and 8s.
But let’s look at the bloc voting again. Here’s how the ex-Soviet bloc—which includes Russia, with it’s massive ex-Soviet community—voted for Russia this year:
- 12 points: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Armenia, Estonia,
- 10 points: Moldova, Latvia
- 8 points: Russia
- 5 points: Georgia
- Null points: Lithuania
Half the bloc gave mother Russia their 12 points; a couple of others gave them 10. But the total of 5 points given between Georgia and Russia left a possible 19 points on the table. Not enough for victory, but about 1/3 of the way there. It bears mentioning that Georgia (2%) and Lithuania (6%) have the smallest Russian diaspora population. Ukraine was missing from this year’s Contest, leaving a few more points. When we look at Sweden (in the next article) we’ll see that the Scandinavian bloc was more consistent in its support for Heroes.
In most other years, this level of support—this score, in particular—would have been accompanied by the crystal microphone trophy. The only thing standing between Russia winning was one Swedish man and his animated minions.