Fear of Queer: Kremlin’s Hate Speech Against The Eurovision

Written by Matt Wickham UCMC/HWAG analyst

“A freak show.” “Dangerous to watch.” “Song Contest of a singing sodemite-leftist.” 

The 2024 Eurovision Song Contest found itself firmly in the Kremlin’s propaganda line of fire over the weekend. They unleashed a tsunami of hatred towards all things European and, in that sense, Western, claiming, Thank God for Russia’s “conscious decision” to move away from the “sick” Western world. 

The message from the Kremlin’s propagandists was clear: Europe has veered away from any signs of sanity, is now a mentally ill people on the verge of extinction, and is a world in which Russia has no interest in taking part. But after having been excluded from the show for the third year running (not out of choice of the Russian people), propaganda is attempting to portray Russia’s isolation as having “dodged a bullet,” supposedly taking the righteous path away from what they claim is the decline of traditional values.

And so, with its continued exclusion from the contest, Russian propaganda’s interests this year weren’t focused solely on denigrating Ukraine but on a “us against them” narrative, and an attack on all those who took part. An attack on the West.

“The fat cats of show business”

The Kremlin’s grip on all facets of life, including the entertainment sector, is widely acknowledged. With this control, Russia’s LGBT+ community remains an unconcealed reality, often ignored or denied by the government and the Russian people, believing only people of “that kind” live in the West – a narrative fed by Russian propaganda for years. 

However, signs of this community’s existence are evident through figures such as Philipp Kirkorov, a Kremlin clown renowned for his “unconventional” ways of performing in tight tights and camp productions. His fame, despised by propagandists, with one calling him “the fat cat of show business,” highlights the existence of an LGBT+ community in Russian society, albeit unacknowledged. And it’s not just Kirkorov; many other well-known, but not officially “out” queer Russian artists have risen to prominence after performing at the Eurovision Song Contest in previous years. 

Philipp Kirkorov, Russian singer widely known to be queer, albeit unofficially, and a Kremlin puppet in the showbiz world.

Even so, the full-scale invasion of Ukraine has provided the Kremlin with an opening to further suppress the queer community, undoing any progress (although little) made toward altering perceptions of the LGBT+ community. Instead, the government has taken the route of criminalizing queerness, imposing severe penalties, and perpetuating a false narrative of “these people” being the reason for the potential end of humanity. 

An oppressive regime stifles freedom, forcing many people, including well-known Russian artists, to live a lie, due to their fear of their safety, and the threat of social stigma. This is exactly what Eurovision is about and why this year’s win is a win for freedom—to fight for people who have previously been forced to live a life of shame for being “traditionally” different. 

Such repression is often attributed to the Kremlin’s deliberate promotion of traditional values, which prioritize conventional family structures and gender roles. This is the Kremlin’s response to the declining birth rate and the fear that one day Russia will run out of its mobilized resources to send to war.

“Eurovision is dangerous for viewing”

Eurovision is a vibrant celebration of diversity, uniting artists and audiences from various cultures and backgrounds in an atmosphere that embraces extreme self-expression. It champions inclusivity, unity, and the values of peace and camaraderie, ideals Russians once supported, as seen in their previous participation in the contest. 

Note how the Kremlin’s propagandists refrained from condemning the show as “the end of humanity” back in 2008, when Russia won with the widely considered queer singer, Dima Bilan. 

Now, offended by its exclusion from the competition, Russian propaganda portrays the show as “dangerous for viewing,” likely to divert the population’s disappointment in Russia’s absence of a once much-loved show. This track of propaganda aims to highlight the perceived “craziness” of the West, deflecting attention from internal matters and fostering a sense of unity against an “external apocalyptic threat”—what we in the West call hetrosexism. 

Putin visits the backstage of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest in Moscow. The then Russian Prime Minister, Putin, promised to vote for the British representative at the Eurovision Song Contest.

A man in a skirt

Russian propaganda allocated a significant number of posts and “analyses” to the contest at unprecedented, although unsurprising, levels. Not even the anger from an ATACMS delivery caused as much stir as did a “man in a skirt”. 

Figures like Maria Zakharova was first to lead the charge, describing Eurovision 2024 as having “surpassed any orgy, revelry, or ritual sacrilege. The funerals of Western Europe proceed routinely. Without surprises.” Just keep in mind, this is the official commentary from the Kremlin’s number two spokesperson.

Olena Loseyva goes as far as suggesting that watching the show could be “dangerous for the psyche” and cause “gag reflexes.” and Maria Akmedova, member of the “Human Rights Council in Russia” (oh, the irony), says, “This is what degeneration and the end of civilization [looks like].

However, the reality is that Eurovision 2024 showcased a new level of creativity, with performances, costumes, and acts pushing boundaries never seen before. This evolution underscores Europe and the Western world’s openness to inclusivity and innovation, which are only possible when oppression is absent and freedom is embraced. 

As a result of Russia’s exclusion from the contest for the third year in a row, combined with the Kremlin’s irrational fear of all things queer, we see a targeted attack on the contest aimed at creating a “us vs. them” narrative. This is intended to portray the West as mentally sick, thereby justifying Russia’s exclusion not only from the competition but from the West as a whole. The cherry on top was Ukraine’s successful third-place finish, epitomizing the inclusivity, diversity, and resilience of a nation at war and Ukraine’s continued commitment to establish itself on the European map in all spheres of life.