Eurovision racism from the Ukrainian far rightFebruary 26, 2012
Readers of this blog know that once a year despite my very best efforts not to mention the deliciously awful Eurovision Song Contest, an annual farce that is watched religiously by my good lady despite year after year I predict accurately the votes from each country for another to her absolute amazement and also nominate the winner based on their national economic well-being before a song has even been sung.
However, so deliciously awful and predictable as it is, it is often scandal prone in some manner behind the scenes which forces me to comment.
Ukraine it seems is particularly prone to such things having had heated national debates over Verka Serduchka, a very funny cross-dressing male represent them and subsequently had Ukrainians singing both for Ukraine and also for Russia, to name but a few.
Is a cross-dressing male the right image for Ukraine at such an international event, should a Ukrainian be singing the Russian entry against the Ukrainian entry? All those issues of self-image on the international stage in what it has to be repeatedly said is a truly awful annual event.
This year has already become issue-ridden.
This year a lady called Gaitana has been chosen to represent Ukraine. Here she is:
What could possibly be controversial about her?
Well of course immediately the far-right Svoboda party are up in arms as she is not representative of Ukraine – She is not white!
It doesn’t matter that she was born in Kyiv, has lived there all her life, is a Ukrainian citizen, or that her mother is a Ukrainian. It matters that she is not white and therefore not representative of Ukraine it seems. At least that is the opinion of Yuri Sirotyuk who happens to be highly placed within the Svoboda party. In fact he stated she would get “Nul points” because of the colour of her skin.
Now I have repeatedly and robustly raised my concerns over the rise of the far-right across Europe and have specifically mentioned the poisonous Svoboda party (who happen to be signed up members of the United Democratic Opposition) regularly over the years this blog has been running. Use the blog search facility and see for yourself.
It is not that I have a problem with the right to free speech. Mr Sirotyuk has the right to say what he wants, especially so as he is a regional MP and represents a region that is predominantly responsible for the entire 5% of the national vote Svoboda received at the last elections. I also do not have a problem with Svoboda praising Nazism and identifying themselves with it. They are at least honest enough to wear the label that others would give them rather than shy away from the word. He may well be representative of his voters in saying what he did and that is what he is there to do.
It can hardly be classed as a “hate speech“ or be compared to the Nuremburg Rallies.
However as the above link shows, the ECfHR has stated “… tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society. That being so, as a matter of principle it may be considered necessary in certain democratic societies to sanction or even prevent all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance…”
(Chamber judgment Erbakan v. Turkey, no. 59405/00, § 56, 6.07.2006)
That would infer that Svoboda are not necessarily worthy of being part of the United Democratic Opposition as such comments must surely seriously undermine “…tolerance and respect for the equal dignity of all human beings constitute the foundations of a democratic, pluralistic society…”
However, as I have said above, and as the ECfHR also states, ” the Court is also careful to make a distinction in its findings between, on the one hand, genuine and serious incitement to extremism and, on the other hand, the right of individuals (including journalists and politicians) to express their views freely and to “offend, shock or disturb” others.”
He is entitled to state his opinions and breaks no Ukrainian or ECfHR rulings in doing so. As a Ukrainian MP he has immunity from prosecution anyway, so there would be no chance of even challenging him under Ukrainian discriminatory laws should somebody decide to try.
However, given his comments relating to “nul points” due to her colour, I hope that she goes on to get a lot of points regardless of how good or bad she is. For Ukrainian economic reasons I hope she doesn’t win as the expense of putting on Eurovision compared to income from it would probably lead to a loss from the national budget, but the highest place ever for a Ukrainian would seem to be an adequate response to his comments.
For this reason alone, this year I may join my good woman watching this farce and actually be willing good fortune to Ukraine and Gaitana in a purely reactionary motivation to such obnoxious comments.