The Ukranian Eurovison Song Contest entry is often the subject of heated national debate and this year is no exception. The country seems split over the choice of drag queen Verka Serdyuchka.
Supporters of Serduchka – the alter ego of 33-year-old Andrey Danilko – say his / her appearance will show Europe that Ukraine has a sense of humour. But the local pop culture icon’s detractors are so upset that they’ve started burning effigies in the streets of Kiev.
Serdyuchka started out on a show biz career in the mid-1990s by poking fun at matronly Soviet types and quickly became a national institution, provoking a furious debate about the Ukrainian national identity along the way.
Eurovision is taken very seriously in Ukraine, or at least more seriously than it’s taken in most European countries, partly because of the unprecedented international attention generated when it won the competition in 2004, paving the way for the country’s emergence on the international scene later that year in the wake of the Orange Revolution.
That 2004 win turned Lviv-based singer Ruslana into an international celebrity and a national heroine, so much so that she went on to win a seat in the Ukrainian parliament.
In 2005, when the country hosted the show as the previous year’s winners, pop princess Ani Lorak was widely expected to represent Ukraine. But in the wake of the Orange Revolution, the new government introduced last-minute changes to the voting procedure that allowed revolutionary heroes Green Jolly to take a reworked version of their Orange anthem, "Razum Nas Bagato," to the grand finale. It came nowhere.
While the "No to Verka" bandwagon has been gathering pace across Ukraine for the past few months, there is an equally vocal supporter base keen to see the figure who has dominated the post-Soviet showbiz circuit finally get some international recognition.
Serdyuchka will be singing "Danzing," a catchy number with seemingly nonsensical lyrics, at the 52nd competition’s finals at Finland’s Helsinki Hartwall Arena May 12th.
Finland won in 2006 when monster-masked death metal rockers Lordi thrashed the opposition with a record number of points.