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The Morning After Eurovision, Russia Gets Up On Wrong Side Of The Bed

The Tolmachevy Sisters of Russia hold a Russian flag after performing in the Eurovision semifinals in Copenhagen. Russia was repeatedly booed during the voting process.
The Tolmachevy Sisters of Russia hold a Russian flag after performing in the Eurovision semifinals in Copenhagen. Russia was repeatedly booed during the voting process.
It was Austria's first Eurovision win in 49 years. But as dawn rose over the glitter-strewn living rooms of Europe, Russia was in no mood to offer congratulations.

"Fifty years ago, the Soviet Army occupied Austria.... We should have stayed there," harrumphed Vladimir Zhirinovsky, the voluble head of Russia's Liberal Democratic Party. "It's the end of Europe. It has turned wild."

Russia, which first joined the Eurovision Song Contest in 1994, has long been one of its most enthusiastic members, embracing its ethos of kitschy pop like a natural.

But this year, as its relationship with Western Europe founders over its annexation of Crimea and separatist referendums in eastern Ukraine, it has suddenly found much to dislike in Eurovision.

For one thing, its own contestants, the dewy-eyed Tolmachevy Sisters, finished a mere seventh, despite their upbeat calls for the "world to show some love."

For another, that put them behind their main rival, Maria Yaremchuk of Ukraine, who finished sixth.

For yet another, Russia was repeatedly booed during voting segments of the contest by an audience angered by both events in Ukraine and the Kremlin's antigay stance.

But perhaps the worst blow of all was the fact that the winner was a bearded lady -- the 25-year-old Austrian drag performer Thomas Neuwirth, better known by his stage name, Conchita Wurst.

WATCH: Conchita Wurst performs "Rise Like a Phoenix":

Wearing a skintight dress and makeup but otherwise eschewing the elaborate props and stunts of other Eurovision performers, the bearded Wurst scored a solid 290 points with a soaring performance of the ballad "Rise Like a Phoenix."

A jubilant Wurst -- whose participation in the song contest had already sparked protests and boycotts in Russia, Armenia, and Belarus -- said his win was a statement that society wants "to look to the future."
READ MORE: Bearded Drag Queen Sparks Eurovision Uproar

Russia, which in the past year has passed sweeping antigay legislation, says it's a future it can do without.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin, who had spent the first part of the weekend threatening to bomb Romania for barring his plane from its airspace, went on to tweak Ukraine and dismiss Eurovision in a single tweet, saying Wurst's win "showed supporters of European integration their European future: a bearded girl."

Russian Culture Minister Vladimir Medinsky, who is seen as leading the Kremlin charge to boost nationalist sentiment in the country's academic texts, said he was distressed to realize his children had watched Eurovision, broadcast this year from Copenhagen.

"How am I going to explain all this to them in a 'politically correct' and 'tolerant' way?" he tweeted, poking fun at the Western terms.

Russians Dumbfounded

The result was considered so remarkable that the BBC's Steve Rosenberg noted that Russian television continued its live discussion of the outcome long after the show had ended.

The Russian blogosphere had plenty to say as well.

"I feel really bad for our Russian twins," wrote blogger Ulyana Grinina. "It was an interesting performance and song, with beautiful voices...but 'it' won."

"It's clear I have my own particular view of music," wrote Ivan Chistyakov. "I look for beauty, and for talent in the people who perform it. But for Europe, it's tolerance they choose."

"Good job, Europe," noted a third, a blogger by the name of Elinora. "You've showed how adventurous you are. But that won't save you from the red button."

A pro-Russian Twitter account, Photo From Sevastopol, added a photograph of Ukrainian presidential candidate Yulia Tymoshenko, altered to picture her with a Conchita-style dark beard, and reading: "Ukraine is Europe!"

In the end, it was the producer of the Russian Eurovision entry, pop star Filipp Kirkorov, who offered the most moderate view on Austria's win.

Speaking to Russian television, he acknowledged that Wurst's victory could be "a kind of protest against some of our views in Russia." He added, "Maybe we shouldn't have such a categorical attitude to people of different sexual orientations."

Quiz: Are You Too Cool For Eurovision Kitsch?

Quiz: Are You Too Cool For Eurovision Kitsch?

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