The Eurovision Song Contest has been running, largely interrupted, since 1956, as one of those “Let’s get most of the continent together every once in a while to do a fun thing so we don’t do another World War” initiatives that became so popular in the wake of World War II. Today, though, the contest’s organizers announced that they’ve formally banned Russia from participating in this year’s event, after President Vladimir Putin and his government launched an invasion of Ukraine earlier this week.
Per Deadline, the move to ban Russia from the competition is a reversal of a stance that Eurovision adopted earlier this week, when it said it would not be going forward with a ban. (This is the first time, as far as we can tell, that the organization has outright banned a country from participating; in the past, it’s blocked countries from broadcasting the events due to censorship laws, and several countries have withdrawn themselves from competition due to international tensions in various years—including over Russia and the Putin administration.)
Eurovision reportedly changed course after increasing calls from participating countries like Finland, Iceland and Norway, all part of increasing efforts (including widespread denunciations and economic sanctions) to leverage the impact of the international community to pressure Russia into ending the invasion. On a similar note, the UEFA Champions League, one of the most prestigious tournaments in international football, has announced that it will be moving its Final this year from Russia to Paris, and the International Olympic Committee has called for international sports groups to cancel their Russia-based events.
Organizers at the European Broadcasting Union, the group that puts Eurovision on every year, put out a statement today about the decision: “The decision reflects concern that, in light of the unprecedented crisis in Ukraine, the inclusion of a Russian entry in this year’s Contest would bring the competition into disrepute.” Until this year, Russia had participated in the Contest every year since 1994, when it joined the EBU shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.