Celebrating Ruslana for Ukrainian Independence Day
Today is Ukrainian Independence Day, which is the national day of Ukraine. On this day in 1991 the Ukrainian Parliament passed the ‘Act of Declaration of Independence of Ukraine’, which was the official proclamation of Ukraine as an independent democratic state that was no longer part of the USSR.
To celebrate, let’s take a look at the career of Ukraine's first Eurovision winner Ruslana, from her win in Istanbul to her return to the Eurovision stage in 2017 and beyond.
Ruslana's win in Istanbul
Ruslana's win in Istanbul back in 2004 was historic for many reasons. Not only was it Ukraine’s first win at the contest, but it was only their second participation in the contest. It was also the first year of a semi final in Eurovision. Previous winners never had to contend with having to qualify for the final via a semi final before, and Ruslana did that, finishing second in the semi final behind only Serbia and Montenegro. When it came to the final, the positions were reversed with Ruslana taking the win over Serbia and Montenegro’s Željko Joksimović, with Greece’s Sakis Rouvas finishing in third place.
In rehearsals Ruslana also broke one of the glass panels of the stage with her whip! Oops, talk about memorable performances.
Political career and role in The Orange Revolution
Ruslana returned home after her win to a Ukraine that was only months away from political turmoil and a revolution.
The 2004 Ukrainian election was a controversial one and is the cause of what was later dubbed 'The Orange Revolution'.
For those of you who don’t know what that is, The Orange Revolution describes the weeks of protests that occurred after the 2004 election. In the original election, the two main candidates, Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and main opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko, both got about two fifths of the vote. In the subsequent runoff election, Yanukovych was declared the winner but Yushchenko’s supporters claimed there had been fraud and staged weeks of mass protests. The protestors wore orange, which was Yushchenko’s campaign colour, and Yanukovych’s supporters in the east of the country even threatened to secede from Ukraine if the results were annulled. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court did eventually rule that the election was invalid and a new runoff election took place. In the end, Yushchenko defeated Yanukovych with about 52% of the vote, and although Yanukovych challenged the validity of the results, Yushchenko was inaugurated the following year.
What does any of this have to do with Ruslana? Well, she was one of those thousands of demonstrators in Kiev’s central Maiden Square protesting those results. She even announced a hunger strike in protest of those results.
Once the protests overturned the results, Ruslana became a deputy in the Ukrainian Parliament. Unfortunately the reform drive stalled, the revolution’s leaders turned on each other and Ruslana resigned from Parliament in 2007.
In an article in the Irish Times, she said “I was very disappointed with that first revolution. They sold and ruined everything. We saw that ideas could just be sold off and politicians couldn’t be trusted.”
Return to the Eurovision stage
After politics Ruslana returned to music, and to the Eurovision stage.
After winning the contest in 2016, Ukraine once again hosted the contest in Kiev the following year.
In the Grand Final of the 2017 contest, Ruslana was one of the interval acts, and she performed her newly released single 'It’s Magical'.
These days Ruslana is still making music, but is also now a global ambassador of renewable energy in the world.
This year she spoke at an ethnographic festival in Ukraine about renewable energy, and the headlining act of that festival was none other than the 2021 Ukrainian Eurovision representatives Go_A. This role has even influenced her music, with some of her most recent releases, that came out in 2020, heavily influenced by renewable energy and referencing the saving of rainforests.