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Russia: Tolmachevy Sisters – Shine

    The last song for Eurovision 2014 has finally been presented. Russia's internally selected Tolmachevy Sisters have unveiled their song Shine. How do you solve a problem like Russia? Traditionally, when writing a review about a Russian Eurovision entry, one wouldn’t need to bother with politics, it would just be a case of assessing where in the top-10 they are likely to finish. Last year, Russia voted to ban gay propaganda, which effectively reclassified all members of the Russian LGBT community as second-class citizens. This tremendously controversial move impacted on the media coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics with…

Review Overview

Song Appeal
Vocal Strength
Staging Potential
Likely Televote Appeal
Likely Jury Appeal
Historical Support Strength


Russia are in the unique situation where they are likely to be abandoned by many of their traditional allies from the Baltic regions. Despite some diaspora, will the juries also follow suit and punish Russia's recent political actions?

User Rating: 1.92 ( 43 votes)

The last song for Eurovision 2014 has finally been presented. Russia’s internally selected Tolmachevy Sisters have unveiled their song Shine.

How do you solve a problem like Russia?

Traditionally, when writing a review about a Russian Eurovision entry, one wouldn’t need to bother with politics, it would just be a case of assessing where in the top-10 they are likely to finish.

Last year, Russia voted to ban gay propaganda, which effectively reclassified all members of the Russian LGBT community as second-class citizens. This tremendously controversial move impacted on the media coverage of the Sochi Winter Olympics with a number of athletes using international press to voice their criticism of the retrograde step.   To make matters worse, Pussy Riot staged their own street demonstration and were humiliatingly thrashed on the street by officers.

Over the last several weeks, the Russian top brass decided to venture into Ukraine’s sovereign territory to reclaim the mainly Russian-speaking region of Crimea and have since staged a questionable referendum and have consequently switched the local currency back to the Rouble.

The international condemnation of Russia’s actions has been deafening. I’m not here to judge, I’m just presenting what I believe will be a sobering moment in Russia’s relationship with Eurovision.

The ex-Soviet Baltic region was fairly anti-Russian before the Crimean crisis, but their opinions have now hardened.  Despite substantial diaspora, I expect those supportive Russian votes to be turned over by the juries. Don’t forget, the new ranking system means that if Russia topped the televote, they can still get zero points if the jury ranking contrasts too much in comparison. As a result, Estonia and Latvia will award either very low points to Russia, or no points at all.

We can count Ukraine out for Russian points too. Their jury will exploit the contest to send a message to the Russian leadership.

Armenia will stand by Russia, so there’s at least 10 points expected.  Azerbaijan on the other hand is expected to favour Ukraine.  I don’t expect Russia to be frozen out, but I do anticipate single-digit score.

Like Ukraine, Moldova has a deeply divided region in the form of Transdniestria, where recently, the parliament’s speaker urged Russia to incorporate his mainly Russian-speaking region.  The Transdniestria region separated from Moldova in 1990.  The Moldovan president has stridently warned Russia against such a move.  Moldova traditionally award Russia 8 points, but despite the strength of the Russian-speaking Transdniestria region, I expect their jury to send a clear message.

So that leaves the western nations to rescue Russia.

The Tolmachevy Sisters’ song is somewhat disappointing. There are suggestions that some of the lyrics refer to the Crimean situation, which I’m sure the EBU has already dismissed. Even so, I do expect the line, “Telling all the world to show some love” to receive some sarcastic sniggers.

Shine does have a few moments that will please neutral juries, but for the most part, the entry is rather bland.

Therefore, on song quality alone, I doubt the televote and jury scores for Russia will be particularly high in Western Europe either. Add that to the current political climate and Russia’s points will surely nosedive further.

By my current reckoning, Russia stands to lose over 30 points from their regional allies. In terms of remaining hard points, I anticipate a measly 20 points from their most ardent supporters. Add maybe another 20-35 points from neutral juries for what is a very average song and we’re looking a potential score ranging from 40-55.  The upper end of that range would have earned qualification in most of the semi-finals since 2008, but a score under 50 would tend to result in non-qualification.

In 2011, Alexey Vorobyob qualified with a lowly 64 points where Russia received just one maximum 12 points from Armenia.  The rest of Russia’s points came from a spread of 3s and 5s across the various regions of Europe.  Get You was an abysmal song, but it was saved by the televote.  Shine is nowhere near as bad as Get you, but the televote won’t be there to rescue Russian pride.

I seriously believe that Russia is in for a dismal Eurovision this year. If the Crimea story remains in the news, the value bet will be non-qualification.

One thing to bear in mind however, is that Fokas Evangelinos might be involved in the choreography. He’s the guy that brought us Azerbaijan’s glass box and Sakis Rouvas’ folding travelator platform.

How much will Europe punish Russia in Eurovision?

  • Qualification History
  • Final Performance
  • Allies
Since the introduction of the new semi-final format, Russia have never failed to qualify. 100% qualification success.

Highest semi-final score (since 2004): 217 (2006: Dima Bilan – Never Let You Go)
Lowest semi-final score (since 2004): 64 (2011: Alexej Vorobjov – Get You)
Average semi-final finishing position: 4th
Average semi-final score: 133 points

Russia has finished in the top-10 five times since 2004.

Highest score (since 2004): 177 (2012: Buranovskiye Babushki – Party for Everybody)
Lowest score (since 2004): 57 (2005: Natalia Podolskaya – Nobody Hurt No One)
Average final position: 8th (7.7)
Average final score: 154 points

Average Points Received

Armenia – 10.9
Belarus – 10.7
Ukraine – 9.2
Estonia – 9.0
Latvia – 8.4
Moldova – 8.4
Lithuania – 7.8
Israel – 7.6
Montenegro – 6.0

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About Gavster

ESCtips Owner   I’m a qualified designer and dedicate a lot of my free time to keeping the ESCtips show on the road. My family routes allow me to support the UK, Ireland and Italy.


  1. Sounds very old fashioned, I do not think Russia will do well this year with this song!

  2. Considering the politics this year (and yes they do matter more than the song), I can see this staying in the semi.

  3. Would be shock if Ukraine, Estonia or Latvia gives it any points. Maybe few diaspora points (1-4), but definitely not 10 or 12 points like usually.

  4. I think the worries about boycott are exaggerated: it’s happened plenty of times that we’ve thought that world politics would come into play heavily (southern Europe boycotting Germany etc), but it has never really materialized.

    I don’t think Russia will do well, however. This is pretty dire, to be honest, and make’s last year’s Russian entry sound earnest.

    • This year I think it will matter given that Russia’s actions are far more extreme than Germany/EU budget action. Can you imagine the jury members, whose names and points are published afterwards, freely awarding high points to Russia and being seen as Putin sympathisers? The quality of the song has given them enough cover to bury Russia and I fully expect the Baltics to send a message.

      • I agree with Gav here. Although there hasn’t been much of boycotting before, the actions of Russia during the last few months is much worse than any other issue that has been thought to make countries fail. former soviet countries are unlikely to give hardly any points to Russia, especially now that Estonia is under some kind of pressure as well they will send a message as will Lithuania and Latvia. (Nothing has materialized in Estonia yet, but it has been talked about)

      • Juries get strict orders from EBU that they should vote according to quality of the song. I would like to think most jurors validate their personal credibility and professionalism far more than politics.

        For that reason I think it will be hard for individual jurors to put Russia at the top of their scoreboard even if the twins had the best song in their opinion, instead they would rather put them 2-5. But it is equally important to bare in mind, they will do the exact same think if they think Russia has the worst song. Their professional credibility is at risk so they would hesitate putting Russia near the rock bottom knowing people would assume they had another agenda than voting according to music.

        I think these two factors will pretty much balance each other out.

        • thats a good point sir mills, i agree with that…

        • Tell that to the Armenian and Azeri juries. No matter how hard they try to shut it out, politics and current affairs will always play a part.

          • So does money gifts. I’m talking more in general.

            Even though their total jury score would be slightly affected, their televote will be immense. The Russian diaspora will probably vote twice as hard than usual, to show support to mother Russia who they think is being treated unfairly, and the silent fan base of Putin could also get loud.

            Of course there will be a lot of people voting against Russia as well but their action will have less impact.. I would guess the leverage of one voting for is probably 200 times greater than for the one voting against.

            It’s also the possibility the twins will get booed on stage, and normal people will see two incredibly likable and innocent girls being attacked for something that clearly isn’t their fault = sympathy votes. This is just a theory though.

          • I agree with this point. It’s something I’ll be monitoring.

  5. There are HUGE problems between Latvia and Russia now. Everything news channels talk about is Ukraine and how crazy Putin and Russia is. No doubt diaspora vote will give some points to Russia, but juries will kill it.
    Having said that – I doubt very very much that Russia will stay in the semi. Has that EVER happened?

    • No, Russia has never failed to qualify. I dont think they will fail now either, although they are in the tougher semi. But only 6 will fail to qualify so I guess there is only a very small chance they’ll fail..

  6. If Peter Nalitch qualified from 2nd in 2010, there’s no way this won’t get through.. especially with it being one of the few uptempo songs this year.

  7. Only just got the chance to listen to this for the first time now, so here’s my thoughts, which as with every other country, I will be trying to keep objective and giving most of my consideration to the usual criteria:

    I feel this is a generally underwhelming and bland pop song that sounds like it may have been written in a hurry, although this judgement may be clouded by the fact that we’ve seen the recording taking place very close to the deadline. The girls are very telegenic and innocent, but I do fear that they will be so badly booed on the night that they may find it difficult to perform. No matter what Russia has done, I will feel deeply ashamed to be a Eurovision fan if the audience in attendance believes it’s appropriate to attempt to make two 17 year old girls cry on international television.

    It’s an extremely tough year for Russia with the political climate, but even in any other year, this is not a very good song by their standards. Russia will have plenty of usual allies in their semi final but as Gav and the other commentators have made clear, there is a very big question as to how many of them will turn their backs.

    I share Gav’s expectation that with a team that includes Kirkorov, Kontopoulos and GJ Borg, this song will be staged well, and probably coloured in white, so in my opinion, it is best to consider the political aspect as an afterthought to the strength of the package at rehearsals before deciding whether we can go so far as to say Russia, with a perfect qualification record, will not even make it into the top 10. However, instinct suggests that they will not quite make it into the top ten in the final this year, perhaps something like 12th-16th, which would be a realistically muted response from Europe to such a divisive and controversial issue. It’s way too easy to get lost in extremes when it comes to these matters.

    • Correction — …it is best to consider the political aspect as an afterthought to the strength of the package at rehearsals before deciding whether we can go so far as to say Russia, with a perfect qualification record, will not even make it into the top 10 [of the semi final.]

  8. Its always very hard to work out what affect outside events have on ESC voting.It does happen,no doubt about that though.
    It can however work in ways not expected.
    It is well known among shrewdies that Nicoles victory in 82 with Ein bißchen Frieden (A Little Peace) was because of the Falklands conflict.The British task force sailed on April 5th and the final in Harrogate was the 24th.The ESC voters didnt punish the UK for going to war (7th) but they did reward Germany the victory for the first time with an anti-war song.

    This evidence probably points to the current situation helping certain songs.Is there a song calling for peace and unity?.No but perhaps Iceland could pick up some votes for its message.?

    I think the likely outcome is that it will be Ukraine who pick up votes more than Russia lose them.The Baltic states are almost certain to send more points and the likes of Poland,Belarus and Moldova will probably hand 12s or 10s.The western countries could also see an increase in televotes for Ukraine as the eastern diaspora vote for their own country and Ukraine.Id expect the Polish diaspora in the UK for instance to vote Poland and Ukraine and that the UK will award both Poland and Ukraine the 8s,10s or 12s.

    If any of this affects the results only time will tell.How to play it as punters is probably to add 25 points to Ukraines score and knock 20 from Russia.

    I just hope the twins dont suffer any abuse on stage or in Copenhagen.That could see the diaspora even more inclined to vote for them and isnt what ESC needs.

    • When i say ESC voters in 82 of course i meant ESC jury voters not televotes.That also confirms that juries as well as televoters are affected by outside events.The question is the extent.

    • I think it’s probably right that Ukraine will gain more points from jury than Russia will lose. I have been doing an individual study and I’m interviewing 4 well respected musicians here in Iceland (1 of them has sat in the jury). Each person comes from a different musical background. I asked them to place the top ten (couldn’t ask for more unless paying them) of bookies favorite in right order according to song + performance + overall feeling. I might publish their total results here when it’s finished.

      The first one (the most radical one regarding politics) gave his rankings to me last night and I asked him if the politics had influenced his score to Ukraine, and he replied: “I feel sorry for Ukraine, I really do. I would be very happy to see them doing well this year because of their crises”. “Did this sympathy for Ukraine influence your result?” “I don’t think so but I really considered it”. “Did the situation in Europe affect your result regarding Russia? “No, and I don’t think the Russian’s girls will pay for Putin’s action, he is not competing is he? If the situation will have any impact I think it will be in favor to Ukraine”. “You gave Sweden and Russia the same ranking, why did you place Sweden higher?”: “I had to pick one of them higher”.

      It’s just a one potential juror’s opinion, but it’s pretty much in line with your analyses regarding the competition in 82. I guess it’s easier for jurors to be kind than cruel. I also remember some country giving Linus Svenning a 12 in the melody festivalen where the juror openly confessed it was because of his fascinating background story. Sympathy votes from jurors should not be under estimated.

      • Very interesting SirMills and i think that highlights just how it does work.
        The other telling thing to me is who eastern diaspora in western countries vote for.Poland will give Ukraine 10 or 12 votes almost certain.A lot of western countries have lots of Polish people.Will those Polish vote for Poland and Ukraine?.I think they will.
        The other key area is the Baltics.They have large Russian diaspora but they are also very upset over events.Ruudisss will be able to tell us what the feeling is there but id expect its very negative towards Russia and sympathy for Ukraine.

        There is another side.The Russian friendly people might also be more likely to vote to show their support for Russia.

        It will be interesting to see who Moldova,Azer,Belarus and Georgia go for over the two.
        What is certain is Russia arent winning ESC because i cant see any situation where they finish above Ukraine.Top Eastern block bet could be interesting if they dont include Armenia in it.

    • “This evidence probably points to the current situation helping certain songs.Is there a song calling for peace and unity?.No but perhaps Iceland could pick up some votes for its message?”

      There’s a song calling for “power to the people!” 😉

  9. That’s right Durhamborn, the Polish diaspora is large in Europe and they are widely spread as well. That is something to consider. I think they could make a great impact, especially if Poland stays in the semi. However the strength of sympathy votes is not quite as great as the strength of patriotic votes. I would guess the average sympathy voter could vote 1-3 times while the patriotic voter could vote 5-20 times.

    After hearing the new version of Ukraine as well as seeing the reasoning for a potential Ukraine success I have now decided I will not be on the lay side of the top 10 anymore. In fact I have already backed it into a slight profit both ways.

    • Thats a fantastic guide Gav,really interesting demographics.I presume the %s showing are per region not per country.Could Ukraine be still giving Russia big points?,that guide points to it.Belarus certain.Moldova,Latvia and Estonia the other big diaspora countries.For punters we will/should get a feel for things when we see the first points come in from those countries.Likely the diaspora will hold up but the neutral vote wont.
      The other scenario is that the likes of Belarus might punish Ukraine,not Russia and we could see them getting less votes from usual allies.
      Belarus are the most likely country to point to whats going on as every year the give the big points to Russia and Ukraine.
      If they both get the 8s,10s,12s its normal.If one slips down and the other doesnt there is an affect.
      It would be very nice if Belarus got to give their votes first.

      • I’m very confident that the Ukraine jury will rank Russia very low, thus voiding the televote. Given the song quality, the jury members are well within their rights to do just that.

        I would still expect the Baltic juries to negate their diaspora too. Moldova however, are more difficult to read. I reckon it’ll be lower than their average 8 points though.

        • Yes the fact the Russian song is so average gives juries cover.
          I have no doubt Russia will suffer but im more interested in how Ukraine are affected.Given i think they have the best up-tempo song by far (including Denmark) a few votes here and there (and draw) could be crucial on reaching top 10,ew top 4 etc.
          Im also very interested in Ukraine for the semi win/top3.With Russia suffering they might only have Armenia to beat.A cover bet on top 3 to cover the win is on my radar.

          • I would say Estonia has the best upbeat song this year along with the UK (more mid-tempo)

          • I’m agreeing with you up to a point Gav with the Estonian entry. Though I wouldn’t go as far as calling it the best upbeat song, I think the Estonian song is the most under rated entry on the market.

            I have a theory that the betting market was infected by the fact many people didn’t get their favorite Estonian entry so they quite harshly dismissed Tanja’s potential in some kind of a frustration.

          • does the polish entry not qualify as upbeat? if so then that’s my favorite. 40 million views on youtube now hehe!

          • Yes Rob, it is upbeat. But it’s only accessible to a narrow group of people. I’m not sure the juries will be as receptive to it. I remain open minded, but I fear another Montenegrin 2013 result.

          • I totally agree that Estonia is very underrated this year. Tanja has very impressive vocals and probably the best live. At least here in Baltic states I bet nobody can dance while singing that perfectly. She is really a world class artist. And it is the only dance song in semifinal 1 (I don’t include Portugal here), surrounded by ballads, it is memorable and could impress both juries and televoters.
            Just a reminder: this is live – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2MqojuvtU3c

            About Russia’s political situation, I can see Russia giving high marks to Ukraine, because Russia gave 10 points to Georgia in 2010. They might also give high points to Estonia for Tanja’s name. At least Russian televoters won’t ignore that.

  10. you have to worry for the live vocal on this as the recording doesn’t even sound that well sung to my ears.

  11. I truly expect Ukraine to give Russia points. The situation in Ukraine is not as simple as to say “Ukraine hate Russia and the jury will therefor punish it to make a statement”. First of all the Ukrainian nation is split, some people want to have Europe as an ally and feel Russia is violating them, but some Ukrainian people want to have Russia as an ally and feel the western countries are bullying them. We can’t exactly know in which group the 5 individual of the jury will be in.

    Let’s say all the 5 members of the jury belong to the former group, and passionately hate Putin and Russia’s actions, the case is still not that simple. Each of every member of the jury is very likely to have a Russian great grandfather somewhere up their gene tree, Russian friends, Russian colleagues, Russian lover, Russian daughter or maybe all of the mentioned 20 % of Ukrainians are Russians, there are probably lots of Russian people around them that they truly love. They are all deeply connected to the same root and that factor should not be under estimated. This factor applies even more so to the Baltic states.

    Last year Ukraine gave 12 points to Belarus, 10 points to Azerbaijan, 8 points to Moldova but punished Russia’s western approach with only 4. This year Russia has not a western approach but more like Azerbaijan last year, with both song’s equally stinging my western ears on first listening. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and UK didn’t award Azerbaijan a single point last year, still they managed a 2nd place.

    I would be careful in reading too much into Russia’s potential based on western ears or western opinions regarding politics.

  12. Are there any clips of the sisters doing a recent performance (of any song)? Have been searching without any luck.

    • I would keep an eye on the forums. That’s where they will appear first. Given the song was rushed, I don’t think we’ll hear them live until rehearsals.

  13. Well there are any harmonies in the song, so I reckon they’ll do fine vocally.

  14. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gudkFIM8i4I a sneak peak of their staging, what do you think guys?

  15. If you want a level playing field Russia should be banned from the Eurovision Song Contest. To me, starting a major political issue in another participating country (Ukraine) is completely out of order and should be punishable by the EBU. If that wasn’t enough, they banned homosexuality and there is a large homosexual viewership for the Eurovision Song Contest.
    What I am trying to say is that Russia should not be allowed participate until they clean up their act and sort out their deplorable human rights records.

    • I don’t think this is the right place for political statements such as yours. We are interested in analysis and predictions of the contest here. Sometimes that factors the politics in, but there is no reason to stir up hatred. Russia has a lot of enthusiastic Eurovision fans and the contest has always been able to achieve where governments have failed, international fans connecting and leaving ideological borders behind.
      I could tell you a number of reasons why the governments of nations like Germany, France and UK also have a lot of blood on their hands, destroy the planet and should be banned following your logic, but as I already said: This is not the place for political debate.

  16. Alternatively they should be allowed proceed with their rubbish entry and watch Ukraine and Austria finish above them!

  17. The reason Ireland finished last was because its mean average jury position was 16,21
    and 14,62 in the televote…. that is to say outside everybodys points except for UK & Sweden.
    And they were all right, it was awful.

  18. Some people are really stupid, why do you think it’s all about politics? It’s all about music and bringing something good to all people. You are so hypocritical because you claim that everybody is equal and want to help LGBT and so on but at the same time you hate all russians and you judged not the song but that situation with Ukraine. hoooow nice it is

    • People here don’t try to judge the song by their own liking, but rather by how they believe others will vote (anything else would be suicide, as this is a betting forum and not a fan forum). This year many made the mistake of believing the political situation would have a very negative impact on Russia’s chances. On the other hand, many found Russia top10 @4.00 to be excellent value.

      …the song was still crap, though 😉

  19. Helga, if you were refering to my comment, it was a prediction. As it turns out it was an incredibly accurate prediction. It in no way reflects my opinions or values but for the record the Russian entry was absolute rubbish only aided by political voting. Also, I was delighted by Conchita’s win especially since I backed her at 40/1. Furthermore I did not view or judge her in any possible way except as an amazing artist. I think she would be happy with that.

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