Rocking Russian grannies to build church with prize winnings

June 21, 2012

LONDON

A group of six Russian grandmothers who won second place in Europe’s Eurovision Song Contest have pledged to use their prize money to build an Orthodox church in their tiny home village.

The Buranovskiye Babushki, or Buranovo Grannies, appeared in traditional red smocks, headscarves and woolly boots at the extravaganza, hosted by Baku, Azerbaijan. They raised the roof with a disco number, “Party for Everyone,” sung in their Udmurt language, a distant relation of Finnish, with a chorus — “Come on and dance!” — in English.

The song, which also enthused about “putting out a white tablecloth” while the “dough is joyfully rising,” proved wildly popular with the young audience at the May 26 contest. The grannies attracted 259 votes, far ahead of most other glitzier pop stars. The contest was won by the Swedish singer Loreen, with “Euphoria.”

The Babushki’s manager, Maria Tolstukhina, told journalists May 28 that work on the church had already started in their home village of Buranovo, population 650, located about 1,000 kilometers east of Moscow. The first Orthodox service was held on the site of the new church May 30.

According to the Babushki website, Buranovo’s church was destroyed in 1939 during World War II and was not restored during the time of the Soviet Union. Villagers now have to travel 40 kilometers to the nearest church. The grannies “dream of building a church in their home village,” according to the site, which was “one of the main reasons for grannies to go to the stage.”

A prominent Moscow priest, Sergei Rybko, praised the group, whose previous hits include “ethno-pop” covers of the Beatles, Eagles and Deep Purple, for showing “high creative skills and spiritual strength as Orthodox Christians.”

“The Buranovskiye Babushki have shown the world it’s possible to live modestly — and not only for yourself and for human pleasures, but for the sake of high spiritual goals,” Rybko told the grannies in an open letter carried by the Interfax newsagency.

The Eurovision Song Contest, held yearly since 1956 by member-countries of the European Broadcasting Union, is one of the world’s longest-running TV spectaculars, attracting international audiences of up to 600 million.

Previous winners of the competition, in which each country submits a song and then votes for other entries to find the most popular, include Canada’s Celine Dion, who represented Switzerland in 1988, and Swedish super-group Abba, who swept to fame in 1974 with “Waterloo.”

A spokesperson for the Buranovskiye Babushki told the Itar-Tass newsagency May 31 the grannies were planning a tour of Russian cities and concerts in neighboring Latvia and Belarus, and had also received “a lot of offers” from Germany, France and Britain.

Speaking on May 27, President Vladimir Putin said he hoped to meet the Buranovo Grannies, whose song included references to “happy cats and dogs,” during a visit to their Udmurtia home region.

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