Following the fall of the Communist bloc in the early 90’s, many former communist countries from east Europe joined the contest as a step of approaching towards the west. Not less than 7 former communist countries joined in 1994 alone and not less than 25 of these would join the contest till 2008. Among the most successful of these countries is Russia who won the contest once in 2008 thanks to Dima Bilan and his song “Believe” and then hosted it in 2009.
In order to host the contest, the Russian national broadcast Channel One and the EBU cooperated and ended up choosing the Russian capital city of Moscow as the host city. The host venue was the Olimpiysky Arena which held up to 25,000 spectators. The contest was scheduled to take place on the 12th, 14th and 16th of May with the first two dates set for two Semi-Finals and with the last date set for the Grand Final.
In order to host the shows, Channel One chose two couples of hosts with one couple hosting the Semi-Finals and the second hosting the Grand Final. The hosts of the Semi-Finals were Russian model Natalia Vodianova and TV host Andrey Malahov. Given the roles of hosts of the Grand Final were TV personality Ivan Urgant and Russian singer and representative of Russia for Eurovision Song Contest 2000 Alsou Abramova.
The contest of 2009 would be the first contest since 2001 which won’t have a slogan. Instead, Channel one presented a sub-slogan of a fantasy bird which can be customised in various colour combinations. It was presented along with the generic Eurovision Song Contest logo. The stage was designed by John Casey who formerly designed the stage of the 1997’s edition of the contest. The stage’s design was inspired by the Russian “Avant-Garde” movement. The stage itself had many elements which were movable. This gave the option to every performance to look different than the others.
The postcards had all the same design. At first Miss World 2008, Ksenia Sukhinova appeared on the screen followed by the appearance of iconic buildings, monuments and sights from the upcoming country. Then Ksenia would appear again wearing a hat with the sight shown before on it. The postcard would end with a phrase in Russian along with its translation to English. A dispute over the Armenian postcard rose following a complaint on behalf of Azerbaijan as the postcard showed a monument located in the Nagorno-Karabakh area which is de jure a part of Azerbaijan. The postcard was edited prior to the Grand Final. Yet, this did not prevent the Armenians from presenting their votes from a clipboard decorated with a picture of the same sight during the voting procedure in the Grand Final.
Watch all the postcards here:
A total of 42 countries performed on stage in Moscow with Slovakia coming back to the contest after their last participation in 1998. San Marino would not come back to the contest due to economic reasons. Although it expressed its intention to participate at first, Georgia would be absent due to its entry’s lyrics which seem to contain political lyrics as the song is called “We Don’t Wanna Put In” with the words “Put In” sounding alike with the Russian prime minister’s name Putin. The song comes just a short time after an armed conflict between Russia and Georgia.
Greek singer Sakis Rouvas came back to the contest for his second appearance representing Greece with “This Is Our Night”. Malta was represented by the runner up of 2005 Chiara with her song “What If We”. Icelandic singer Fridrik Omar who formerly represented the country in 2008 came back as a backing vocalist for Yohanna along with Hera Bjork who would represent the country in 2010. After being a backing vocalist in the 2003 Croatian and 2007 Slovenian entries, Slovenian singer Martina Majerle came back to the contest to represent Slovenia along with the band Quartissimo.
The voting procedure saw a major modification in it with the re-introduction of the juries after these were not used by the majority of the participating countries in recent edition prior to 2009. It was decided that as of 2009 the qualifiers from both Semi-Finals would be chosen as the top 9 countries of the Semi-Final and a tenth qualifier which will be the entry given the wildcard of the Semi-Final. As for the Grand Final, all countries were asked to gather a jury team of 5 juries per country all coming from the music industry which will rank their top 10 songs. 12 points were awarded to the song with the highest sum of points from the juries, 10 to the second-best and so on till the 10th best. This step was taken in order to weaken the influence of biased blocks and diaspora voting on the final results.
At the end of the voting, the victory was in the hands of Norway and Belarus born Alexander Rybak who, with his entry “Fairytale” won the contest with a record-breaking score of 387 points with all of the participating countries voting for his entry with the lowest vote being 2 points from Bulgaria and with 16 votes of 12 points with 7 out these coming from former USSR countries.
Watch the voting and the winning performance here: