Miss USSR-UK: a beauty contest for the country that no longer exists

When I arrive at the beauty contest “Miss USSR UK”, a few women smile at me memorized smiles and telling me that I look “velikolepno”. Consultant in elocution trying to convince me that the submission form is no less important than the content of speech. But I came to this magnificent old building in East London not as a contestant. I’m here as an observer, trying to understand why this event is being held at all.

The contest “Miss USSR UK”, established in 2012 is a beauty contest, named in honor of the country which no longer exists for people who were not even born. The winner of the 2017 Anastasia Boyle is 23 years old and she was born three years after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Some residents of the former republics of the Soviet Union the idea of holding such a competition seems rather contradictory. The Baltic States have repeatedly criticized the idea that the Soviet occupation is to remember with nostalgia.

“We believe the concept of the competition is shameful. The Soviet legacy is not something that we should cherish, — reads the statement of the Embassy of Lithuania. — The Soviet Union was a backward totalitarian state, which brutally annexed the Baltic States during the Second world war.” As examples of the cruelty of the Soviet authorities in this statement refers to the mass deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia, suppression of anti-Soviet resistance and forced collectivization.

Lithuanian diplomats had already requested the deletion of all mention of Lithuania in this contest because of “inappropriate political and historical context.” However, in the contest “Miss USSR UK” still participating contestants representing Lithuania.

Other countries have tried to downplay the significance of this contest. Latvian diplomats in the United Kingdom refer to it as a private event with no relevance for Latvia. Estonian Embassy wrote me the same thing. As for me personally — I have Estonian blood, and I more than three years he lived in Russia — presence at such an event is the most masochistic step I ever made.

Usually blonde skillfully throw dust in the eyes, and I’m trying to convince a watchful guard, what if I can’t get to the press conference, an article in the newspaper will not appear. When we argue, I see two small children who run past with shiny dresses in hand. They smile. They are happy to be here.

As soon as I passed inside, begin to happen strange things. I meet the singer sonic, which tells me that once she was in Chechnya for its leader, Ramzan Kadyrov. “It was the President’s birthday, and I sang for him, and there was [Vladimir] Putin, and we met him after the concert and he said that he likes my music, likes my voice,” she says. I decided not to mention in our conversation about “concentration camps for gays” that are created under his leadership.

I see Yulia Titov, the organizer of the competition. Her red dress with a long full skirt. She stops beside me just enough to time to give me his card.

Last year Titov, who had been a club promoter, told the journal Artefact, the idea of the contest “Miss USSR UK” was born thanks to the contest “Miss Russia-great Britain”. “It was a lot of girls from the Baltic States and the former Soviet republics. I thought, well, why girls, for example, Kazakhstan needs to represent Russia?” she said in an interview.

The Germans use the term “ostalgia” to denote nostalgia for the times and culture of the GDR. But is it possible to consider “evil Empire” in those pink tones?

“I think that this is not about nostalgia for the Soviet Union as such, but rather about nostalgia for the USSR as a great power, — says Denis Volkov, sociologist “Levada-center”. — The annexation of Crimea turned out to be a very popular decision because it created a sense that Russia has again become a great power.” According to him, nostalgia is a symptom of “failed to successfully integrate into the new society.”

I watched as people photographed against the backdrop of the advertising sponsors of the contest. Took the pose, froze, lost place next. Took the pose, froze, lost place next. Smiled, pouted his lips, smiled, pouted his lips. It seems that all the participants and volunteers in a strange way are connected. “I met Julia about three years ago at Pizza Pomodoro”, — says the musician Tony Moore (Tony Moore) of the group Cutting Crew that competed at the contest. He with great tenderness spoke Titova told about how she managed to organize this contest, in spite of serious pressure. When I asked him about the significance of the name of this beauty contest, he replied: “I don’t know how to answer this question. I don’t think I know enough to answer it”. The honest answer, but it made me think about why so few guests of the competition reflect on the concept of “Miss USSR UK”.

Me smiling 15-year-old girl from Georgia. She seemed genuinely happy to be here. She enjoys the envy of her friends, and her nails are a natural manicure. It would be cruel to ask her how she relates to the fact that Russia invaded Georgia in 2008.

Male from Moldova, said that this competition strengthens the sense of community and is a real opportunity for people from different countries to communicate. Titov also has positioned this contest as a kind of “community where we help girls who had just arrived in the United Kingdom, to find new friends and new opportunities.”

Former member of Russia seems quite sincere in his admiration. She tells me that the language of this event is Russian and that they themselves are unable to choose clothes, because the dresses are distributed between sponsors. She makes critical comments about the organization of the competition and asks that I not call her name. I have a feeling that here all the former contestants a little nervous. I feel like I was back in Russia, but now everything is working in the field of marketing.

There comes a time for questions and answers. I don’t ask questions because I don’t hear any answers, and the security personnel did not allow me to come closer. In the bathroom I hear the girl calls the cleaner that mopped the floor. I also hear a heavy set man in an expensive suit tells the doorman that he is “unqualified staff”.

It is not surprising that these people do not like the guests of the event. I was in Moscow in may 2015, when it celebrated the Victory Day. My friend and crossed the bridge to buy food in the store, and as soon as we got off the bridge, the police told us that back we can’t. We began to argue. Then the police told us: “This is Russia, what can you do”.

Russian Gap, the London magazine for immigrants from Russia, published a very flattering article about the beauty contest “Miss USSR UK”. Perhaps I spoil everything. All actually looked velikolepno. But the competition still have to change the name.