Ukraine’s Eurovision win exhibits us that regardless of arguments on the contrary, the competition has at all times been political


The 66th version of the Eurovision Tune Contest was held in Turin, Italy on Saturday evening. The extravaganza didn’t disappoint in delivering our annual dose of ballads, bops and politics.

The reply to the query of whether or not Eurovision is political is at all times sure, however with varied {qualifications}. In any case, can a contest of countries ever be actually apolitical?

Can tradition and politics ever be extracted from one another? Isn’t all artwork political?

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine offers an inevitable backdrop to understanding this 12 months’s Eurovision competitors. This context infuses a extra particular that means into the usual platitudes of peace and unity which are typically included as a part of the present.

Host nation Italy’s choice to start the grand closing with a rendition of Lennon’s Give Peace a Likelihood set the tone for the 2022 contest.

State politics and values politics

Eurovision claims to be apolitical. Its well-known politics rule states: “the Eurovision Tune Contest shall in no case be politicised and/or instrumentalised and/or in any other case introduced into disrepute in any means.” In follow, it focuses primarily on direct expressions of state-based politics.

For instance, Belarus was excluded final 12 months for lyrics perceived to be mocking protesters of the Lukashenko authorities. (They have been finally ejected totally from the European Broadcasting Union – Eurovision’s organising physique – for suppressing journalists’ freedom of speech.) Georgia withdrew in 2009 when the EBU rejected its entry for being a barely-concealed dig at Putin.

Against this, performances that categorical values-based politics – love, peace, tolerance, acceptance, and unity – are the bread-and-butter of the competition. However this has not at all times been constantly utilized.




Learn extra:
‘Strolling by way of Europe’s door, singing’ – How Eurovision helps outline Europe’s boundaries (and why Ukraine will seemingly win)


In 2017 (in Kyiv, no much less), the EBU censured Portuguese artist (and eventual winner) Salvador Sobral for carrying a sweatshirt studying SOS Refugees to his press conferences. Sobral emphasised that it was “not a political message – it’s a humanitarian and basically human message”.

Salvador Sobral from Portugal celebrates together with his sister after he received the grand closing of the 62nd annual Eurovision Tune Contest on the Worldwide Exhibition Centre in Kyiv, Ukraine, 13 Might 2017.
EPA/ Sergey Dolzhenko

Sympathy and solidarity

There have been extra overt political statements made all through the night. Many voting spokespersons – normally these about to ship 12 factors to Ukraine – wore yellow and blue ribbons and even spoke straight in regards to the battle. A number of performers, akin to Iceland’s Systur and Germany’s Malik Harris, caught Ukrainian flags on their devices.

The Icelandic delegation aren’t any strangers to flag-based political statements. In 2019, the EBU fined Iceland when artists Hatari held up scarves in assist of Palestine throughout their televote outcomes. The distinction between 2019 and 2022 within the accepted interpretation of the foundations is that Ukraine will not be a “contested territory”. The same controversy ensued when Armenian artist Iveta Mukuchyan held up a flag for Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory contested with Azerbaijan.

Ukraine’s victory has been framed by many as a sympathy vote, however this doesn’t give a full image of their success. Whereas political sympathy undoubtedly contributed to their final success over different favourites – the UK, Sweden and Spain – it is very important acknowledge that the folk-contemporary fusion featured in successful music Stefania has already confirmed in style with Eurovision audiences lately. In 2021, the Ukrainian entry Go_A got here fifth with their folk-EDM hit, Shum (and have been unplaced however in style within the cancelled 2020 cohort of songs). Ukraine are additionally thought-about a powerful Eurovision nation – they’re the one nation with an unblemished report of qualifying for the grand closing.

Eurovision is usually spoken of as a type of cultural diplomacy and a platform for international locations to show and acquire mushy energy. One other time period utilized in in style tradition research, participatory tradition, refers to how the general public don’t merely eat in style tradition however actively take part in its manufacturing, creation and meaning-making.

Eurovision and Ukraine’s landslide success within the in style vote demonstrates what we will consider as participatory diplomacy – when an viewers actively participates within the cultural platform to form their very own political message in response to what’s communicated to them.

Kalush Orchestra from Ukraine carry out in the course of the Grand Closing of the Eurovision Tune Contest at Palaolimpico area, in Turin, Italy.
Luca Bruno/ AP

A return to language variety

This 12 months, we noticed a return to language variety, with 11 out of the 25 grand closing entries that includes languages aside from English. Notably, it was the primary time since 2011 {that a} music in French didn’t function. The French entry was sung in Breton, the native dialect of France’s westernmost area, Brittany.

It was additionally the primary time since 1994 that Lithuania entered a music utterly in Lithuanian (their 2001 entry featured two Lithuanian verses in an in any other case English-language music). And, in fact, the successful entry was in a language aside from English for the second 12 months operating.

We will hope that this alerts an period of larger optimism in regards to the attraction of non-English songs on the contest and the facility of music to transcend language limitations.

The way forward for the competition

Historically, the successful nation hosts the following Eurovision. The EBU acknowledge that there can be “distinctive challenges” in internet hosting the 2023 contest. At present, it’s tough to foretell whether or not it will likely be doable to host in Ukraine itself. Ought to Ukraine be unable to host, it received’t be the primary time that one other nation has stepped in to help.

The occasions of this 12 months additionally spotlight that it may be time for the EBU to revisit its politics rule to make sure that it’s utilized constantly to the assorted conflicts its member states are concerned in.

And people member states would possibly look to Eurovision with a renewed appreciation for its diplomatic worth.



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