Song Contest

Cultural or Political Event?

In May the already 62nd Eurovision Song Contest took place in the Ukrainian capital Kiev. At the Eurovision Song Contest singers from various European states – and since some years as well from Australia – are competing. In 2017, Salvador Sobral won the competition and for the first time in the Song Contest history Portugal was ranked on the first place. However, besides the musical competition, the Song Contest certainly has a strong political dimension.

The political dimension has been very present in the current year, because the Russian contestant Julija Samoilowa was banned from traveling to Ukraine. The reason for this was that Samoilowa has visited the peninsula Crimea in 2015 and that she did not enter it via the Ukrainian country, but via Russia. This was seen as affront by Ukraine, as Russia is still illegally occupying the Ukrainian peninsula Crimea. Samoilowa has in the following been punished with a three-year travel ban to Ukraine. The European Broadcasting Union tried to mediate between Ukraine and Russia but has not been successful. Thus, Russia withdrew its participation from the Song Contest and announced that Julija Samoilowa will instead compete for Russia at next year’s Song Contest. But not only has the year 2017 been politically troublesome for the Song Contest, the year before was as well characterized by a political exploitation. The Ukrainian singer Jamala reminded with the title of her song “1944” of the Stalinist expulsions of the Crimean Tatars and won the competition. It may have helped her that many European states and their citizens sympathized with Ukraine and wanted to make a mark against Russian politics and the occupying of Crimea. Another political message was made by the Austrian singer Conchita Wurst, who won in the year 2014. She and her song were a symbol for equality, mutual respect and tolerance.

The Eurovision Song Contest strives for being a competition of the greatest musical talents, however, the political aspects play a major role. The voting for the winner of the competition has two parts. In a first step, the jury has to make its vote. In the following shows, which are live on TV throughout Europe, the audience has the chance to vote for its favourite artist. This vote of the audience is rarely unbiased. The voting behaviour of the respective states gives a good picture of the migration movements in Europe, as often the votes of one state are given to the one, where the most migrants come from. In addition, neighbouring countries like to vote for each other. Thus, the Eurovision Song Contest is officially a music competition, but the political situation of the participating states cannot be left out and have a major impact on the final voting result.