Opinion: The ESC is political

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Ukraine's victory at the Eurovision Song Contest in Turin showed once again that the music competition is not apolitical. And that's a good thing, says Andreas Brenner.

< p>Ukraine has won the Eurovision Song Contest for the third time. The country is currently experiencing the worst invasion since World War II and still took part in the music competition. It's as incredible as throwing one of the biggest parties in Europe while a brutal war rages on in the middle of the continent. 

With Ukraine's victory, the Eurovision Song Contest has freed itself from this dilemma and taken a clear political position. Kalush Orchestra made it easy for the ESC. The Ukrainians put on a great performance in Turin, which spectators recognized with the highest number of points. We will never know whether the song “Stefania” would have won the ESC under different circumstances. In any case, the national juries “only” put Ukraine in fourth place.

But the spectators had no other choice. First of all, Ukraine needs every support, as the band's frontman Oleh Psiuk pointed out. Secondly, the Eurovision Song Contest stands for peaceful coexistence, self-determination and joie de vivre – everything that the army of Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently trying to destroy. 

ESC has never been apolitical 

The votes for Ukraine sent a clear message to Russia: Europe and also ESC participants Australia will never accept the war. That was a political and a right decision. The competition was never apolitical anyway. Its very creation in 1956 brought together countries that had been fighting each other nine years earlier, in World War II. That was political. The first German victory in the Eurovision Song Contest in 1982 with Nicole's “A Little Peace” struck a chord with the times and the peace movement. 

The fall of the Iron Curtain opened the way to the ESC in Eastern Europe. Countries participating in the Eurovision Song Contest have repeatedly fought political disputes. Also Russia and Ukraine. But the victory of the Ukrainian Jamala in Stockholm in 2016 with the song “1944” showed whose side Europe is on after the annexation of Crimea. 

Russia has no place at the ESC 

1944 was the year when Crimean Tatars were deported from the peninsula by order of Stalin. Unlike “1944”, “Stefania” does not hide any political messages that are actually forbidden under the rules of the ESC. “Stefania” is a declaration of love to the mother, packed in Ukrainian in a mix of rap and folk. Yet another example of diverse Ukrainian culture and identity that Vladimir Putin consistently denies exists. 

DW editor Andreas Brenner

With his support for Ukraine, the Eurovision Song Contest showed that this country is a part of the European family. And the calls to help Ukrainians were seen by the organizer of the competition, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), as a humanitarian gesture – knowing full well what feelings the war in Ukraine arouses among the participants and the people of Europe. 

There is no place for Russia in this family. At the urging of several EBU members, it was expelled from the ESC shortly after the attack on Ukraine. To return to competition, Russia must be “deputinized.” This will take years, because the aversion to European values, which are universal values, has deep roots in the majority of Russian society.

However, a clear political positioning of the Eurovision Song Contest does not mean that politicians can use the music competition as an instrument. The ESC fan community is smart enough not to be patronized by politicians. She makes her own political decisions. The free spirit of the Eurovision Song Contest is also a key to its success and popularity, not only among fans. 

Respect for Ukraine – also at the next ESC

And if we smiled at the Norwegian “Wolves”, the exaggerated pathos of some ballads or a Serbian artist who washed her hands on the ESC stage, then that's OK. Fun is part of Saturday night. After all, this can also be over quickly, as the Russian attack showed. This invasion robbed many Ukrainians of the fun of the Eurovision Song Contest. Because it is hard to imagine that they enjoyed the evening just as carefree as the Spaniards, Poles or Italians.

The victory of Kalush Orchestra also has another bitter note. The winning country may host the next ESC. With Ukraine now devastated, this seems impossible, even if the war ends soon and Russia stops rocketing and bombing Ukrainian cities.

Another country will probably be the next Eurovision host the song contest, maybe the runner-up Great Britain. The EBU will find a solution. However, it must be such that Ukraine's performance is given due respect – as the spectators of the ESC 2022 did.