National Promotion and Eurovision: from Besieged Sarajevo to the Floodlights of Europe
The Eurovision Song Contest, as an important part of the entertainment industry, has offered European countries a platform for national promotion. The original format has developed over 60 years and has come under scrutiny and criticism as allegations of block voting, politics and nationalism have been raised. It has also been argued that similarity of cultures, linguistic connections, and close national identities, rather than national interests and politics, are what actually bring countries together in this competition. This study has two focuses in an attempt to determine what role the contest has had for participating countries and how they have used it. The first focus is on analysing historical incidents at the competition when countries have attempted to politicise the contest. The second focus and the main part of the study is a thorough investigation into the organisation of the first Bosnian-Herzegovinian delegation to participate in Eurovision, their escape from besieged Sarajevo and their participation at the contest in Ireland in 1993. After taking into account the history of the contest and the specific case study of Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1993, the conclusion is that, although cultural similarities exist, the politics of national promotion do also play an important role in the competition and, in countries sending such entries, actually influences audiences at home towards stronger national pride and self-identification. Therefore, one might argue that the festival has been hijacked from the entertainment industry by political leaderships, especially those that have based their legitimacy on nationalism. Hence the success stories coming from the “New Europe”.
Neven Andjelić is Senior Lecturer in International Relations and Human Rights at Regent’s University London. He is also an expert member of the Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities. Neven is Visiting Professor at the University of Bologna. Originally from Sarajevo, he was a journalist in pre-war Sarajevo where he was a leader in the anti-war movement. After the first year of war he left Sarajevo and settled in London. He worked for CNN for 15 years and was also working at several British universities. He was a Fulbright Visiting Scholar at UC Berkeley in 2006/2007. He received his DPhil from the University of Sussex. Neven’s main publication is Bosnia-Herzegovina: The End of a Legacy (London: Frank Cass, 2003).
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1. Are the professionals involved in the Eurovision Song Contest unaware of the widespread practice of the political use of Eurovision for the purposes of national self-promotion?
2. How do you define “political song”? What are the markers of “political song” and “non-political song”?
3. Does geopolitics play an significant role in the Eurovision Song Contest and if yes, how? Illustrate your position using one example.
4. Can the Eurovision Song Contest function as element of state/nation promotion and if yes, how does it take place? Describe your standpoint using one example outside of the region of Southeastern Europe.
5. Describe main markers of state/nation promotion of Bosnia and Herzegovina through the Eurovision Song Contest during the 1990ies. Compare those insights with your insights related to example from previous question.