During the mid-1990s, the Eurovision Song Contest changed dramatically. In 1993, 3 new countries that previously competed as part of Yugoslavia debuted in Millstreet in Ireland. The following year, a further 7 new countries from across the former Eastern Bloc debuted in Dublin. Eastern Europe had arrived en-masse at Eurovision.
It was around this time that the phrase New Europe was coined – referring to all the new nations emerging across the map from the collapse of communism. It’s been argued their arrival at Eurovision during the 1990s reinvigorated the contest and was the beginning of the modern contest as we know it now.
As Eurovision is about bringing all of Europe together, I decided to have a look at the parallels between Eurovision’s older entrants and newer nations – and I was surprised by some of the connections I noticed! Just take a look!
Portugal / Lithuania
Both Portugal and Lithuania had rather disappointing Eurovision debuts, both leaving their first contest with nothing. And sadly for them, things haven’t really got much better. Neither has managed to place higher than 6th in all their attempts – almost 5 decades of trying in Portugal’s case!
Ok, so Lithuania have only been at 17 contests since 1994 and have qualified for more Eurovision finals since 2004 (8 times against Portugal’s 3). Maybe it’s unfair to compare them to Eurovision’s always-the-bridesmaid-but-never-the-bride. But it’s still interesting that neither of them has ever placed higher than 6th – even with Lithuania’s declaration “We Are The Winners!” in 2006! Will either of these seemingly luckless nations ever crack the Eurovision code and win?
Finland / Montenegro
Not 2 countries you’d immediately think of as having much in common, but never has the phrase “from the sublime to the ridiculous” been more apt than for this pair! Over the decades, Finland has sent many different genres to the contest: Metal, pop, ballads, disco, ethno, whatever Pump Pump was supposed to be… they’ve done almost everything!
Montenegro are relative newcomers to Eurovision, but in 8 appearances they too have always sent something different. Ok, so 2014 and 2015 were both ethnic Balkan ballads, but when you consider their other 6 entries have spanned alternative rock, pop, disco, rap and also the epic Igranka in 2013… it’s a very diverse back catalogue! Let’s hope that in the same way a bold idea paid off for Finland with Lordi, when Montenegro find their winning formula for Eurovision we’ll be well and truly blown away!
Israel / Bosnia & Herzegovina
For this pair it’s not so much their results that matches them together, but the circumstances of their debuts. Israel first entered Eurovision in 1973 – just one year after 11 Israeli athletes were killed by terrorists at the Olympics in Munich. Amid fears the contest would be a target for a similar attack, especially with Israel now taking part, security at Eurovision 1973 was tight – the audience even being warned to stay in their seats or risk being shot!
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s debut didn’t require such drastic security, but was no less a hair-raising story. The Bosnian delegation had to flee Sarajevo whilst being shot at, as the city was under siege during the Yugoslav wars. During their daring escape, their conductor was left trapped in Bosnia while the rest of the team made it to Millstreet in Ireland. There was even talk of making this incredible true story into a movie!
United Kingdom / Azerbaijan
This might seem like a really weird pairing, but hear me out! Both the United Kingdom and Azerbaijan started out very strongly at Eurovision. The UK regularly featured in the Top 10 in the contest’s earlier years and has placed 2nd a record 15 times! Similarly, Azerbaijan only had to wait 4 years for their first win and didn’t place outside the Top 10 for the first 6 years they took part!
So now what? Well, let’s be honest. The UK have never recovered from that “nil points” incident in 2003 – finding themselves in the bottom 10 countries EVERY year since 2012! Azerbaijan hasn’t fallen so far or so hard, but they do seem to be on a slippery slope. After landing in 22nd place in Copenhagen, they’ve yet to rediscover that golden touch and are now more likely to be found around the middle of the scoreboard. Can either of these countries reverse their fortunes?
Sweden / Ukraine
What can I say? Sweden are undisputedly one of Eurovision’s most successful countries. 6 wins, 38 Top 10 places (out of 56 appearances!), a selection event almost as popular as the contest itself, and of course, we have them to thank for ABBA!! I mean, it’s just not Eurovision without Sweden, is it?!
So why pair them with Ukraine? No, it’s not just because the flags are the same colours. Ukraine have placed in the Top 10 9 times in 13 appearances and as of 2016 is the first country from Eastern Europe to win the contest twice. Furthermore, 1944 is currently Eurovision’s highest EVER scoring winner. Impressive back catalogues, record breaking songs… Ukraine is determined to follow in Sweden’s footsteps into Eurovision glory – and I for one think they can do it!
What do you think? Can you think of any other countries with similar Eurovision experiences? Let us know in the comments!
Author: James Scanlan