The Eurovision Song Contest: a socio-geo-historical game

  • 2011-05-18
  • By Rokas M. Tracevskis

PLAYFUL PATRIOTISM: Reaction to Lithuania’s song in the crowd, which watched the Eurovision Song Contest on a huge screen in Rotuses Square in the Vilnius Old Town on May 14.

VILNIUS - The Eurovision Song Contest is a peculiar phenomenon: everybody curses it due to its too ‘poppy’ level, but everybody in Europe watches it anyway. Eurovision has an audience of 125 million people and is the most watched musical event in the world. On May 14, a crowd of a couple of thousand Eurovision fans, with some Lithuanian tricolors (the Spanish national flag colors were also in the crowd), watched the contest on a huge screen in Rotuses Square in Vilnius’ Old Town.

This year jury of Lithuanian music experts, as well as Lithuanian TV viewers voting via SMS and phone calls, elected Evelina Sasenko, who studies jazz in the Lithuanian Academy of Music and Theater, and her song C’est ma vie (music by Paulius Zdanavicius and lyrics by Andrius Kairys) to represent Lithuania at Eurovision in Dusseldorf, Germany, where 43 countries were competing. The fact that Sasenko, who speaks Lithuanian with a barely noticeable Polish accent, is a Lithuanian Pole (the Polish version of her name is Ewelina Saszenko) was interesting in the context of the current hostility by Poland towards Lithuania.

The fact is that after Eurovision’s semi-final on May 10, when Sasenko managed to get into the final was greeted with joy by Lithuanians. According to an Internet poll by on May 11, only five percent of Lithuanians estimated this achievement negatively, and only 18 percent stated that they are not interested in Eurovision, while the rest were happy with Sasenko’s success. Regardless, some Lithuanian Poles, who seem to be brainwashed by Valdemar Tomasevski’s nationalistic Polish Electoral Action-controlled media, wrote in Polish: “Wilno [the Polish name for Vilnius] is ours!”, “Lithuania is ours!” and “Tomasevski for Lithuanian president!” but the absolute majority of commentators were happy about Lithuania’s success and ignored those Polish nationalist extremists.

Latvia was unlucky that Lithuania, which always gives many points to brother Latvians, was in another semi-final: Lithuanians could not vote for Latvia and Latvia did not manage to get into the final. Lithuania and Estonia made it to the final of 25 countries. In the final of May 14, viewers at home in all 43 participating nations voted for their favorite song by phone or SMS, which accounted for half of each country’s votes, while the other 50 percent was determined by five-member expert juries in each participating country.

Estonia, despite receiving seven points from Lithuania (Estonia gave no points to Lithuania), suffered a fiasco finishing second from the bottom. Lithuania took 19th place. Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Jamal of Azerbaijan, with their Swedish-produced typical Eurovision standard love song Running Scared, were crowned the winner of the Eurovision Song Contest 2011 while Italy’s Raphael Gualazzi took second place, followed by Eric Saade from Sweden. Last year’s winner, sexy teen Lena Mayer-Landrut, who represented Germany again, finished 10th.

Lithuania gave its maximum, 12 points, to Georgia, as usual. Georgia gave 12 points to Lithuania. During the last 20 years, Lithuania and Georgia were the most radical fighters against Russian imperialism and both nations feel mutual solidarity with each other, which cannot be harmed even by the popular Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, who is more cautious in relations with Georgia than her predecessor, Valdas Adamkus. Despite some political aspects in Lithuania’s voting, the Georgian rock entry was really fascinating.

Poland gave 12 points to Lithuania due to the Polish origin of Sasenko. The commentator of Poland’s main TV channel TVP (which was also re-broadcast by satellite Polonia TV) spoke about “the Polish blood” of the Lithuanian singer only, not saying a word about her song. That was a common expression of Polish nationalism.

It would be somehow understandable if a commentator of some Baltic nation would be so obsessed with some Baltic blood of some foreign singer, because the Balts are a vanishing species possibly living their history’s last century (according to the data of the Lithuanian census, the Lithuanian population dropped from 3.5 million in 2001 to 3.1 million in 2011), but such an obsession with ethnicity was rather weird coming from the lips of a commentator from one of the biggest European nations.
Lithuania traditionally received seven points from brothers Latvians, 10 points from Ireland, six points from the UK, three points from Norway, and one point from Spain. The latter four results can be mostly explained by SMS voting of patriotic Lithuanian emigres there. It is possible that they were joined by some Latvians and Poles, who had no representatives of their native countries in the final. The Lithuanian singer also got some points from Serbia, Croatia, Russia and Romania, which enjoy such songs in a good old style, as was the case with this year’s Lithuanian entry. Interestingly, Belarus gave no points to Lithuania.

“It is interesting to watch Eurovision. It is interesting to find out who is voting for whom. I like Sasenko. She has a perfect voice and I like her image. I always watch Eurovision if I’m not getting to sleep,” librarian Dalia Kiaupiene told The Baltic Times.
“It’s all political voting anyway. Of course, the UK would give Ireland top marks even if they were really awful. The fact that Jedward [this year’s Irish entry – twin guys who finished eighth] beat Blue [this year’s UK entry] is really funny. Jedward are a source of disbelief and embarrassment to most people. However I did quite like their Euro song, and to beat Blue, who thought they were the creme de la creme and were going to win hands down, really makes me laugh. I thought Blue were awful. I didn’t really like the winning song, I have to say, but that’s usually the case,” Norma McDonald, a resident of Scotland’s capital Edinburgh, told The Baltic Times. The UK, a bunch of ex boy-band in the ’90s men (but this really was their last chance to be in the limelight), came 11th.

“We showed that the song is also important. I’m happy that our country appeared with such a song, which has no show elements. It is great that we got into the final. Many countries, which usually get into the final, failed to do so this year,” Sasenko said at the Vilnius airport on May 15. She said that she would be happy if the Italian entry would win, because Italy’s song was not some cheap pop tune (Italy got 10 points from Lithuania and 12 points from Latvia – an indication that Eurovision may not be only about politics). Asked by journalists if she would like to be Lithuania’s representative at Eurovision again and if she would agree to represent Poland at Eurovision in the future, she answered positively to both questions.