Long-standing unrest in Belarus has spread to this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, with organizers kicking the country out of the competition for songs that repeatedly violated rules prohibiting political content.
The entry of the country’s original song, “Ya Nauchu Tebya” (I will teach you) by the band Galasy ZMesta, was criticized by opposition figures who claim that lyrics such as “I will teach you to follow the line” endorsed President Aleksandr G La Lukashenko’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests. Eurovision fans started an online petition asking the organizers to have Belarus withdraw from the competition.
This month the European Broadcasting Union, which organizes the international musical show, wrote to the Belarusian national broadcaster, BTRC, saying that the entry was not eligible to compete in the musical talent show in May this year in the Dutch city of Rotterdam.
“The song questions the apolitical nature of the contest,” the broadcasting union’s statement said.
Belarus had the opportunity to present a modified version of the song or a new melody. But after evaluating the replacement, the union said in another statement late Friday that “the new submission also violated the rules” and that Belarus would be disqualified.
Belarus was dominated for weeks by large-scale protests last year after Lukashenko claimed a landslide victory in what many Western governments said were sham elections in August. Later, his security forces brutally repressed the mass demonstrations.
Both songs that the Eastern European nation entered Eurovision this year were criticized for what many viewed as pro-government lyrics and imagery. The band that performs the songs, Galasy ZMesta, was also found to have what could be construed as an anti-protest message on their website, targeting people who are “trying to destroy the country we love and live in”, and He added: “We cannot remain indifferent” towards them.
The Eurovision rules establish that the event is not political and that “letters, speeches, gestures of a political, commercial or similar nature will not be allowed” in the contest.
Belarus began competing in Eurovision in 2004 and has featured a contestant every year since then, so it knew what it was doing by inputting songs that contained political messages, said Oliver Adams, a correspondent for Wiwibloggs, a widely read Eurovision news site. .
Although the coronavirus pandemic halted the Eurovision 2020 grand finale, more than 180 million people watched the contest in 2019. As the world’s oldest annual televised music competition, it has accumulated a large number of enthusiastic fans.
The contest, which began 65 years ago, cemented its place last year as a cultural phenomenon with a Netflix movie gently poking fun at its eccentricities and obsessive fanaticism.
It’s rare for countries to send out tunes with political overtones at Eurovision, but it’s happened before. Georgia submitted the song “We Don’t Wanna Put In” for the 2009 contest held in Moscow, but the organizers rejected it as containing obvious references to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, including the pun on the title of the song. Georgia withdrew from the competition that year, but denied that the song contained “political statements.”
This year, Armenia also withdrew from Eurovision. His public announcer attributed the decision in part to the political consequences of the conflict with Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
“This is not the first time that political tension has made its way into the Eurovision sphere,” said Mx. Adams, who uses the gender-neutral courtesy title instead of Mr. or Mrs.
“These Eurovision foreign bubble problems sometimes seep into the contest,” he added, “but ultimately they will never break it.”