Belarus Is Not Participating in Junior Eurovision for the First Time Ever. Here’s Why I Find That Surprising.
On the 2nd of September 2021, the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) and France Télévisions announced that nineteen countries were to participate in the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2021, one country being the Netherlands, which has participated in every edition of Junior Eurovision since its conception in 2003. Another country that has participated in every edition of Junior Eurovision since its conception is Belarus. That was… until this year. Yes, out of the nineteen countries participating this year, Belarus is not one of those. So, how did this happen?
Well, we’re gonna have to go all the way back to March, back when the adult version of Eurovision was starting to be organized. Belarus was originally going to participate with a song titled “Ya nauchu tebya (I’ll Teach You)”. Now, if you don’t know any words in Russian, or if you’re not fluent in Russian, you may not know what the controversy surrounding the song is all about. But if you look up the translation, then you’ll find that this song has a sort of political message. What kind of political message? Well, we’re gonna have to go all the way back to 2020.
On Sunday, the 9th of August 2020, Belarus held a presidential election between Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya and incumbent president Alexander Lukashenko. With a turnout of 84.17%, Lukashenko easily won the election with an overwhelming 80.10% of the votes against Tsikhanouskaya’s mere 10.12%. After the results were announced, approximately 500,000 citizens protested these results; Naviband, who represented Belarus at Eurovision in 2017, were among many who had protested.
Now, you may be asking why I brought up a presidential election that happened a year ago. Well, it’s because Alexander Lukashenko has been the president of Belarus since 1994, being the country’s first (and only, so far) president. 1994 is twenty-seven years ago (as of this article’s publishing); that’s almost three decades. That is an incredibly long time to serve as the head of a single country. A lot of countries have term limits on their heads of the country. In the United States, you can only serve two four-year terms as the president. Does that sound fishy enough to you?
And how does Lukashenko keep all that power for so long? It can’t just be because people think he’s a good president; it’s only gonna be so long before people eventually get tired of you and vote you out. That because Lukashenko isn’t using his charm to keep himself elected- he’s using authoritarianism. Did you know that Belarus is considered “Europe’s last dictatorship”? It’s called that for a good reason- Lukashenko, like all other dictators, represses free speech, arrests politicians who oppose his ruling, and commits election fraud. As a matter of fact, opposing presidential candidates such as Viktar Babaryka and Sergei Tikhanovsky have been arrested; they are political prisoners.
The fact that BTRC submitted a song defending this authoritarianism honestly disgusts me, and I know I’m not alone in this. Plenty of other people were disgusted by the song’s message as well; even the EBU was disgusted. The song was thankfully disqualified because Eurovision isn’t a political contest (or, at least, shouldn’t be a political contest because some people would say otherwise). And you know what? The EBU gave Belarus a second chance to submit an appropriate song, and they still went with their political message in their new song “Pesnyu pro zaytsa (Song About Hares)”. Because of this, the EBU announced this on the 26th of March.
“Well, why didn’t they just resubmit their 2020 contestants like plenty of other countries did?” you may be asking. And a spiteful part of me is wondering that, too. Yeah, Belarus’s 2020 entry “Da vidna” by VAL wasn’t a fan favorite at first, but it was a pretty decent song; I liked it. But the reason why BTRC didn’t reselect them was because the broadcaster claimed that VAL had “no conscience”. And what did that statement have anything to do with it? A lot- VAL showed supported for Lukashenko’s opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya; BTRC, on the other hands, supports Lukashenko.
And so, after all of this, BTRC was expelled from the EBU for at least three years on the 1st of July 2021. It’s a damn shame, too, because Belarus had sent some pretty good songs during its run in Eurovision, like in 2007, 2015, my personal favorite 2017, and 2020. The country’s Junior Eurovision songs are amazing, too. 2003, 2009, my favorite 2011, 2014, 2015, 2017, and 2020 are all great songs. What I find very surprising about this is that Belarus, along with the Netherlands, has participated in every edition of Junior Eurovision since its exception in 2003. So, it’s a damn shame to see that Belarus won’t be participating in this year’s edition. Junior Eurovision is a song contest for kids; politics should have no place in it at all. Leave the kids out of it, please!
If Belarus ever comes back, I hope they come back better than ever, I hope they don’t repeat the same mistakes they’d made in 2021, and I hope Belarus will be more free than it is right now. I would love to hear more amazing songs from them, but the national broadcaster and the country’s government itself have to get their acts together first if they want this, too. All I can say is, good luck, Belarus. I’m praying for you.