Political controversies. As artists and songs ultimately represent a country, the contest has seen several controversial moments where political tensions between competing countries as a result of frozen conflicts, and in some cases open warfare, are reflected in the performances and voting.
The continuing conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has affected the contest on numerous occasions. Conflicts between the two countries at Eurovision escalated quickly since both countries began competing in the late 2000s, resulting in fines and disciplinary action for both countries’ broadcasters over political stunts, and a forced change of title for one competing song due to allegations of political subtext. Interactions between Russia and Ukraine in the contest had originally been positive, however as political relations soured between the two countries so too have relations at Eurovision become more complex. Complaints were levied against Ukraine’s winning song in 2016, “1944”, whose lyrics referenced the deportation of the Crimean Tatars, but which the Russian delegation claimed had a greater political meaning in light of Russia’s annexation of Crimea. As Ukraine prepared to host the following year’s contest, Russia’s selected representative, Yuliya Samoylova, was barred from entering the country due to having previously entered Crimea illegally according to Ukrainian law. Russia eventually pulled out of the contest after offers for Samoylova to perform remotely were refused by Russia’s broadcaster, Channel One Russia, resulting in the EBU reprimanding the Ukrainian broadcaster, UA:PBC. In the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent protests from other participating countries, Russia was barred from competing in the 2022 contest, where Ukraine went on to win. Georgia’s planned entry for the 2009 contest in Moscow, Russia, “We Don’t Wanna Put In”, caused controversy as the lyrics appeared to criticise Vladimir Putin, in a move seen as opposition to the then-Russian prime minister in the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War. After requests by the EBU for changes to the lyrics were refused, Georgia’s broadcaster GPB subsequently withdrew from the event. Belarus’ planned entry in 2021, “Ya nauchu tebya (I’ll Teach You)”, also caused controversy in the wake of demonstrations against disputed election results, resulting in the country’s disqualification when the aforementioned song and another potential song were deemed to breach the contest’s rules on neutrality and politicisation.
Israel’s participation in the contest has resulted in several controversial moments in the past, with the country’s first appearance in 1973, less than a year after the Munich massacre, resulting in an increased security presence at the venue in Luxembourg City. Israel’s first win in 1978 proved controversial for Arab states broadcasting the contest which would typically cut to advertisements when Israel performed due to a lack of recognition of the country, and when it became apparent Israel would win many of these broadcasters cut the feed before the end of the voting. Arab states which are eligible to compete have declined to participate due to Israel’s presence, with Morocco the only Arab state to have entered Eurovision, competing for the first, and as of 2022 the only time, in 1980 when Israel was absent. Israeli participation has been criticised by those who oppose current government policies in the state, with calls raised by various political groups for a boycott ahead of the 2019 contest in Tel Aviv, including proponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in response to the country’s policies towards Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, as well as groups who take issue with perceived pinkwashing in Israel. Others campaigned against a boycott, asserting that any cultural boycott would be antithetical to advancing peace in the region.