Geopolitics of Eurovision: Echoes of Yugoslavia

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 5/19/2013 10:37:00 AM
Formerly known as the Cold War Studies programme, LSE IDEAS has always been focused on post-1989 events in that part of Europe. As out founders keep saying, understanding the Cold War is key to understanding the current era of globalization. I need not remind anyone that the wars there were especially long and awful after the collapse of the former Yugoslavia. Although Western commentators tend to uniformly portray Soviet-era strongmen in a negative light, I have always had a more sanguine view of Josep Broz Tito. Say what you will about his methods, but centuries-long ethnic hatreds that were again to erupt after the Iron Curtain's demise were mitigated to a significant extent during his reign. It was not uncommon, for instance, for Serbs and Croats to train side by side for international sporting competition and regard it as unexceptional. But then came the deluge.

Fortunately, there remain commonalities amongst these erstwhile rivals that gives you hope in humanity. For, in recent times, former Yugoslavs have stuck by each other in voting for the Eurovision Song Contest. The 2013 event held yesterday night in Malmo, Sweden was like always--small-"n" European nationalisms thrown together with talent and no small amount of cheesiness, It's perhaps not such a big deal in the rest of the world, but Europeans have always loved the competition's mixture of good-natured fun and Euro-kitsch. In more jovial surroundings, it turns out that the former Yugoslavs have no small amount of love for their neighbours despite everything (and Ukrainians and Georgians for Russians elsewhere, etc.):
In addition to media analyses, serious academic studies have been conducted on Eurovision Song Contest (phone in) voting patterns. While geographic proximity alone may not decide how Europeans vote--studies suggest talent plays a part, too--it does help a contestant to do better when they both come from a prominent "voting bloc" and show some real skill. Even this year the former Yugoslavs were active this year despite being depleted of contestants in the later rounds:
We all know that this bloc has been particularly one of the most predictive blocs voting-wise. Hypothetically speaking, if one former Yugoslavian country qualified, the Scandinavian and ex-Soviet blocs would not be affected because that lone former Yugoslavian qualifier would maximize its monopoly from its bloc as much as possible.
Perhaps a better demonstration of their affection for one another came last year when Serbia finished third:
Serbia came third with a very good ballad sung by a very good international performer, his voice was strong and powerful. Four countries gave Serbia 12 votes [the number of points given to a song receiving the most votes in a particular country], all are geographical neighbours. Ten countries gave Serbia 10 or 8 votes - only two of those countries are anywhere near Serbia.
The Swedish hosts understand the appeal of Eurovision along these lines in IR terms:
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt, who watched the competition in Malmo Saturday, called it a unique event that unites Europe. "We see the old Yugoslavia, now independent states, after a decade of war they always vote for each other in Eurovision, " Bildt told The Associated Press. "That I think is fun."
Indeed, the voting table from 2012 says it all: eventual third-place finisher Željko Joksimović of Serbia received maximum points from Bulgaria, Croatia, Monenegro and Slovenia. Amidst the rubble of even the worst of conflicts, there is always hope that old enmities can be transcended by the better part of human nature. As my previous intuition suggested, let Eurovision show us the way forward for European Union. Where most EU initiatives fail to create a sense of "Europeanness," Eurovision succeeds--at least in part. In this day and age when the whole integration project is in question, studying successful examples should help.