Eurovision is not (again this year) a simple song contest for Ukraine

This year’s participation of Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest, as in other years, has a political connotation. Not as clear as the Crimean Tatar Jamala, who won the 2016 contest singing the sufferings of her people and the persecution suffered by Stalin. However, it is clear enough to send the message inside Ukraine but also to the European public, especially in the countries with which it borders.

Alina Pash, who will represent Ukraine this year, is not just a petite rapper addressing the young audience. As it was not just a pop singer dressed as an Amazon warrior, the winner of Eurovision Ruslana, who then had an active involvement in the political life of her country, promoting the pro-Western wing of Ukraine. Of course, Jamala’s song was not just a melodic ballad – which is why it provoked so many reactions and protests from the apologists for the crimes of the USSR.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky himself comes from the show business, so he knows for a fact the influence it has on the general public, which is sometimes called an electorate. We also remember that he was elected president of a country of 40 million people, having previously starred in a very popular TV series, in which he played the president of the same country.

Zelensky tried – in the first two years of his term – to bridge the gap between the pro-Western majority and the pro-Russian minority, projecting the economic prosperity of the whole country as the main tool of this bridge, for example other countries like Belgium. At the same time ignoring those cultural differences that exist in different parts of Ukraine. Even differences in art and music, which are much more important than one unrelated can assume. For example, a musical instrument for Ukrainians is often not just a musical instrument. And so perhaps in 2020, shortly after Zelensky’s election, something unexpected happened: Kompza singer and organist Marina Krut, despite being a favorite, did not win the domestic competition and did not represent her country at Eurovision. To interpret this we must first refer to what the komba is.

The komba is one of the traditional Ukrainian musical instruments, it has 60 strings and in its traditional use it accompanied the telling of a story, often about the sufferings and adventures of Ukrainian folk heroes. Kombzar is the kompza organ player, the traditional folk troubadour of Ukraine. “Kombzar” is also the name of the main poetry collection of the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko, which is the “book” of the Ukrainian national consciousness. Every Ukrainian has read “Kombzar” at least once in his life.

Shevchenko himself had been persecuted by the tsarist regime for his “separatist” messages. The Kombzars, who – often former Cossack warriors, blind and ruthless – also roamed the villages of Ukraine, sang stories that reminded Ukrainians of their unique history. Separate from Russia. A story that the “official” Ukraine did not want to exaggerate in 2020.

This year something has changed, not to the extent of Jamala in 2016, but so that instead of the non-political participation in the two previous Eurovisions, Alina Pas appears. It is a representative of a very special region of Ukraine called the Transcarpathians. The picturesque Uzhhorod is more reminiscent of a city in Central Europe. Perhaps because it is geographically within walking distance of three EU countries (Slovakia, Hungary, Poland) and is inhabited by a mixture of ethnicities. All of her appearance, dress, grooming, and – most importantly – the dialect used by Alina Pas is the result of a mixture of all these peoples, which in addition to the Ukrainians includes more than 20 ethnicities, mainly Hungarians, Jews, Romanians, Slovaks, Russians, etc. And the multicultural coexistence of these peoples through their multifaceted involvement is possibly the message that Ukraine wants to send this year.


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