The views I present as I discuss North Macedonia’s participation in this year’s Eurovision Song Contest do not necessarily represent those of my employers.
Vasil opens up the video for his song for Europe “Here I Stand” talking about the fate of Eurovision 2020, saying, “When the Contest was cancelled last year, I was devastated. Dreams, gone.”
One year later, he finding himself on the cusp of losing that dream again.
Vasil recorded the official video for “Here I Stand” in a museum, and one of the pieces of art depicted colors resembling the flag of Bulgaria. This led to much criticism in North Macedonia for representing another country’s flag in the video. MRT, North Macedonia’s national broadcaster, released a recut video to remove the offending shot.
The criticism intensified as an old interview Vasil did with wiwiblogs began to recirculate. In it, he discusses how he has both North Macedonian and Bulgarian citizenship because he grew up close to the border. The question was raised of whether Vasil was North Macedonian enough to represent North Macedonia, and you know how well things go when a question like that comes up.
On top of that, Vasil has been receiving such intense nationalistic and homophobic abuse on his social media accounts that the newspaper Nova Makedonija described it as “јавен линч и говор на омраза,” which translates as “a public lynching and hate speech.”
In this environment, MRT announced on March 16, 2021:
“Macedonian Radio Television has established an internal commission to review and analyse all aspects arising from public reactions related to the Eurovision Song Contest. The public service broadcaster will also take into account the obligations noted in the participation license, as well as the obligations arising from the membership in the European Broadcasting Union, where MRT is an integral part of the public service association in the European Union. The public will be additionally informed about the final decision of MRT.”
This statement does not indicate if MRT is thinking of pulling out of the Song Contest just a few days after the Eurovision heads of delegation meeting, in which the final versions of each country’s entries are due. And yet it is easy to assume, based on the fact that MRT even announced this, that they are thinking of bowing to the pressure.
It’s bizarre to me that MRT would get cold feet over Vasil now, after supporting him for over a year and at a time where he would need support from his delegation the most. It’s one thing for Alyaksandr Lukashenka to stick up for Galasy ZMesta when their song that supports his strong-arm tactics against protesters was rejected by the EBU. It’s another for a broadcaster to consider throwing their own artist to the wolves when the question of his national worthiness is being raised.
When they rejected Belarus’s Eurovision entry, the EBU said in their statement that “recent reactions to the proposed entry risk bringing the reputation of the ESC into disrepute.” If they think that about the response to “Ya Nauchu Tebya (I’ll Teach You),” then what is their take on this?
When I first heard “Here I Stand,” I thought to myself, “That’s a nice song. Probably not going to make waves at Eurovision, but it’s the type of song I had wanted Vasil to send all along.” Now, hearing a deeply personal song called “Here I Stand” in context of what he is going through right now, it suddenly takes on a lot more power. I really hope his dream comes true.
Updated (23 March 2021): MRT concluded its internal review of “Here I Stand” and have backed Vasil as North Macedonia’s Eurovision representative. Whew!