After finishing 12th in its semi-final at Eurovision 2015 — thereby missing a spot in the grand final — Belarus went back to the drawing board. We expected changes and the first has already arrived. Earlier this week Gennady Davydko, the chairman of BTRC, said that Belarus will shift its focus to the Belarusian national language.
Belarus will once again hold a national selection in order to pick its act for ESC. But unlike in previous years, the selection committee will give preference to songs with Belarusian lyrics. Here’s how Davydko put it:
We intend to look for next year’s song in the Belarusian language. We aren’t excluding songs in English, Russian, French, or even in Hindi, but preference will be given to those in the Belarussian language.
Belarusian and Russian are the official languages of the country. According to the country’s 1999 Census, more than 85% of Belarusians call Belarusian their Mother Tongue, though Belarusian is spoken in only 36% of all homes. That, however, appears to be on the decline. A 2009 government study found that only 12% of families speak Belarusian at home, compared to 72% of families who speak Russian.
Does Belarus ever sing in Belarusian at Eurovision?
No. Since Belarus debuted at Eurovision in 2004, it has never submitted an entry in Belarusian. English has been its language of choice every year, leading to distinctly non-native titles such as “My Galileo” and “Cheesecake” (and the occasional misheard lyric). Funnily enough, their 2008 entry was sung in English but with the Spanish-language title “Hasta La Vista”. #anythingbutbelarusian.
Over the past year we’ve heard the Belarusian language at two major events. Last November Junior Eurovision representative Nadezdha Misyakova performed her earthy song “Sokal” in the national language. A few months later Milki, a quintet formed by Eurovision veteran Alexander Rybak, worked their accent and their Mother Tongue en route to a fifth-place finish in Belarus’ national selection for Eurovision.
The last non-English song to win Eurovision was Serbia’s “Molitva”, in 2007.
Is favoring Belarusian songs a wise move? Can songs in their national language still compete with those performed in English? Feel free to comment below!