Earlier this month Estonian broadcaster ERR published the full versions of this year’s entries, along with the lyrics and a video clip for each song. Many of the videos are looking mighty good. For example, Egert Milder’s “Georgia (On My Mind)” contains scenic vistas on the streets and in the mountains of the stunning Caucasus nation. But one particular scene has drawn more attention to this video than to others. On the version of the video on his YouTube channel, a girl is seen wearing a black shirt with the words: “20% of my country is occupied by Russia”.
The video for “Georgia (On My Mind)” displays the beauty of Georgia’s landscape paired with the beauty of its people. Somewhere in the middle of it all, a smiling young girl appears in front of a building. The shot is only a few seconds long but it contains a striking image. At least in the YouTube version.
The outline of the Georgian borders are printed on her shirt along with the text: “20% of my country is occupied by Russia”. An alternative outline in red is drawn, without the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia at the Russian border. Both territories are self-proclaimed sovereign states but internationally recognised as Georgian territory. Both are drawn out to reflect the aftermath of the Russo-Georgian War in 2008.
This political statement about Georgia and Russia could ruffle feathers, especially in Estonia. The Baltic country itself has a Russian minority of about 20%. The shirt on Egert’s YouTube channel differs from the one in the embedded video of ERR. The words are missing and only the outlines remain.
Did Egert Milder break any rules?
It’s important to note that each broadcaster is responsible for choosing a representative. Therefore, Eurovision’s restrictive rules about political comments do not apply automatically. A view inside the rulebook for Eesti Laul shows no specifications about videos. In general, no guidelines about political comments are made by ERR. Except for rule 2.1.4:
The song and its performance are in accordance with the law and/or good practice, and do not have a negative impact on the image of song contest or the Eurovision Song Contest.
This rule is phrased pretty vaguely and gives artists a degree of wiggle room. Also, it only applies to the performance and song, not the video. However, the official version is the video on the ERR website, where only the country outline is visible. The video on his YouTube channel is a variation of his entry with no official connection to Eesti Laul.
Egert Milder writes on his YouTube channel that the song is about his deep connection with Georgia, where he lived for three years. “I guess in a way it is a breakup song. There are moments in life where you know it’s time to move forward and let go.”
The rulebook indicates that he did not break any Eesti Laul rules with that sequence, even in the Youtube version. However, things would be different if Egert were to win at Eesti Laul. At Eurovision, stricter rules apply that forbid any political comments. If Egert represents Estonia at Eurovision, the statement would probably be removed from the video like ERR did in their version. This is similar to Robin Bengtsson dropping the f-bomb during “I Can’t Go On” in Melodifestivalen and changing the lyrics at Eurovision.
Not the first comment on “Russian occupation”
Egert Milder is not the first Eurovision-related artist to comment on the conflict. Earlier this year, Georgia’s 2015 artist Nina Sublatti revealed the true meaning of her song “Warrior”.
“Almost four years ago, I decided to use the biggest platform ever to express what I feel towards occupation of my beautiful country Georgia. Back then the theme of the Eurovision was Building Bridges. And while writing Warrior I thought to myself – how can we, Georgians build bridges to connect with the rest of the world while our neighbour Russia burns them all. Not only they burn our bridges but they burn us alive.”
This year’s artist, Oto Nemsadze, talked to us about occupation and the necessity to end wars. His own grandmother lives in South Ossetia and he is unable to visit her. And let’s not forget about “We Don’t Wanna Put In”, the disqualified Georgian song of 2009.
What do you think? Have you seen the message on the shirt? Tell us in the comments below!
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