XTRA Debate: Should Kazakhstan enter the Eurovision Song Contest?

Last week the EBU announced that Kazakhstan will make its debut in a Eurovision event. The central Asian country will join 18 other nations in the Junior Eurovision event, including host nation Belarus this year, entering the Junior Eurovision, hosted in Minsk. However, common sense suggests that by entering Junior, there is a very real pathway for Kazakhstan to enter the Eurovision Song Contest in the near future. Though the EBU and Kazakh broadcaster Khabar Agency have yet to comment about entering a representative in 2019 or beyond for the adult contest, it begs a very simple question.
Should Kazakhstan join the adult contest?


There seems to be a level of trepidation in the fan community. Welcoming Kazakhstan on one side, while growing anxious of an ever-expanding contest. Should this enlargement of the geographic boundaries be encouraged? After all, ‘Eurovision’ suggests ‘Euro’. ‘Euro’ suggests Europe… right? So, to open the doors to nations beyond the geographic continent of Europe means the EBU is diluting the integrity of the contest. I’m not so convinced on that logic.
If there was ever a time to debut, it would be in Israel. A Kazakh debut would directly confront any dissonance of eligibility to the Eurovision Song Contest. There is a distinctly limited amount of criticism or commentary about Israel entering the contest despite not being in Europe. Making a debut in 1973, Israel have entered over 40 songs into the Contest. Considering Israel have entered for the last twenty consecutive years and are hosting the contest in 2019, it would be a shock if they withdrew anytime soon. We expect to see an Israeli representative every year, even though it is universally recognised they are not in the geographic space of Europe. Similarly, there are other nations beyond the continent who have entered or tried to join in the fun. There are other countries outside of Europe that had entered or attempted to enter. Morocco entered in 1980 and Lebanon was due to compete in 2005. Then, of course, there is Australia.

Sea of flags

Australia’s debut in 2015 directly confronted the presumption that to enter in Eurovision, you needed to be in Europe. Eurovision is a part of an umbrella brand.

Jon Ola Sand certainly appears to be open to both broadening the scope of the contest while retaining its fundamental European identity and roots. Speaking to SVT in 2015 he stated:

The contest shall always be in Europe, but if other countries want to join, we can see what fantastic events we have and take in interesting countries and artists.

Going from these comments, it is abundantly clear Kazakhstan are desperate to enter the Eurovision bubble. While there are certainly logistical and administrative issues that may hinder the nation entering in 2019 or even 2020, they absolutely should be allowed to enter the Eurovision Song Contest.

Good Evening Europe, Astana calling!

Nick’s views:
I always like to think about the more, the merrier when it comes to the Eurovision Song Contest. Not filling the potential spots for old timers like Monaco or Luxembourg seems noble, but pointless as well. Kazakhstan offer a new, exciting musical culture. If they were to be a debutant in the adult contest soon, I can’t see them going the route of Azerbaijan (total Swedification) or Georgia (years of extreme loyalty to very local music). Instead, I would expect them not to compromise when it comes to Kazakh pop music. Of course we are excited by the prospect of Zhanar Dugulova entering the Eurovision scenes, but they have so much more to offer. I’d be very happy to welcome them to the Eurovision family. After all, the most important factor to me is a willingness to showcase good music. And I feel we could rely on Kazakhstan for that. I hope EBU give them a ticket for 2019.

Yet, there are some reservations

Here is Vincent’s opinion:
I cannot say I’m completely against a Kazakh participation, but I’m not sure it is something that should happen in the coming years, for several reasons. And before you criticize, know that there is a principle I follow in this piece: “Yes we have done that before, but it is not a reason to keep doing it”.
First, yes, there’s a bit of geography involved. Geography and “culture”, should I say. Kazakhstan is barely in Europe. The same would have applied to the Caucasian States, but at least they were stuck between two participating countries (Turkey and Russia). Similar statements can be applied to Israel, but we all know that Israel isn’t simply “Middle-Eastern” (and thus Asian), that there is something European to it in its history, in its liberalism, in its population (I know it is a mix of origins and ethnicities, but there is more Europe in it than in Kazakhstan). The same can be said for Australia, which has broadcast the contest for decades before finally participating. Kazakhstan can’t say the same, and isn’t even in the European Broadcasting Area.
What I mean is that with 43 countries already in, possibly 44 when Bosnia comes back, we’re running out of slots. 46 is the maximum, and I think Slovakia or Turkey deserve those slots more than Kazakhstan.
But Turkey isn’t coming back for now, certainly not with the current situation there. And that is also something we should care about, however “apolitical” we wish the Contest to be. Kazakhstan isn’t even part of the Council of Europe, and I am not bringing that up as a geographical issue. They can be (4% of their territory is in Europe), they try to, but there are reasons they are not yet in. And as long as they are not in, I don’t want to see my favorite contest give them some publicity. Most of us want Turkey back, but we want it back when the time is right for Turkey to do so. I think the same for Kazakhstan.


While we’ve only given a handful of opinions, we gave everyone in the team a chance to voice their view, in a flash-poll. And here are the results:

What are your thoughts? Should we see Kazakhstan enter the Eurovision Song Contest and if so, when? Who do you think they should send to debut the contest? Let us know in the comments below or on social media at @ESCXTRA.

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