Earlier today, the EBU revealed that 41 countries would be participating in the forthcoming Eurovision Song Contest 2022 in the Italian city of Turin. The list contained Eurovision returns for Armenia and Montenegro. However, no debuting countries were including, much to the dismay of many Eurovision fans who have anticipated a Kazakhstan debut since their arrival in Junior Eurovision in 2018.
The beginnings of Kazakhstan at Eurovision
Back in 2016, we discussed whether Kazakhstan could make a Eurovision debut as a full EBU member. While this didn’t seem possible in the near future until Kazakhstan either joined the Council of Europe or the European Broadcasting Area was extended, there has always been the possibility the EBU could invite the nation in the same way as Australia have been invited since 2015. This is especially the case in Kazakhstan’s situation as the nation officially has territory within the European continent. In the end, we turned out to be half right as they did indeed arrive in the Junior counterpart two years later by special invite and haven’t left since.
However, our clever colleagues at esc-plus.com have discovered a potential reason, unknown by many up until now, that may have been an extra stumbling block to Kazakhstan’s invitation to the adult contest. To many of us, it seems strange that the trans-continental nation has only received an invite to the Junior contest, particularly that the latter has not struggled for participation number in recent years with the exception of the COVID-affected 2020 contest. So what is the difference here? The voting systems…
Is a Kazakh televote impossible due to Russian code-share?
Junior Eurovision now uses an online voting system for public votes, rather than the traditional televoting system via phone calls and SMS votes. Adult Eurovision has maintained its traditional televoting system to this day. Why is this a problem? Does Kazakhstan not have capacity for televoting? Well, Kazakhstan does not have its own national telephone system. Instead, Kazakh telephone numbers are under a unified numbering plan with neighbouring Russia and both use the same calling code +7. This unique situation is a result of Soviet Union times, in which +7 was the Union’s calling code. However since the break up, all other former Soviet states have adopted their own calling codes… except Kazakhstan.
This creates a similar situation to what we see with San Marino in the contest today. It is not possible to have a San Marino televote as they have a unified telephone system with Italy (as well as a very low population that would be unlikely to meet the EBU’s valid televote threshold). Therefore, they have to have their televote results “created” by an aggregated results from other nations with similar voting patterns. Why would the EBU go to the lengths to invite Kazakhstan when their vote would have to be “created” anyway?
Now, I can not confirm how exactly this works in Russia and Kazakhstan and would love to know in the comments if any of our readers from these countries are able to vote in each other’s televoting shows. For example, can Kazakhs vote in Eurovision using the Russian telephone numbers?
Kazakhstan to have own calling code from 2023
Nevertheless, if this is a major stumbling block to Kazakh Eurovision participation, get ready for Kazakhstan to make a debut as early as Eurovision 2023! From January 2023, Kazakhstan will finally move to their very own calling code +997. For a couple of years, this will work simultaneously with the Russian calling code until support for the latter is dropped and the transition is completed in 2025.
Did you know that Kazakhstan and Russia shared phone systems and calling codes? Do you think this is the secret behind the EBU’s lack of invitation to the Central Asian nation? Let us know in the comments below!