One of the most relevant examples from this year’s Eurovision is Russia and Ukraine. Ukraine has consistently given Russia a high number of points over the last seven years, until last year when it gave Russia a measly four points – the same amount of points it gave this year. The Ukraine-Russia conflict began earlier this year, but the sudden drop in support for Russia from Ukraine last year seems to suggest that tensions were high between the two countries even in 2013.
But it’s not just current events that might influence voting in the singing competition. Tim Oliver, a politics tutor at the University of Hull, believes that there are many different factors that explain the voting patterns.
Clearly, politics reigns in an international competition such as Eurovision. The breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s seems to have had an impact on voting patterns. Former Yugoslav countries who were involved in the Yugoslav War have all tended to vote for each other over the last seven years.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has won the most combined points from Serbia, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. Macedonia, having qualified for the competition only once in 2012, won 12 points from Serbia and Bosnia, 8 from Croatia and 6 from Slovenia. The only exception to this pattern is Montenegro, which entered this year with a non-English song and did poorly – though it was voted for by neighbouring countries and Armenia.
Oliver cites France and Armenia as another good example of where politics collide within Eurovision. "France has been very outspoken on recognising the Armenian Genocide as a genocide, and the two countries have likely developed a strong relationship as a result of this position.
"Similarly, France votes heavily for Israel – France was a big supporter of Israel in the early years of its independence, though that political support has waned since the early 60s, perhaps explaining why the favour isn’t returned."
One of the most obvious voting blocs apparent on the map is that Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway and Sweden) consistently give each other a high amount of points. But Estonia also seems to follow the same pattern, giving the Scandinavian countries a total of 108 points over seven years, whereas it gave the nearer countries of Latvia, Russia and Lithuania just 75 points in the same period.
Oliver says: "The fact that Estonia behaves as a member of this group may come as a shock to those who are new to Scandinavian politics. We can see here a representation of where Estonia wants to be, and sees itself, in the world – as a Scandinavian country, with all that entails."
Shared culture and language also play a part in Eurovision voting. When it comes to religion, the pattern of approval can clearly be seen when looking at Islamic countries like Azerbaijan, Albania and Turkey. Albania and Azerbaijan tend to give large numbers of points to Turkey. Yet the relationship is not reciprocal.
Oliver says: "Turkey benefits from Azerbaijan and Albania, but not so much the other way around. Power may have something to do with this – Turkey is the most powerful of the three, and worth aspiring to – but Albania and Azerbaijan are not big players on the world stage."
Language is a uniting factor, too. English-speaking countries like the UK, Ireland and Malta, seem to vote heavily for each other, as do France, Spain and Portugal, who all share the same linguistic roots.
Of course, history has its part in the present when it comes to international relations and voting patterns at Eurovision. Oliver explains historical reasons for some of the voting patterns: "Estonia was long a part of the Swedish Empire in Northern Europe, and the Dutch spent a lot of time in wars and alliances with the Danes and Swedes. Britain colonised Malta and Ireland, and France and Spain developed a strong alliance that lasted most of the 18th Century. Some patterns do shift over time, but the fact that some of them still persist shows the depth to which these ideas are held."