Go, go, go wild dancers!

Yesterday should have been the highlight of my year. COVID-19 has caused many true tragedies, but I confess that the cancellation of Eurovision hit me hard, especially since it was planned to take place here in the Netherlands!

Image credit

I still toasted Terry last night, but I missed the revelry, the trivia, and my ever-increasing angst when nobody cares about my detailed explanation of the rules.

Let it never be said that Tip of my Tongs doesn’t know how to party.

We philatelists thankfully have another way to celebrate: my tongs pointed me down memory lane to 2005, the year of the 50th Eurovision Song Contest. In May, Ukraine hosted the contest for the first time, having won the previous year with ‘Wild Dances’ by Ruslana.

On 19 May 2005, the day of the semi-final, Ukraine issued two stamps to commemorate the occasion, both designed by Vasil Vasilenko, and both with a run of 200,000. The lower-value stamp features Ruslana herself; the higher-value has a mixture of Eurovision imagery.

The second stamp has a lot to unpack. It features the Eurovision logo, in which the ‘v’ of ‘Eurovision’ features the host country’s flag, as is now common. An image in the centre closely resembles the artwork created for the show’s theme, ‘Awakening’.

The ferns at the bottom of the stamp are admittedly a slight mystery to me. Kupala Night features customs of collecting and decorating with ferns, and apparently Ukrainian folklore teaches that fern flowers bloom just once a year, and whoever is able to to collect the flowers “would be endowed with supreme wisdom and the ability to realize all his desires”. [1]

I don’t know for sure that either of those is the reference here though… If you know more, please share it in the comments below!

The contest was one of my favourites in (relatively) recent years, and came at an important time in Ukraine’s history. This was the first major international event staged in the country since its independence in 1991 and was hosted soon after the Orange Revolution, a series of political protests between November 2004 and January 2005 in response to the 2004 presidential election.

L: Morning on the first day of the Orange Revolution [image credit]
R: A flower being attached to a riot shield in Kiev [image credit]

These protests, centred in the capital city—and Eurovision host city—of Kiev, understandably led to huge delays in preparations for the contest. As a result, respresentatives from the European Broadcasting Union warned that, unless enough progress was made within two weeks, the contest may have to be moved to another country.

Although a singing competition may not seem like the most pressing issue, a lot was at stake here. As Pavlo Shylko, one of the presenters of the 2005 contest, said:

“We understand what we have to do, otherwise the prestige of the country which is starting to be built in Europe might go down…That’s why we’re working every day, 24 hours a day.” [2]

The 2005 Eurovision Song Contest was perceived by many as a chance for Ukraine to present itself to the rest of Europe, perhaps even increasing tourism and lending extra support to the country’s bid for EU membership. Indeed, from May 1 to September 1 that year, Ukraine dropped its visa requirement for visitors from EU countries.

As it stands, I can leave you with two things. First, Ukraine’s EU integration bid continues. Second, Eurovision 2005 was spectacular. Truly. Though not without incident, Kiev put on a goddamn show.

[1] Lenore Wile May, “The Economic Uses and Associated Folklore of Ferns and Fern Allies,” Botanical Review 44/4 (1978): 493.

[2] https://eurovision.tv/story/throwback-thursday-eurovision-2005-in-ukraine

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