The Intervision Song Contest
Popular Music and Political Liberalization in the Eastern Bloc
During the Cold War, Eastern Bloc broadcasting organizations held the Intervision Song Contest (ISC) as an alternative to Western Europe's Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). Staged in Czechoslovakia and Poland between 1964 and 1980, the ISC has usually been depicted in the popular media as merely a belated, fleeting copy of the ESC, with the ISC's failure being a metaphor for the decline of the economic and political systems of communist party-led Eastern Europe. However, unlike with the ESC, there has been little academic research on the ISC. This chapter is based on archival sources from national and international broadcasting organizations, and focuses on the first series of the ISC in Czechoslovakia. It argues that the ISC was conceived by its organizers as a pan-European event that would promote cooperation between the Eastern and Western blocs, especially in the context of Khrushchev's Thaw and the cultural and political liberalization in Czechoslovakia that culminated in the Prague Spring. The ISC's organizers accordingly introduced innovations that made their contest more internationally open and commercial than the ESC. Furthermore, the staging of the ISC in Czechoslovakia underlined the limits of the Soviet Union's cultural and political influence over Eastern Europe and the role that geopolitics played in the power relations between states within the Eastern Bloc. The ISC was, then, not simply an imitation of the ESC, but rather a product of international political relations that tells us much about the aspirations that some Eastern European artists, politicians, and officials from record companies and television stations had for the democratization of their states.