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The 'Heroes' of our time: 20 years of Junior Eurovision

23 November 2023 at 12:00 CET
Valentina winning for France at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2020 EBU
Ahead of the 21st Junior Eurovision Song Contest taking place in Nice on Sunday 26 November, we look back over two decades of the celebrated event.

The very first Junior Eurovision Song Contest took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, on 15 November 2003. 16 countries competed, with Croatia becoming the inaugural trophy lifters thanks to Dino Jelušić and his song Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav winning with 134 points.

Since then, 20 Junior Eurovision Song Contests have taken place, with the 21st happening in Nice, France, on Sunday 26 November 2023. 

16 countries will again be taking part in 2023, including Estonia - participating for the very first time with Hoiame Kokku by ARHANNA. 

At the Junior Eurovision Song Contest 2023, all performers must be aged between 9 and 14. 

2022's winner, Lissandro, was 13 years old when he lifted the trophy for France in Yerevan.

Lissandro won Junior Eurovision 2022 for France with 'Oh Maman' Corinne Cumming / EBU

Unlike at the Eurovision Song Contest, songs taking part at Junior Eurovision must be written and performed predominantly in the participating country's national language. 

As a result, Junior Eurovision can't boast its own Sanomi and O Julissi just yet!

At Junior Eurovision, there's no limit to showing love for your favourite song; if they're vibing it, viewers can vote for their own country. 

Since 2008, a combination of a jury vote and a public vote has decided the winner, with a 50% weighting given to each. The public can start voting online for Junior Eurovision 2023, wherever they are in the world, from Friday 24 November at 20:00 CET, over at jesc.tv. You can watch this video for a 60-second guide on precisely how the voting works!

Maléna won Junior Eurovision 2021 for Armenia

In the 20 years since Junior Eurovision began, 41 countries have taken part at least once.

Netherlands is the only country to have participated in every Junior Eurovision Song Contest. Their enthusiasm has not been in vein; the Dutch won the competition in 2009 with the song Click Clack by Ralf Mackenbach. Netherlands has also hosted the Contest twice, in 2007 and 2012. 

As with the Eurovision Song Contest, Australia were invited to compete for the very first time in 2015. They accepted the invite and have participated at Junior Eurovision 5 times. Their highest placing was 3rd, which they achieved in both 2017 and 2018.

Two countries that have taken part at Junior Eurovision but never at the Eurovision Song Contest are Kazakhstan (5 appearances) and Wales (two appearances).

David Charlin represented Kazakhstan at Junior Eurovision 2022 Corinne Cumming / EBU

The largest Grand Final was in the year that both Kazakhstan and Wales debuted; at Minsk, Belarus, in 2018. There, 20 countries competed, with Poland winning for the first time. Poland would go on to win the following year, too, and remain both the only country to have won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest back to back and the only country to have won on home soil.

The Polish songwriters Patryk Kumór, and Dominic Buczkowski-Wojtaszek were involved in composing both of Poland's Junior Eurovision winners, Anyone I Want To Be and Superhero.

Since the inaugural edition of the Junior Eurovision Song Contest, 12 countries have lifted the trophy.

Croatia, Italy, Spain, Ukraine and Netherlands have all tasted victory once, while Armenia, Belarus, France, Malta, Poland and Russia have all won twice. Georgia trumps them all, however; with the nation achieving Junior Eurovision victory on three occasions. 

Anastasia and Ranina rehearsing 'Over The Sky' for Georgia in Nice Corinne Cumming / EBU

Few countries have a track record at Junior Eurovision like Armenia, however. Since its debut in 2007, Armenia has won twice, finished runner-up 5 times and earned bronze twice. In its 15 participations so far, Armenia has never finished outside of the Top 10.

As with the Eurovision Song Contest, Junior Eurovision loves an accompanying slogan!

Down through the years we've had the likes of Fun In The Sun at Limassol in Cyprus (2008), Make A Big Splash at Rotterdam in Netherlands (2007) and Let's Get Loud at Hasselt in Belgium (2005). The slogan for Nice 2023 is Heroes

Several performers from Junior Eurovision have later gone on to compete at the Eurovision Song Contest, too.

Junior Eurovision alum you might have spotted on the Eurovision Song Contest stage include Iru Khechanovi (Georgia 2023), Destiny (Malta 2021), Stefania (Greece 2021), Ieva Zasimauskaitė (Lithuania 2018), OG3NE (Netherlands 2017), Michele Perniola & Anita Simoncini (San Marino 2015), Tolmachevy Sisters (Russia 2014) and Nevena Božović (Serbia 2013 and 2019). 

Destiny backstage at the Rotterdam Ahoy, representing Malta in 2021 EBU / Andres Putting

Meanwhile, the Junior Eurovision Song Contest has had plenty of Eurovision artists take to its stage and perform as interval or opening acts throughout the two decades of the Contest. 

Rosa Linn, Barbara Pravi, Duncan Laurence, Poli Genova, Jedward, Zlata Ognevich, Emmelie de Forest, Sirusho, Alexander Rybak, Dmitry Koldun, Ani Lorak, Dima Bilan and Evridiki are amongst the Eurovision Song Contest stars to have shone at the Junior edition. 

At Nice in 2023, Amir will be performing as one of the interval acts on the night.

Other artists to have graced the Junior Eurovision stage as interval acts include international pop successes such as Sugababes, Katie Melua, Ch!pz, Westlife and Busted.

And once you've represented your country at Junior Eurovision, you're considered part of the family for life. Young artists who have won the Junior Eurovision Song Contest are regularly invited back in later years to perform as part of opening or interval acts.

If you were a fan of the Netflix film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, you'll remember the Academy Award-nominated song Husavik. That beautiful ballad was actually performed by an artist who made her debut at the Junior Eurovision Song Contest in 2006 when she represented Sweden -  Molly Sandén. 

Junior Eurovision champions through the years: 

  • Copenhagen 2003 - Croatia 🇭🇷 / Dino Jelusić - Ti Si Moja Prva Ljubav

  • Lillehammer 2004 - Spain 🇪🇸 / María Isabel - Antes Muerta Que Sencilla

  • Hasselt 2005 - Belarus 🇧🇾 / Ksenia Sitnik - My Vmeste

  • Bucharest 2006 - Russia 🇷🇺 / Tolmachevy Sisters - Vesenniy Jazz

  • Rotterdam 2007 - Belarus 🇧🇾 / Alexey Zhigalkovich - S Druz'yami

  • Limassol 2008 - Georgia 🇬🇪 / Bzikebi - Bzz..

  • Kyiv 2009 - Netherlands 🇳🇱 / Ralf Mackenbach - Click Clack

  • Minsk 2010 - Armenia 🇦🇲 / Vladimir Arzumanyan - Mama

  • Yerevan 2011 - Georgia 🇬🇪 / CANDY - Candy Music

  • Amsterdam 2012 - Ukraine 🇺🇦 / Anastasiya Petryk - Nebo

  • Kyiv 2013 - Malta 🇲🇹 / Gaia Cauchi - The Start

  • Marsa 2014 - Italy 🇮🇹 / Vincenzo Cantiello - Tu Primo Grande Amore

  • Sofia 2015 - Malta 🇲🇹 / Destiny Chukunyere - Not My Soul

  • Valletta 2016 - Georgia 🇬🇪 / Mariam Mamadashvili - Mzeo

  • Tbilisi 2017 - Russia 🇷🇺 / Polina Bogusevich - Wings

  • Minsk 2018 - Poland 🇵🇱 / Roksana Węgiel - Anyone I Want to Be

  • Gliwice 2019 - Poland 🇵🇱 / Viki Gabor - Superhero

  • Warsaw 2020 - France 🇫🇷 / Valentina - J'imagine

  • Paris 2021 - Armenia 🇦🇲 / Maléna - Qami Qami

  • Yerevan 2022 - France 🇫🇷 / Lissandro - Oh Maman!

For a full guide on what to expect from Nice 2023, and a preview of the songs taking part, we've got you covered right here: 

The Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Malmö, Sweden on Tuesday 7 May (First Semi-Final), Thursday 9 May (Second Semi-Final) and Saturday 11 May (Grand Final) 2024.

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