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A 'Tick-Tock' through 30 years of Croatia at the Eurovision Song Contest

22 February 2024 at 18:46 CET
Albina performing Tick-Tock for Croatia at Rotterdam Ahoy, 18 May 2021 EBU / Andres Putting
As Croatia gets set to choose its entry to the 68th Eurovision Song Contest, we look back over 30 years of Contest contributions from the Croatian nation.
Croatia’s Mia Dimšić at the First Semi-Final EBU/Sarah Louise Bennett

When we cast our minds back fondly to Liverpool 2023, there are few images that come to mind quite as vividly as Let 3 in all their glorious garb. Or indeed Let 3 out of their glorious garb, for that matter.

At the 67th Eurovision Song Contest, the Croatian entry Mama ŠČ! turned out to be quite the crowd-pleaser on the night of the Grand Final, ranking 7th in the televote and ultimately giving Croatia a 13th-place finish on the scoreboard by the time all points had been dished out.

Let 3 performed Mama ŠČ! for Croatia at the Grand Final at Liverpool Arena Sarah Louise Bennett / EBU

The memorable performance, as well as its favourable result, ended up being a feel-good way to celebrate what was the 30th anniversary of Croatia’s very first participation in the Eurovision Song Contest, when another group from the city of Rijeka - Put - represented their country at Millstreet in 1993 with Don’t Ever Cry.

The 30 years that are sandwiched between those two participations have seen Croatia paint a colourful Contest history for itself. From girlbands and a Guilty Pleasure, to tales about Marija Magdalena and 'moja štikla', its highs and lows have been punctuated with a sparkling array of fan-favourite highlights and happenings!

Croatia’s national broadcaster HRT became a member of the EBU on 1 January 1993. But the broadcaster wasn't waiting around until the membership had been signed, sealed and delivered before getting onto the most pressing matter at hand - participating in the Eurovision Song Contest. 

Instead, it had announced its intention to take part back in November of 1992, and had organised a national final that would take place in February of 1993. Dora, which is the pre-selection format still being used to select Croatia’s Eurovision entry to this day, had 15 songs take part in its inaugural 1993 edition.

Don’t Ever Cry by the band Put scored the very first Dora win, taking the victory over artists who would later go on to represent Croatia at the Eurovision Song Contest in the future - Tony Cetinski (1994), Maja Blagdan (1996) and Nina Badrić (2012).

The logo for Millstreet 1993

At Millstreet in May, Don’t Ever Cry placed 15th out of 25 countries, receiving a total of 31 points. A modest beginning, but it was to lay the foundations for one of the most successful first-decade runs the Eurovision Song Contest has ever seen a country achieve.

Croatia went on to become one of the most competitive Eurovision participants of the ‘90s. In the 7 Contests that took place between 1995 and 2001, Croatia placed inside the Top 10 on 6 occasions.

Even more impressive was Croatia’s run throughout the 4 Contests that took place between 1996 and 1999, when the country could almost be accused of taking up residency at the top of the scoreboard for a few years; finishing in the Top 5 on the night in 1996, 1998 and 1999.

It's those three entries that remain Croatia's best results at the Eurovision Song Contest to date. Maja Blagdan's glass-shattering high notes in Oslo saw Sveta Ljubav finish in 4th place for Croatia, a position equalled in 1999, when Doris Dragović brought Marija Magdalena to Jerusalem and served as an early trailblazer for the outfit-reveal trend.

Croatia's highest points tally comes courtesy of Daniela Martinović, however, who in 1998 finished one place below Maja and Doris, in 5th. Neka Mi Ne Svane scored 131 points and had an outfit reveal of its own eliciting actual cheers inside the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham; a far cry from the peaceful Plitvice Lakes National Park in Croatia that Daniela got to showcase in the enchanting music video for the song.

After that trio of talented songstresses came two more Top 10 finishes at the turn of the century, in 2000 and 2001. The latter year's 10th-place finish - Strings Of My Heart by Vanna - is to this day Croatia’s last Top 10 result at a Eurovision Song Contest Grand Final. 

Though in the years that immediately followed, the country did come very close on most occasions - placing 11th in 2002 and 2005, and 12th in 2003 and 2006.

A less favourable run of results occurred between 2010 and 2013, during which Croatia had to sit out 4 consecutive Eurovision Song Contest Grand Finals, remaining in the Semi-Finals at each Contest. 

Perhaps related or perhaps not, Croatian broadcaster HRT then decided to withdraw from the Eurovision Song Contest, declining participation in both 2014 and 2015.

A return to the Eurovision Song Contest in 2016 brought with it an internal selection, rather than resurrecting Dora. HRT elected the winner of The Voice, Nina Kraljić to represent Croatia with the song Lighthouse. The comeback worked out well for them, with Croatia making a return to not only Eurovision, but to the Grand Final for what was the first time since 2009.

One year on and it was decided that another internal selection was in order. This time, HRT looked beyond winners of The Voice, and instead went right to the mentors behind them! Jacques Houdek - the judge who had coached Nina Kraljić to her win - was invited to represent Croatia at Kyiv 2017.

Jacques’ journey to Eurovision brought with it another Grand Final placement for Croatia, and the country's best result in over a decade, when an inimitable performance of My Friend saw Jacques finish in 13th place.

After Kyiv 2017, Croatia would have to wait until the 2023 Contest before it would compete in another Grand Final.

Another four-Contest run of not progressing from the Semi-Finals occurred for Croatia between 2018 and 2022. Although they did come very close in 2021 and 2022 - finishing in an oh-so-close 11th in the Semi-Finals of Rotterdam and Turin respectively.

Mercifully, however, Croatia returned in 2023 with flying colours - quite literally, in the case of Let 3's performance of Mama ŠČ!

In Liverpool, the song equalled Jacques Houdek's aforementioned feat, finishing in 13th place at the Grand Final and inspiring many millions to brave an attempt to pronounce the word 'ŠČ' with all the rigour it requires.

Since 2018, Dora has been back in business and selecting Croatia's entries to the Eurovision Song Contest. 

In 2024, the national final returns on an even greater scale, with the competition now being spread across two semi-finals and a final, rather than the one semi-final and final format it's had in recent years. 

The two semi-finals take place on Thursday 22 February and Friday 23 February, with the all-important final happening on Sunday 25 February. 

You'll be able to stream the Dora 2024 final on the official Eurovision Song Contest YouTube channel.

You can listen to all 37 songs of Eurovision 2024 via your favourite streaming service or watch the music videos on our YouTube channel.

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.

Don't forget to download our app (for iOSAndroid), sign up to the official Eurovision Song Contest newsletter, and subscribe to the official podcast!