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  • Writer's pictureSamuel Lee

Hungarian Republic Day: remembering Hungary's most successful Eurovision entry

Today, October 23, is Hungarian Republic Day. The date commemorates two significant anniversaries for the central European nation. It marks the outbreak of the Hungarian revolution against communist rule in 1956, as well as the proclamation of the Hungarian Republic in 1989.

To mark this auspicious date, we're looking back at Hungary's most successful entry at Eurovision.

The central European country has not participated in the contest since 2019, but prior to this, it had competed at Eurovision a total of 17 times. In the semi-final era (2004 onwards), it has qualified for the final 10 times out of 13 attempts.

Hungary attempted to debut at the 1993 contest. However, with so many newly independent eastern European countries seeking to make their debut that year, the European Broadcasting Union introduced for the first time a preliminary round for Eurovision 1993 called 'Kvalifikacija za Millstreet' ('Preselection for Millstreet' in English).

Seven countries participated, with the top three each winning a golden ticket to the main show. Unfortunately, Hungary's act for this preliminary competition - Andrea Szulák with 'Árva reggel' - finished sixth, and the nation would have to wait till the following year to participate in Eurovision for the first time.

Hungary eventually debuted at Eurovision 1994, which was held that year at the Point Theatre in Dublin. The country was represented by 21-year-old Friderika Bayer from Budapest, who performed 'Kinek mondjam el vétkeimet?' ('To whom shall I tell my sins?' in English).

The gentle, soothing instrumental arrangement of this song contrasted hugely with its haunting lyrics, which adopt a biblical theme. In the chorus, Friderika repeatedly asks God who she should confess her sins to, whilst the verses paint a bleak image of the tortured emotional situation the singer finds herself in.

Frederika arrived in Dublin as a competitor that would seemingly not trouble the top end of the scoreboard. Pat Kenny, the commentator for Irish TV channel RTÉ, described the song to his viewers as "an absolutely exquisite song. It sounds like a folk song really."

However, he did acknowledge it was a "thirty to one shot" with the bookmakers. That year bookies favourites to take out the title were German female trio Mekado with 'Wir geben 'ne Party' ('We're giving a Party in English') and the UK's Frances Rufelle with 'We Will Be Free (Lonely Symphony)'.

Hungary performed 22nd out of 25th entries that year, a highly coveted slot late in the program. Friderika delivered an absolutely mesmerising performance in black and green dress, and was accompanied by a sitting male guitarist. This is Frederika's performance at that year's Eurovision in Dublin:

In the voting portion of the show, Hungary initially shocked all. The first two juries, Sweden and Finland, both gave 12 points to Hungary. Then in an unprecedented turn Ireland, the third voting and host nation, also awarded top marks to the central European country.

Never before and never since has a country received 12 points from the first three juries. After the third set of top marks, infamous UK commentator Terry Wogan decried "Another twelve? Three top marks? Next year in Budapest!" Listen to Terry's commentary yourself here at this video of the 1994 Eurovision voting sequence:

Unfortunately for Hungary and their fans, this initial perfect start proved to be a deceptive illusion. Host country Ireland, represented by Paul Harrington and Charlie McGettigan with 'Rock 'n' Roll Kids', dominated the scoring thereafter and won the contest.

Their win broke many records including the most consecutive Eurovision wins by a single country (three), the first male duet to win, the highest scoring entry ever (at the time) and the oldest male competitors to win (at the time).

Nevertheless, Hungary still defied expectations and came in fourth place with 122 points - very impressive for a debuting country. Even more remarkably, it remains Hungary's best-ever placing at Eurovision.

For her Eurovision success, Friderika was awarded the EMERTON prize by Hungarian radio and the Golden Deer Prize as Popsinger of the Year as voted by the Hungarian public, both in 1994. Her first album 'Friderika' was certified Gold less than two months after its release in April 1994.

Friderika had continued success in the Hungarian music industry throughout the 1990s. In 1996 she became a member of the Faith Church, and today predominantly performs gospel music.

Since then Hungary has produced many memorable and mesmerising Eurovision performances. However none have quite matched the magic Friderika delivered on the stage in Dublin in 1994. We hope to see Hungary return to Eurovision in the near future - and maybe even see someone top Frederika's fourth-place finish!

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