And it could have started in 1992...

The last time Yugoslavia participated in the Eurovision Song Contest was in 1992 when it won 13th place. That was the year Croatia sent a song via a contest called “Crovizija” and the band Magazin was to perform with the song “Aleluja”. As Yugoslavia had the status of a full member of EBU until the end of June 1992 and Croatia wasn’t a full member at the time, EBU rejected Croatia’s entry. Due to aggression towards Bosnia and Herzegovina, Yugoslavia’s membership wasn’t renewed (followed by the disqualification from the UEFA European Championship). In the meantime, Croatia was accepted as a full member. With this, preparations for the Croatian Television Festival began.  

The first CTF was held in Opatija in 1993. All Yugoslavian ex-representatives from Croatia performed in the show, and the show was hosted by Sanja Doležal who also performed the song “Ja sam za ples.” That was the night we saw Tomislav Ivčić perform for the last time. He died in a horrific car accident shortly after DORA.

The voting system was the same as in the former Yugovision: 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 points. The first winner was the band Put (thanks to the Varaždin studio). In order to qualify for Eurovision, Croatia first had to go through qualifications which were held in Ljubljana, only to almost be disqualified because the song contained too many English words. In order to avoid this, another few verses in Croatian were added afterwards. This was the first and last time Croatia was placed 1st in the betting odds. Ultimately, they ended in 15th place.

Tony Cetinski won in 1994, at which time the speculation on fixing the results had already started. Đani Maršan, who won second place, suspected this.

In 1995, Ksenija Urličić became head of the CTF (soon after she became Editor-In-Chief of the Entertainment programme of HTV) which changed its name to DORA (after the composer Dora Pejačević). The pinnacle of voting in 1995 were the 0 points for Magazin coming from the studio in Split (Magazin won that year), and Minea’s bubblegum song “Good boy” which became the greatest hit.

The thing we will always remember from 1996 will definitely be the fire which started during the announcement of Maja Blagdan as the winner during the live broadcast. Maybe the strangest thing with that song was its placing: in the semi-final of Eurovision it was placed 19th, and in the final it was placed at the 4th place! That was the year when the female pop-group Divas entered the scene. After reading the votes, they placed barely 10th, yet their song “Sexy cool” was named the song of the year (Can we notice that the members of the jury in TV studios across Croatia didn’t judge this song very well?  Yes, we can!) Jelena Rozga, unknown at the time, won second place.

In 1997 there was a head to head between the group E.N.I and Petar Grašo. Perhaps the best comment on the winner was said by Ksenija Urličić saying that Croatia couldn’t have kept sending ballads and that it should send an upbeat song to Eurovision (some sensed instructions on who the winner should be in this statement). The girls from the later very popular group E.N.I barely got their 17th place which will be Croatia’s worst result in Eurovision for a long time.

In 1998 and 1999 there wasn’t much uncertainty on who the winners were- Danijela and Doris dominated the stage, respectively.  The viewers were talking about Nikita’s “Kraljica noći” the most. It combined a part of Mozart’s Queen of the night and pop. Later on, Nikita made a name for herself with roles in rock operas and musicals thanks to her impressive voice.

Goran Karan won Dora in 2000, although there was a general feeling that the leaders of the project were rooting for the group “Cronika” (Magazin) and the song “Hrvatska rapsodija” (Croatian rhapsody).

In 2001, then pregnant Vanna won with her song “Strune ljubavi.” Josipa Lisac and Doris Dragović refused the song before Vanna. Doris Dragović reluctantly sang its demo version. In the end, Vanna placed only 10th, and this was followed by Tonči Huljić’s bizarre statement that Croatia would have won if she had given birth on stage.  

In 2002, Vesna Pisarović beat the competition in a white dress. The Israelis were thrilled with her and said it was a winner’s performance. But it was exactly Vesna’s dominant female attitude that scared HTV which ordered an english version, edited the song and ultimately Croatia placed 11th.

2003 was finally supposed to be Nina Badrić’s year with her song “Čarobno jutro”, but the viewers chose Claudia Beni with her big and only hit “Više nisam tvoja”.

Ivan Mikulić won Dora in 2004. Second place went to then young and unknown singer Andrea Šušnjara, later the lead singer of Magazin.

In 2005, fortune smiled upon Boris Novković who goes to Eurovision with the impressive song “Vukovi umiru sami” although some claim that Magazin’s theatrical “Nazaret” which placed second might have achieved a better result. This was the first time TV viewers were able to directly decide on the winner- they could that before as well, but the votes were converted to points, this time it was direct: whoever gets the most telephone votes is the winner in the super final.

When Severina appeared on the list of DORA 2006 contestants, it seemed like everyone was overshadowed even before the contest started. “Moja štikla!” caused many polemics on the music scene yet it was the 14th song which represented Croatia in Eurovision and it placed 12th.

One of DORA’s scandals happened in 2007 when the first back up was the song “Moj svijet” by Danijela Pintarić. Ivana Banfić refused to come on due to her disapproval of DORA’s rules, and her place is taken by Danijela Pintarić. Interestingly, the same jury which rejected her application, gave her 3rd place on DORA!

Singers who had the most performances on DORA are Jelena Rozga (either as a solo artist or part of the band Magazin), and Jacques Houdek who ultimately went to Eurovision in 2017.


Voting systems

In 1993 and 1994, 11 cities all over Croatia voted the same way as in the former Yugovision: with 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 points. But in 1995, the voting system changed, following the one from Eurovision- with 1-8, 10 and 12 points and all the counties were included (that is, capitals of all counties-20 cities). Everybody waited for Zagreb’s votes which were always announced last, and these votes were always drastically different from the rest of the country.

In 1998, the voting system was changed again, so besides the public vote, a jury (in 20 cities) also voted but as a special 21st juror. Their top 10 songs were converted to points.

In 1999, DORA moved to Zagreb, and in 2001 the voting system was changed again, as a televoting system in 5 regions.

Semi-finals were introduced in 2003, and voting via a text message in 2004. Another rule that was introduced was that if two songs had the same number of points, the winner was the song that received more points from the jury.

The last real DORA was held in 2010.

In 2011, it was more of a reality show where more than 150 candidates applied of which 24 were chosen. Then they were eliminated one by one in multiple shows and the jury’s votes were favoured again.  Jury’s choice was Darija Kinzer with the song “Lahore” while the viewers’ preference was Jacques Houdek and the song “Stotinama godina” (which later became one of the biggest hits of the year).

After a number of poor editor’s and programming decisions, DORA was cancelled, which was explained by the problems of financing and ratings. After that, HTV internally chooses the performer and the song for Eurovision up until 2019, when DORA, so it is announced, should be back better than ever under editorial leadership of Uršula Tolj whose enthusiasm looks very promising!


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This author's text does not state the opinion of Eurofest Croatia.


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