Turkey made their debut at Eurovision in 1975 and participated a total of 34 times. While the nation is currently not an active participant, Turkey certainly left their mark on the contest. There were highs, and there were lows. From finishing in last place on debut, to winning the contest in 2003, Turkey always managed to add a unique flavour to the contest regardless of the results.
The Journey Begins (1970’s)
Turkey made their first appearance at Eurovision in 1975, with the nation opting for a national final to select their act. The national selection took place on the 9th of February and featured a total of 8 acts. The voting consisted of a split between jury voting, and postcard voting – or as it evolved, televoting. Two acts finished with the same points, and the tie-break process was certainly based on luck. Both acts were handed envelopes, with one of those sharing a message of success. The winning envelope was held by Semiha Yankı, who went on to represent Turkey with the song ‘Seninle bir dakika’. At Eurovision, the results were clearer cut. Turkey finished in last place on debut.
Turkey did not participate again until 1978, primarily due to tensions with Greece regarding the Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Their return to the contest saw a return of their national selection. A total of 12 acts competed, with Nilüfer & Nazar winning the ticket to Eurovision. Their song ‘Sevince’ finished in 18th place, with just 2 points.
Politics once again interfered with the Turkish participation in 1979, however they did select Maria Rita Epik for the contest. She was set to sing ‘Seviyorum’ however Turkey ultimately withdrew.
Top 10 At Arm’s Length (1980’s)
Turkey participated more consistently throughout the 1980’s. In 1980, Turkey internally selected Ajda Pekkan for Eurovision, and a public selection saw ‘Pet’r oil’ chosen as the competing song. At Eurovision, Turkey still failed to make a splash, finishing in 15th place.
Turkey returned to a full national selection in 1981, with Modern Folk Trio and Ayşegül Aldinç selected to represent the nation. With their song, ‘Dönme Dolap’, they achieved an underwhelming 18th place with just 9 points.
The following year, Neco was selected through a national final with the song ‘Hani?’. Once again, Turkey did not manage to make a big impact at the contest, finishing in 15th place. In 1983, Çetin Alp and the Short Waves were selected through a national final. They performed ‘Opera’, however reached a new low, finishing last with the dreaded nul points.
In 1984, Turkey selected Beş Yıl Önce, On Yıl Sonra who performed ‘Halay’. The song achieved their best result yet, at 12th place with 37 points. The group MFÖ were selected for Eurovision 1985 with the song ‘Didai Didai Dai’ and finished in 14th place.
Another band was selected to represent Turkey, this time it was Klips ve Onlar. They performed the song ‘Halley’ which finally managed to crack into the Top 10. Turkey finished in 9th place with a total of 53 points, their best result yet.
From highs to lows – From a Top 10 result the previous year back to last place. Seyyal Taner and Lokomotif failed to impress with their song ‘Şarkım Sevgi Üstüne’. This was Turkey’s third last place finish in the contest thus far, and second nul point entry.
MFÖ returned to the contest in 1988 with the song ‘Sufi’. They finished in 15th place, just one place lower than their previous attempt but with one point more. Closing out the 1980’s was Pan with the song ‘Bana Bana’. Once again, Turkey struggled with votes, finishing in a disappointing 21st place with just 5 points.
A Taste of the Top 3 (1990’s)
Turkey began the 1990’s on the same path as the previous decade. Kayahan represented the nation with ‘Gözlerinin Hapsindeyim’ and finished in 17th place. İzel Çeliköz, Reyhan Karaca & Can Uğurluer inched closer to a Top 10 finish, reaching 12th place with their upbeat number, İki Dakika.
In 1992, Aylin Vatankoş was selected to fly the flag at Eurovision with the song ‘Yaz Bitti’ however finished 19th at the contest. Burak Aydos represented Turkey in 1993 with the song ‘Esmer Yarim’ which went on to finish in 21st place. The trend continued in 1995, with Arzu Ece finishing in 16th place with the song ‘Sev’.
Şebnem Paker first appeared at the contest in 1996 with her song ‘Beşinci Mevsim’, where she finished in 12th place. She returned the year after with Grup Etnik and the song ‘Dinle’. Turkey achieved their best result yet, finishing in the Top 3 with 121 points.
Turkey closed out the decade with two more disappointing results, finishing in 14th with Tüzman, and in 16th with Tuba Önal.
A Change is Coming (2000’s)
A change in the language rule saw Turkey start to incorporate English into their entries. Between 2000 and 2002, their entries were bilingual Turkish and English. Pınar Ayhan and Grup SOS achieved the nation’s best result in those three years, finishing 10th with the song ‘Yorgunum Anla’.
Turkey found the winning formula in 2003 with Sertab Erener and her song ‘Everyway That I Can’. This was Turkey’s first entry entirely in English, but still featured traditional Turkish instrumentation. The song was a hit with the voters, finishing in 1st place with 167 points! This remains as the nation’s only win, although in the years the come, they were close to a second!
On home soil, Athena represented Turkey with the song ‘For Real’. The ska band finished in 4th place overall, adding to the tally of Top 10 finishes for Turkey.
Gülseren represented Turkey in 2005 with the song ‘Rimi Rimi Ley’. Due to the high placing of Athena in the previous edition, Turkey automatically qualified to the final. She finished in 13th place overall, with 92 points.
Relegated back to the semi-final, it was up to Sibel Tüzun to ensure Turkey qualified to the final. She performed the bilingual track, ‘Superstar’ which qualified in 8th place. Despite the low semi-final qualification, she managed to finish in 11th place in the final.
Kenan Doğulu kicked off a new successful era for Turkey, confidently qualifying in 3rd place with the song ‘Shake It Up Şekerim’. He placed 4th in the final. Popular rock band Mor Ve Ötesi represented the nation in 2008 with the song ‘Deli’, which placed 7th in the semi-final and final.
Turkey continued their successful streak with Hadise and her song ‘Düm Tek Tek’. The ethnic pop number cruised into the final with confidence, and finished in 4th place in the final.
Highs and Lows (2010’s)
Rock Group MaNga were even closer to a win, qualifying in 1st place with their song ‘We Could Be the Same’. The group finished in 2nd place overall behind winner Lena.
Hoping to replicate the success in 2011 was another rock group. Yüksek Sadakat performed ‘Live It Up’ however for the first and only time, Turkey failed to reach the final. The group finished in 13th place in the semi-final.
There was redemption in 2012, in what is currently known as Turkey’s final year of participation at the contest. Can Bonomo was internally selected with ‘Love Me Back’, which finished in 7th place in the final.
Turkish broadcaster TRT announced their withdrawal from Eurovision at the end of 2012. The broadcaster cited their dissatisfaction with the rules of the competition, more specifically the voting system. Unlike in previous years in which they did not participate, TRT did not continue to broadcast the contest.
Throughout the years, there have been rumours of Turkey’s return to the contest, but we are yet to see it. With such a rich history, fans would welcome the nation back in the hopes of seeing their successful reign continue.