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Caucasus: Social media, cleavage, and rare unity in Eurovision

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

Although last night's second semi-final for this year's Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, Norway, has been and gone, Twitter was nonetheless alive with commentary and updates throughout. The annual international competition, noted more for its often kitsch and glitzy entries than for its music, is viewed by well over 100 million people worldwide. Its presence online is nowhere near as large, of course, but is increasingly becoming an important consideration.

Eurovision blogs have particularly become a crucial part of the competition, but just as last night's semi-final was arguably dominated by the three acts from the South Caucasus, so too perhaps was Twitter. Already setting the example for the use of social media in the competition, entries from Azerbaijan and Georgia were particularly visible online. In particular, Eurovision pundits in the region were fortunate enough to have fly-on-the-wall live-tweeting on all of the acts in the competition from the account of jazz singer Ulviyya Rahimova, also a member of the Azerbaijani national team delegation at the event.

Tensions, of course, can run high even in a competition many consider trival and especially with Armenia and Azerbaijan still locked into conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh. Last year, for example, not only were there scandals in Eurovision involving Russia and Georgia, but also between Armenia and Azerbaijan. But, at a time when many countries are questioning how much is spent for their involvement in Eurovision, the possibility for buying a place in the international spotlight is not one to be missed by any of the three countries in the region.

With two bloggers in jail, there have been attempts to link a vote for Safura directly to the authorities in Baku on some Armenian Facebook pages, but the competition has largely been conducted free of the antics which negatively affected last year's competition. The attempt to associate Safura with politics was anyway remarkably similar to Armenia's 2008 entry by Sirusho, now married to the son of the former president who ordered police and troops to use excessive force in the post-election clashes which left 10 dead following a bitterly disputed presidential election, a few months earlier.

Then, the singer was blacklisted by government critics and the opposition urged a boycott of the competition. As in that case, few seem to support such an approach and the two estranged neighbors appear to be keeping in with the intended spirit of the competition.

Even otherwise outspoken critics of the authorities in Baku put politics aside.

Indeed, the competition mainly overshadowed criticism of unconfirmed Russian media reports that Azerbaijan spent significantly more on entering than their competitors, or officials in Armenia calling for ethnic Armenians living in the Diaspora to vote for their entry. For once, most commentary was refreshingly on the actual competition instead. Of course, this being Eurovision which is as much watched for fun as for any musical talent, Eurovision pundits in the Caucasus were fortunate enough to have Scary Azeri, along with many others, tweeting a more irreverent account of the semi-final.

The cleavage displayed by Armenia's Eva Rivas, singing Apricot Stone, as well as attempts to promote her as an Angelina Jolie lookalike, were particularly noted.

With the final due to take place tomorrow, most Eurovision commentators appear to agree that the three countries making up the Caucasus dominated the second semi-final. Moreover, Azerbaijan's Safura arguably remains one of two clear favorites to win alongside Germany's Lena. Nevertheless, there also exists strong support for Armenia's Eva Rivas and Georgia's Sofia Nizharadze particularly impressed many by offering arguably one of the best vocal performance of the evening.

Alongside Safura Alizadeh, she is also using social media well and immediately sent out a thank you message to her supporters via Twitter and YouTube.

More importantly, perhaps, Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia were largely able to keep their differences apart. A rare occurrence indeed, regional analysts would note, but one which fits in with the intended spirit of Eurovision. Global Voices wishes all three contestants luck in tomorrow's final. Below are also videos of their performances last night.

This post is part of our special coverage Caucasus Conflict Voices.

10 comments

  • You mixed some tweets up! I never said about eva’s apricots. Mine was about them all being related: the hair, the movements, the music…like clones. :) That one was mine, and the other one was not. :)

  • Scary, I didn’t. I think it’s just confusing when multiple tweets are put and displayed together. The actual name of the tweeter is below the actual tweet, as that’s how it is when you do a screen grab, but it does admittedly confuse people.

  • Incidentally, on a related note, the guys in charge of Safura’s official Eurovision site just posted this:

    Just one day before the Final of the Eurovision Song Contest 2010 in Oslo, Safura’s official website Safura.eurovisiontalents.com celebrated its first 1,000,000 unique visitors since the site began functioning just 2 and a half months ago.

    Safura was very happy with the news: “I am thankful to all these folks who come to my site. I appreciate their time and interest. It’s a source of inspiration for me ahead of the Big Night.”

    Safura’s website has received high quality audience of unique users who demonstrated significant interest in its content. Site visitors – the vast majority of whom come from European countries – saw on average 3 webpages and spent over 2.5 minutes on the site.

    During its lifetime, the resource has offered its users the most up-to-date news about Safura and her journey to Eurovision, including over 100 news articles, over 50 photo galleries with hundreds of pictures and over 50 videos. Through the website, Safura’s fans have also had an opportunity of interactive communication with Safura and her team, including 2 web conferences, a variety of contests and online opinion polls and even a flash game.

    The website boasts 14 different national versions in corresponding languages. This has been an absolute record for Eurovision-related online resources and projects, and has given Safura’s fans in various European countries a chance to read news about her in their mother tongue.

    Safura.eurovisiontalents.com has received the highest number of visitors from Greece, Bolgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Latvia, Germany, Macedonia, Norway and Ukraine.
    Over 10 thousand site visitors used an opportunity to download Safura’s Eurovision song Drip Drop free of charge.

    http://safura.eurovisiontalents.com/latest-news/we-got-1-million-visitors

    For more on the use of new, social and online media by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia see:
    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/05/24/caucasus-eurovision-social-media/

  • Really, some hilarious tweets about the cleavage displayed in Armenia’s entry:

    wolfstar_de
    Armenia begins with a massive, wholly unnecessary close-up shot of Eva Rivas’s boobs. Needless to say, they are larger than apricots.

    wolfstar_de
    Whether they are as succulent is not for me to decide. After a ballady start, we descend into a Bollywood-esque mid-tempo europop number.

    http://twitter.com/wolfstar_de

  • But on a more serious note for all Eurovision pundits out there, the Caucasus has indeed made a good impression, but it remains to be seen if any of the three countries can do better than Germany’s Lena. More from the Oikotimes on today’s final dress rehearsals for the Eurovision final tomorrow night:

    […] The opening of the contest by Azerbaijan is definitely different. The running on stage is now hidden and Safura gives a very strong performance today rather than the one last night. […]

    […]

    […] Georgia gives the same performance as yesterday, still sympathetic and nice vocally, I am truly annoyed of the choreography though.

    […]

    […] Armenia is next but it seems Eva is saving her voice a bit. This is turns to be a dark horse? I am sorry but everyone loves it but me. nevertheless for various reasons, this one will do well. Camera work seems to be better this time.

    […]

    Germany is considered the hot of the day along with the last one, Denmark. Lena gives a very promising performance which is simple but with substance. They all love it and those who hate it, will love it too for some reason. Not bad at all although the noisy vocals can make you laugh a bit. […]

    http://www.oikotimes.com/v2/index.php?file=articles&id=8252

  • There’s also a Caucasus review of last night’s semi-final at:
    http://globalvoicesonline.org/2010/05/28/caucasus-eurovision-semi-final-roundup/

  • On a related theme re. regional unity, a tweet just seen:

    @sarcasmcupcakes #sbseurovision My husband says “Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia all look alike, those three countries must be one big happy family.”

    Twitter also seems to have gone wild with tweets about Eva Rivas’ cleavage today:

    @arskhach: Armenian Independence Day: attended empty Bambir Show (thank you eurovision) & read #Eurovision cleavage wisecracks. #Armenia

    @friedarose: Watching Eurovision. Enough with Armenia’s boobs!!!!! Desperate for votes much? #eurovision

    @metanoia_chan All Armenia has going for it is boobs…

    @dallas_andrew: Armenia should have been singing about melons, not apricots #sbseurovision

    @sbseurovision: RT @bernietb: Cameraman has easily identified where Armenia’s…talents…lie #SBSEurovision

    @halfgoon Wow. Armenia. I don’t know what she’s singing. Too distracted by her attributes. #Eurovision

    Some funny ones about Safura too:

    @peenydeeny I don’t think there’s any need for Azerbaijan’s singer to worry that her dancer man is with another woman.

    @ AlexinaRose Azerbaijan: Really? You SURE she used Beyonce’s choreographer? #eurovision

    I’m sure there will be many more during tonight’s final and thankfully, it should all be over for another year.

  • The competition final happened last night and Germany won. Turkey 2nd, Azerbaijan was 5th, Armenia 7th, and Georgia 9th. However, the scores for the semi-final mentioned in this post were also released today and it was indeed a victory for the region with Turkey in 1st place, Azerbaijan 2nd, Georgia 3rd, and Armenia 6th. Apart from Turkey’s showing right at the top behind Germany, that didn’t seem to get carried over into the actual finals, though.

    http://escreport.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=9:semi-final-votes-released&catid=1:eurovision

  • […] territory of Nagorno Karabakh, nothing could be further from the truth, although the competition had been held in a much better spirit than in previous years. Despite that, however, at least one minor spat between Armenia and […]

  • […] Of course, with another Genocide resolution under consideration in the U.S. Congress, politics did briefly rear its head, but otherwise all three countries would soon be concentrated on something else — the 2010 Eurovision Song Contest in Oslo, Norway. Moreover, unlike previous years, the international music competition was largely held without any major scandals involving acts from the Caucasus. […]

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