Surprising many, Azerbaijan won last night's Eurovision Song Contest in Dusseldorf, Germany. Although expected to do well in the annual international music competition, Eldar Gasimov and Nigar Camal, performing under the stage name of Eli and Nikki, clinched the coveted award in front of a 36,000-strong audience and millions of viewers watching the show live on television.
Naturally, Facebook and Twitter carried the news, including tweets from the act themselves:
Some viewers, however, were confused exactly where Azerbaijan was:
@oliviaaNJ: Still trying to figure out where Azerbaijan is… *looks at world map* FOUND IT… oh….
Clapham Omnibus also noted the difficulty that many had in locating Azerbaijan on the map, but pointed out that its oil wealth might make it one of the few countries able to afford to host Eurovision next year:
So, most of Europe reached for their atlases last night – where exactly is Azerbaijan again? That’s right, next year Europe will extend to within 1000 miles of China, and only a hop away from Iran!
Apart from worries over the state of hotels and gay rights in Azerbaijan, the European television companies will no doubt sigh with relief – Azerbaijan is one of the few countries rich enough to stage the competition in the current economic climate, and they are absolutely desperate to do so. Should be mega – expect something to rival Moscow in 2008.
Nevertheless, with concerns from international human rights watchdogs about the internal situation in the country, some Azerbaijani activists were not convinced. Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines, for example, was not so enthused:
[…] Yep, here we are, for yet another Eurovision song contest. And as Azerbaijan celebrates its this year victory with a song called “Running Scared” by Nikki and Ell, one of Azerbaijan's young activists, Elnur Majidli declared wanted by Interpol. You know why? Well, simply because Azerbaijan chooses to spend thousands (if not millions) of government money on things like Eurovision while paying no attention whatsoever to the internal situation on the ground where for the record, journalists and activists get arrested on faked up charges.
So yea people, continue celebrating something as unnecessary and stupid as a Eurovision song contest, while turning a blind eye on human rights, freedom of expression and all the other violations taking place in your country. Because who cares about that right when Azerbaijan won such an important event of the year?!
Others agreed, but some saw Azerbaijan's victory as an excellent opportunity to implement much needed reform in the former Soviet republic:
Because of the still unresolved conflict over the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, some Armenians were also upset by the win:
Such reaction is not new to Eurovision with Armenians and Azerbaijanis often engaging in petty squabbling and sometimes even worse. In 2009, for example, Azerbaijan obscured the telephone number for viewers to vote for Armenia and its National Security Service called in at least one Azerbaijani for questioning after he managed to do so anyway.
Meanwhile, Armenia displayed the photograph of an Armenian monument in Nagorno Karabakh in a deliberate attempt to provoke Azerbaijan. Indeed, with Armenia hosting the Junior Eurovision contest later this year, and Azerbaijan already stating that it will not participate, the conflict between the two countries did not go unnoticed by the oikotimes:
I have the feeling that a lot of things happened last night in the Eurovision 2011 scoreboard. My thoughts since last night are storming my head and I have to share them with you as I am totally surprised (personally) that Caucasus countries (Armenia and Azerbaijan) are the winners and hosts of the two EBU family events (junior and senior Eurovision Song Contest).
It wouldn’t also be Baku 2012 if EBU had taken actions in 2009 when Azeri arrested 6 citizens with the accusation that they have voted for their eternal enemy, Armenians. This was never punished but just a small fine. The relations of the two countries are still in the red alert and security issues will definitely emerge next year. Do not forget that those two nations in the 80s were strongly killing each other over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Will Armenia participate next year? If yes, will Azerbaijan allow them in the country? You know that you cannot visit Baku if your passport has a visa from a previous visit to Armenia!
Naturally, key questions about Armenia's participation in the competition if it is to be held in Azerbaijan next year will likely surface although Emmy, this year's entry for Armenia, said that she would perform in Azerbaijan after Eli and Nikki said they would sing in Armenia.
- Если бы «Евровидение» проходило в Ереване, вы бы поехали туда?
-Мы всегда ждем приглашений от всех стран. Музыка, искусство — это не вопрос национальности. Мы будем рады участвовать в концертах везде.
Q: If the contest is held in Yerevan would you go there?
A: We are always waiting for invitations from all countries. Music, art – it's not a question of nationality. We will be happy to participate in concerts everywhere…
Unzipped: Gay Armenia, perhaps the main blog for Eurovision news from the Caucasus, commented on the situation:
I hope Armenia will go to Baku in 2012.
We should stop – and this is a good occasion to start with – once and for all this complex of losers or complex of inferiority between our countries, whenever either Azerbaijan or Armenia wins any international contest.
All talks of Armenia boycotting Eurovision in Baku I consider ridiculous and loser’s talk. Let’s pass that psychological complex, and rather concentrate on the quality of performance and the act chosen.
On the other hand, Azerbaijan must ensure that Armenian delegation and fans not only from Armenia but worldwide are able to attend the contest without having any problems with their yan/ian surname.
Ianyan also sounds a cautious note of optimism:
The duo are celebrating their win in Düsseldorf, and no doubt will be hailed when they return to Azerbaijan in the coming days, but for Armenia, who was sent home with Emmy’s “Boom Boom” during the first semi-final, the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest presents a conundrum if there ever was one.
The neighboring countries have no formal relations since 1994, due to the longest-running conflict in the former Soviet Union, the Nagorno-Karabakh war. The seven year entanglement saw an estimated 25,000 killed soldiers and civilians and one million people displaced, according to Human Rights Watch.
Perhaps the the presence of the best of the worst (and sometimes worst of the worst) pop music Europe has to offer might start a thaw in relations and hasten diplomacy and dialogue between the two countries. After all, “music has no borders” answered Eldar and Nigar during the press conference.
Others such as Jake Jones, a former democracy worker in Azerbaijan and his Azerbaijani wife, accomplished jazz singer Ulviyya Rahimova, demonstrated that unity was possible via social media alongside other Azerbaijani tweeps:
Away from the politics, however, Facebook was awash with Azerbaijanis posting video of celebrations in Baku, the country's capital, in the early hours of this morning.