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Azerbaijan: Bloggers Divided Over Eurovision Win

This post is part of our special coverage Eurovision Azerbaijan 2012.

Last weekend, Azerbaijan was shaking, with thousands of people flooding onto the streets of Baku, the capital, in the early hours of the morning.

No, it wasn't an earthquake or even a popular uprising. It was instead spontaneous celebrations that broke out following the country's win in the Eurovision Song Contest held  in Düsseldorf, Germany just hours earlier.

Nevertheless, while most Azerbaijanis were euphoric following the Eurovision success, some bloggers were more critical, considering that the euphoria surrounding the win, which now means next year's competition will be held in Baku, was futile and meaningless.

One of them was UK-based Scary Azeri who asked some of the questions the international media is now starting to raise too:

[…] with all those people who watch the contest, and the attention drawing to Azerbaijan as the possible host for 2012, would at least some things change for the best? Would there be some benefit to the people? Also, as some friends wondered, would Armenians participate? Would they be welcome to?  Would Azerbaijan handle the fact that Eurovision is extremely gay, and will involve a huge gay crowd coming to Baku? Would it show its hospitality to all of the above? How will it actually work, if it does at all?

Flying Carpets and Broken Pipelines, another blog based outside the country, also wondered about the significance of the victory and how it might benefit the country. Following a particularly critical post, the blogger clarified and expanded more on the subject in a second entry:

[…] let me explain. Azerbaijan won the Eurovision song contest- it has invested a lot, […] and the fact that it won, shows how much effort was put into this. My point was that if Azerbaijan and those responsible for the contest manage to get Azerbaijan come first in some of the (though I still think the most unimportant) most popular competitions held every year- the Eurovision- why cannot it do the same thing regarding everything else that is wrong in this country- freedom of expression, freedom and security of journalists, overall security of its people, respect of human rights, equal rights, “0” corruption, better salaries, better liberties and much more…

Elə-belə [az] also agreed, albeit in a more nationalistic tone, specifically referring to the still unresolved conflict with Armenia over Nagorny Karabakh.

İnsanı üzən isə bu uğuru İqdidarın uğuru kimi qələmə verənlərin çox olmasıdı.Əzizlərim bu nə müxalif insanların məğlubiyyəti, nədə ki İqdidarın qələbəsi deyil.Bu seçkilər deyil, Qarabağı qaytarmamışıq. […]

[…]

Hər kəsi də təbrik edirəm..2012 çox maraqlı il olacaq,Ermənilərsiz Dünyada yaşasaq bəlkə də biz hər zaman qalib ola bilərdik… […] Və ümid edirəm Ermənilər bura gəlməkdən imtina edərlər,çünki Onlar Bakıda qalib olsalar o zaman AZADLIQ meydanında nələr olacaq onun xəyalı belə pisdi.. […]

What is disappointing is that there is a majority who pass this victory off as the success of the Government. My dears, this is not a defeat of the opposition, neither is it the victory of the Government. This is not elections. We have not returned Karabakh. […]

[…]

I congratulate all.. 2012 will be very interesting. Probably if we lived in a world without Armenians, we could always be winners… […] And I hope Armenians will refuse to come here, because if They win in Baku, then the idea of what might happen on the FREEDOM square is horrible. […]

Another blogger, Baxram [az], also commented on the mass celebrations and what it believed to be the irrationality displayed by some who attributed the victory to the successful foreign policy of the government (An English version in full is available here):

Dünən gecə və bu gün küçəyə çıxan insaların tv-lərə verdiyi müsahibələrə qulaq asdıqca bir daha əmin oldum ki, bu insanları nə qədər minsən, söysən, təhqir etsən bir o qədər yaxşıdı. Kimisi deyir gün o gün olsun gələn il yevrovizyona Şuşada çayçıda baxaq, kimisi deyir bu qələbə ilə Qarabağın azadlığı yolunda ilk addımı atdıq…Kimi də bunu ucunu Heydər Əliyevin qoyduğu, İlham Əliyevin də dibinə qədər itələdiyi uğurlu daxili və xarici siyasətin bəhrəsi olduğunu qeyd etdi…Sonuncuya qatılıram. […]

Nəhayət, kralımız Avropanı da almağı bacardı…

Ən pisi isə odur ki, demokratiya diktaturaya, padşahlığa məğlub oldu…

Seeing interviews with people who took to the streets to celebrate these last couple of days confirmed that, the more you belittle them, the more you insult them, the better it is. There are some who say “May we watch Eurovision in Shusha next year”, those who say “this is another step towards the liberation of Karabakh”… And there are those who say that this is a result of Heydar and Ilham Aliyev's successful domestic and foreign policy. I agree with the latter.

Finally, our king managed to conquer Europe, too.

The saddest thing is that democracy was beaten by dictatorship… By monarchy…

As pro-government supporters used Twitter and Facebook to spread links to articles and videos showing how developed the Azerbaijani capital had become (in response to some Europeans voicing concerns about Baku lacking the necessary infrastructure to host Eurovision), bloggers such as XezerXeber [az] rejoiced in the win:

Biz bacardıq – öz mədəniyyətimizlə bir Avropa dövləti olduğumuzu, Avropa dəyərlərini bölüşdüyümüzü, Avropa geomədəni çevrəsində yaşadığımızı sübut etdik. […]

2009-cu ildə Azərbaycan İslam ölkələrinin mədəniyyət paytaxtı idi.

2011-ci ildə Azərbaycan Avropanın mədəni paytaxtına çevrildi. […]

We made it – with our culture we proved that we are a European country, we share European values, we live in the European geo-cultural environment. […]

In 2009 Azerbaijan Azerbaijan was a cultural capital of Islamic countries.

In 2011 Azerbaijan has become a European cultural capital. […]

Dissenting voices such as In Mutatione Fortitudo still remained, however. Elaborating on some of the many challenges the country now faces as it prepares to host the competition in 2012, it did not sound too optimistic:

[…] we clearly understand what results this victory can bare – encountering serious legitimacy concerns at home, the Azerbaijani government will use this opportunity to full extent to mobilize popular support for their authoritarian policies. […]

It will become a favorite propaganda toy in the hands of the government. Tightly controlled media has already started to sing dithyrambs in honor of the President, et all (“architects of the victory”) and the victory itself is soon going to be the result of successful foreign and domestic policies of the government.

Serious human rights and democracy concerns will be pushed aside.

Baku will host Eurovision 2012 and as a typical shame-based society, critics will be silenced – with a silent approval from general conformist public – not to spoil the show.

[…]

We don't see any wish and will of the government in Baku to soften the regime yet.

But others such as Pərviz Şükürzadənin bloqu [az] held a different opinion:

Ermənistanda isə qeyri-rəsmi matəmdir. Bu onların saytlarından da hiss olunur. […]

[…] Nə qədər təəcüblü olsa da, Azərbaycanlılar arasında da bu qələbəyə sevinməyənlər, müsabiqəyə ləkə yaxanlar da tapıldı. Hərənin bir dərdi var, amma bildiyim qədəri onların bir çoxu bu qələbənin iqtidara işləyəcəyindən ehtiyatlanaraq bu addımı atırlar. […]

In Armenia there is unofficial mourning. You can tell it from their web sites as well. […]

[…] However surprising it might be, there are a few Azerbaijanis who are not happy about the victory and smeared the contest. Everyone has their own issue, but as far as I know most of them do it fearing that the victory will work for the government. […]

However, not all critics of the government considered the victory in such a context, with recently released video blogging youth activist Adnan Hajizada tweeting his hopes for the competition:

@FuserLimon: #Eurovision will change #Azerbaijan, the same way as #Olympics changed #China! I believe in that!

Despite the divided opinion, or perhaps even because of it, the issues surrounding holding Eurovision 2012 in Azerbaijan are likely to become the center of much discussion in the year ahead.

Image source: www.eurovision.tv

Image source: www.eurovision.tv

This post is part of our special coverage Eurovision Azerbaijan 2012.

  • AP

    Azerbaijan: a study in self-deception.

    1. The song, both the melody and the lyrics, were purchased with government petrodollars from a group of Swedes. Millions were spent to enlist foreign choreographers (notably of Beyonce). What exactly is Azeri about all this? Finding someone to sing the meaningless words (expats none the less)? Or the Turkish flag being waved at the grand finale? A few years back, Azerbaijan’s participant Arash was a non-Azeri.

    2. Armenia has written its OWN melodies and its OWN lyrics every single year it has participated. Azerbaijan has done exactly the opposite each time.

    3. Azerbaijan, a hereditary military dictatorship kept afloat by oil revenue, is not a democracy. It is hence fundamentally non-European.

  • I wonder if this issue of Arash not being Azerbaijani could extend to, say, Emmy’s backing dancers being Greek? Or the fact that one of the songs in the running for Armenia’s entry this year was composted by a Turk? Anyhow, two things. Other acts have entered with non-nationals in the past and secondly, Eurovision has ALWAYS been (controversially) about money in recent years.

    Meanwhile, I personally hope that Eurovision in Baku next year can result in some positive changes in various areas in Azerbaijan. I also hope that Armenia will compete in the competition, using the occasion to really represent what Eurovision was always meant to be about — bringing nations together rather than keeping them apart. So far a muted reaction to the victory here has given way to many of those who are commenting to support participation than not.

  • Pingback: Caucasus: The Year in Review · Global Voices()

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