Don’t Call It Culture: Eurovision in Azerbaijan
The European Song Contest is a thoroughly politicized event, not a celebration of culture. The strained relationship between the Azerbaijani hosts and their Armenian guests is only the most obvious example of the politics of art.
A few months before the Eurovision Song Contest, the European media began to discuss it and wagered a first guess on possible outcomes. But in many countries of Eastern Europe - like Armenia and Azerbaijan - the contest has been making headlines for quite some time. The reason is that every event connected to the process of European integration is a matter of national concern.
Since the victory of the Azerbaijani contestant in 2011, Armenia’s participation in the contest has been the subject of discussion in both countries (which are locked in a drawn-out and controversial border dispute). Azerbaijan declared that Armenia would be allowed to participate and extended security guarantees to the Armenian delegation during their possible trip to Baku, the nation’s capital. This was a smart diplomatic maneuver: Azerbaijan wanted to show the international community that they were ready to guarantee their adversaries’ security even after Armenian “aggression” in the border dispute. In the meantime, Armenian society was absorbed in discussions about whom to send to the contest - and ended up debating whether to send anyone at all.