Eurovision and War
The 57th annual song contest will be held next May in Azerbaijan after Eli and Nikki won the show with their song: 'Running Scared'. Their success brought huge amounts of faith and happiness into the oil rich country of Azerbaijan who will be watched by over 125 million viewers worldwide. This will bring massive amounts of attention to the country but how will it influence the long going Nagorno-Karabakh war with neighbouring Armenia. The war is officially under a ceasefire imposed by Russia in attempts to bring a full stop to the war but over the last few months both sides have reported an increase in ceasefire violations which has lead to the deaths of over fifteen Armenian and Azeri soldiers. This has led to increasing tensions and Azerbaijan over the years have doubled their military budget which is a worrying indicator.
The fighting started in February of 1988 in the small enclave of Nagorno Karabakh in South Western Azerbaijan where the vast majority of the population were Armenian. The war began when the enclave parliament of Karabakh wanted to separate from Azerbaijan and wanted to unify with Armenia. However the vote was boycotted by the minority of Azeris who lived in the region. At first there was no official fighting between the two countries and but there were countless incidents of inter-ethnic clashes both in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Soon after Azerbaijan claimed its independence they removed the enclave government of Karabakh but this was not well met with the ethnic Armenians of Karabakh who again voted to secede from Azerbaijan. Soon after this led to the full scale war in 1992 which displaced over one million people from both sides.
Many organisation like OSCE were unable to bring an end to the vicious fighting which resulted in the deaths of 4,500 Armenian soldiers and 35,000 Azeri soldiers. In the summer of 1992 the Armenian Army regained control over the enclave and other regions. Fortunately the bloody war was put to an end by a Russian Brokered ceasefire in 1994 which was signed by both countries. By this time almost 20% of Azerbaijan was in control of the Armenian Army.
However, there have been many warnings by Azerbaijan over the last two years in the renewal of a full scale war if Armenia don't give back the lands that the Armenians are entitled to. In May 2010 an official from the Azerbaijan Defence Ministry told Euronews that if Azerbaijan don't see any progress then a new war would be highly likely, several months later the controversial video was removed and deleted and Azerbaijan claimed that the interview never happened.
But it's not on the front line where tensions are rising. There have been many clashes between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Eurovision song contest. The first clash was in 2006 when Azerbaijan were angry at Armenia's singer for having posted on his official Eurovision page that he was born in Azerbaijan SSR (Soviet) which he was. This led to the removal of the "Place of Birth Section". A more serious incident occurred in the 2009 Final where during the voting, the Azerbaijan broadcaster (iTV) blurred out the number to call to vote for Armenia, there were also allegations that the broadcaster failed to show the images of the Armenian representatives and instead they showed another country's representative. As a result iTV were fined a mere 2,700 Euros. But this is not as worrying as what happened the following year. In 2010, 43 Azeris had voted for the Armenian song compared to the 1,096 Armenian who voted for azerbaijan. Because of this the National Ministry in Azerbaijan questioned and interrogated the ones that had voted for Armenia Once again Azerbaijan denied claims but the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) warned that if there were any more allegations and problems cause, then Azerbaijan would be banned for 3 years from participating in Eurosvision.
Unfortunately, the only thing we can do is wait until the contest next year in Azerbaijan, and hope that both these countries can show a better attitude to resolving the conflict. Eurovision 2012 should hopefully be peaceful but more importantly, it gives the two countries more time to find a peaceful dialogue rather than stay in a stalemate war.