Armenian genocide, still a political hot potato, is about to land at the Eurovision song contest

Turkey is not going to like the Eurovision this year.
Turkey is not going to like the Eurovision this year.
Image: AP Photo/ Photolure, Hayk Badalyan
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Do not be fooled by the song and dance; the Eurovision Song Contest really is about international politics.

This year’s edition of Europe’s top kitsch-fest, which will be held in Vienna May 19-23, had already promised plenty of intrigue, with Ukraine withdrawing from the contest, Russia organizing a competing event (while still going for a Eurovision win), and the decidedly non-European nation of Australia planning to make its contest debut.

Now comes word that Armenia will present a song evoking the aftermath of the Armenian genocide.

This year’s Eurovision contest roughly coincides with the 100th anniversary of the Ottoman empire’s decimation of its Armenian minority. More than 1 million people who were living in what’s now Turkey were killed. Others scattered, seeding the modern Armenian diaspora.

The genocide, which began in April 1915, is still denied by the Turkish government; a trial underway in the European Court of Human Rights Court will test whether outlawing its denial is a violation of free speech.

Armenia will take part in Eurovision with a song evocatively titled Don’t deny, by Genealogy. The group will be comprised of artists from the Armenian diaspora—one each from Africa, America, Asia, Australia, and Europe—who will be joined on stage by an Armenian performer.

Armenian news agency Armenpress reports that the meaning behind the choice to have performers from five different parts of the world is to symbolize unity and peace.

The number goes along with the five petals of the Forget Me Not flower, and another participant will join the group and bring the “petals” together.

According to the Eurovision official website:

The idea is to unite a new generation of Armenians on stage whose families once spread all over the world in the year 1915.

The performers reportedly will include French-Armenian Essaï, who recently released Je n’oublie pas (I don’t forget), a song he dedicates, in the video, to “the 1.5 million Armenians, victims of the 1915 genocide.”

This is not the first time Eurovision has been tied to Armenian politics. In 2012, Armenia withdrew from the contest after the organizers selected Baku, Azerbaijan, as the host city of the event. Armenia and Azerbaijan had gone to war over the disputed South Caucasus territory of Nagorno-Karabakh in the 1990s, without ever getting to a resolution.