Armenia plans to use Eurovision, the pop-and-politics fest extraordinaire, to ask Europe not to “deny” that the slaughter of thousands of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey amounted to genocide.
The Armenian entry for Eurovision, “Don’t Deny,” has not formally been linked to many countries’ – most notably, Turkey’s – reluctance to admit that the slaying amounted to genocide. But in the song’s video, presented on March 12, the subtext is fairly obvious.
The performers, a sextet called Genealogy, are made up of five ethnic Armenian artists (from Australia, Ethiopia, France, Japan and the US), reportedly all descendants of survivors of the 1915 massacre, and a singer from Armenia.
The group, mostly kitted out in contemporary renditions of early 20th-century outfits, sing amidst retro-shots of an extended World-War-I-era family. The family ultimately vanishes, leaving empty chairs behind.
Armenian Weekly claimed that each singer in the collective stands for a petal of the forget-me-not flower, the symbol chosen for the April 24 genocide-centennial in the Armenian capital, Yerevan. The publication claimed that Armenian singer Inga Arshakian represents the midpoint of the flower — the center of gravity, if you will — for the far-flung Armenian Diaspora.
The centennial’s official commemoration date hits roughly a month before Eurovision’s May 19-23 run in Vienna.
Yet despite the obvious symbolism, Armenia denies that “Don’t Deny” is about genocide denial. Arguably, it has its reasons. The country needs to make sure its submission makes it into the contest over complaints from century-old foe Turkey and modern-day enemy Azerbaijan.
Already, Azerbaijan, which hosted the 2012 contest, has pledged that it will “act adequately” to stop Eurovision 2015 from “being sacrificed to the political ambitions of a country;” in other words, Armenia.
The European Broadcasting Union maintains that it wants to avoid turning the contest, decided by cross-border voting, into a venue for political exchange. In 2009, an entry from Armenia’s neighbor, Georgia, a song called “We Don’t Wanna Put In,” was disqualified for allegedly taking a swipe at Vladimir Putin, the then prime minister of host-country Russia.
But the event is unavoidably political. Particularly in the post-Soviet region, where countries tend to take the result especially seriously.
Don’t expect anything different this time round.