Let’s talk about Armenia

We all know Eurovision is about more than the music, the costumes, the crazy stage designs and the voting. It’s also where a lot of us learn European geography and politics and this year Armenia will probably be the focus of that learning. So what do you need to know?

Let’s start with the band themselves; Genealogy.

Genealogy. Credits Eurovision.tv/Ruben Martirosyan, Public Television of Armenia
Genealogy. Credits Eurovision.tv/Ruben Martirosyan, Public Television of Armenia

Genealogy is a six-piece band made up of people from around the world with Armenian heritage. That’s one from each continent (America, Europe, Africa, Asia, Oceana) and one whose family still lives in Armenia.

Why? They represent the Armenian diaspora, most of whom are descendants of people forced to flee during the Armenian genocide, which began 100 years ago this year. Estimates vary, but it’s likely that over 1 million ethnic Armenians were killed in a deliberate campaign by Ottoman authorities.

So? Well apart from being a big deal (again, hundreds of thousands of people were murdered) there’s some friction about whether or not it actually was a ‘genocide’. Most historians agree that yes, it was, but Turkey (ie what became of the Ottoman Empire) insists that it was all part of the general atrocities of warfare taking place at the time (World War I having begun the year before, in 1914) and not wanting to upset Turkey, few governments are willing to use the word ‘Genocide’ when talking about it.

OK, so Armenia want to draw attention to this? Yes, exactly. Overtly political songs are banned at Eurovision but in the greater context of things, the lyrics of ‘Face the Shadow’ have a distinctly political feel, especially the line ‘don’t deny’ in the chorus. Other lines such as ‘life was unfair’ or ‘cross the ocean of blues’ can take on an entirely different meaning if referencing the events of the Genocide.

What does Turkey have to say about this? So far, not a lot, and as they aren’t competing this year they won’t be able to make a big deal of it in their voting or during their own performance, although Azerbaijan may try to make some noise about it on Turkey’s behalf. In the past, Turkey have threatened to not broadcast the show when they’ve been offended by other things (like the same sex kiss during the Finnish entry in 2013) so they may do the same again this year. On the other hand, it’s still illegal in Turkey to talk about what happened during this period in Armenia, so chances are equally likely that the press will try to ignore it so as to not risk sanctions from their own government.

Wow! So where can I learn more? History.com has a good summary here or you can can find more detailed information on the Wikipedia page. Alternatively, show your support for the band through social media here.