Sunday, 21 February 2010

Armenia's Apricot Army

Now there are many, who when the subject of Eurovision is raised, dismiss it with a cursory "Of course it's all political." What they are touting is usually the misguided and paranoid idea that nobody votes for the UK because everyone hates us, and there's some manner of fit up among all the other countries against us. Of course, they are wrong. The only reason nobody votes for us any more is because we send lazy-assed songs firmly rooted in the Eurovision of the past. However, in some instances Eurovision can claim to be a highly politicised beast - none the least out in the Caucasus.

Case in point is this year's Armenian entry, Apricot Stone by Eva Rivas. On the outset it sounds like nothing more sinister than a nostalgic ditty about the old days, the pretagonist's mother telling her how good life would be once she'd grown up - kind of like Ke Sera Sera with a skipbeat. But a little bit of delving will uncover all manner of mischief making.

For a start, take a look at that Armenian flag up in the top right corner. See the orange band at the bottom? That's not orange, that's apricot. The colour on the flag relates to the fruit considered to be the symbol of Armenian nationality. This thing goes back centuries, with Armenian generals going into war carrying banners and effigies made in the colour of the fruit, and the country's favourite folk instrument, the duduk (the very instrument that Eva's song begins with) is made from the wood of the tree. So perhaps the song is a call out to the diaspora of up to six million Armenians scattered around the globe in order to garner a few teary-eyed votes?

Maybe so, but some commentators are claiming yet more symbolism within the song's lyric. Some say that the mention of the fruit's stone refers to the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian enclave within the borders of Azerbaijan. These two very different nations have been niggling about this neighbourhood ever since the Russians poked their noses 90 odd years back - but would they extend their beef to something as seemingly innocent as Eurovision? You better believe it, because these two have form.

Last year the Armenians had their singer from the previous year, Shirusho, read out their scores. But look carefully and you'll notice that both on the backdrop and on the back of the very clipboard that she kept cheekily flashing at the camera was a picture of the Tatik yev Papik momument in Nagorno-Karabakh - a symbol of Armenian nationality in that area.

Following that, it was reported that 43 Azeri residents were questioned by their Ministry of Security after it was found that they had made the very unpatriotic move of voting for Armenia in the 2009 competition in Moscow.

Obviously feelings are still running very strong between the two countries, and they're playing their local politics out in the living rooms of a hundred million viewers across the continent. And with Azerbaijan yet to choose their song in this year's contest, we suspect this one could run and run. Keep them peeled, 'cos that Saturday night at the end of May could prove to hold more political intrigue than the casual viewer could ever imagine!

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