Monday, May 16, 2011

Flying the Flag... of Turkey? Azerbaijan in the Eurovision Song Contest

I trust you have packed away your face paint and gnome hats and recovered from the glory that was Eurovision 2011. If you were not too sozzled from the drinking games during the event itself, you may have been moved to ask: Why did the Azerbaijani entrants, this year's winners, wave the Turkish flag?

Photo: Reuters
I hadn't noticed it myself  - not because of sozzledness, mind: I had to turn the television off, since it turns out that Eurovision makes my toddler cry - but once the question was put to me I did some digging.

Now, I can't claim to be any kind of expert on Near Asia, but from what I can gather it's to do with Turkic heritage (the crescent and star on a red background is incorporated into the Azerbaijani flag as well), and many people believe the Azeris and Turks are of "two states, one nation"  It  looks like waving the Turkish flag was banned in Azerbaijan for a while, but relations are now "normalised". One source even refers to an agreement whereby "Turkish and Azerbaijani officials once again reaffirmed that Turkish and Azerbaijani flags were not considered flags of a foreign state in each countries [sic]." If true, that would make the Turkish/ Azerbaijani case quite unique.

This all becomes rather interesting when you consider a third player: Armenia.

Armenia does not have diplomatic relations with Azerbaijan, and only very recently established them with Turkey [edit: Turkey and Armenia failed to establish diplomatic relations. This article describes quite a symbolic act on that front...]. There are several border disputes between the countries (Armenia is wedged between Turkey and Azerbaijan), and Turkey's refusal to acknowledge the Armenian genocide of 1915 causes much tension. In the event of war Armenia would (probably) be supported by the Russian military.

These conflicts spill over into the Eurovision Song Contest as well. For example, a couple of years ago Azerbaijani citizens who had voted for Armenia in the ESC were interrogated for unpatriotic activities and asked to explain themselves. Controversies have also arisen over the video 'postcards' that introduce national entries and the biographical details of performers.

It looks like the Eurovision Song Contest 2012 in Baku may prove to be one of the more interesting ones yet (assuming Azerbaijan can afford to host the event in the first place)...


  1. Armenia and Turkey still don't have diplomatic relations. Unfortunately the whole process fell through...

  2. Thanks for the information, Onnik. I'll update the post.

  3. But Turkey and Armenian relation is pretty good though. They voted for each other one time.

  4. azerbaijani are actually of turkish ethnicity. they are speaking a different dialect of turkish, which is more pure in vocabulary and grammer when compared to modern turkish.

  5. Azerbaijan and Turkey have indeed a unique case. Azerbaijani people consider themselves as Turkish (not only Turkic).

    As for Armenia and Azerbaijan... One third of Azerbaijani land is under occupation of Armenia. This is not something only Turkey and Azerbaijan say but also the UN.

  6. As an Azeri, I don't consider myself as "Turkish" at all. Our ancestors were Caucasian Albanians, so in the 12th century Seljuks Turkified us by forcing us to speak in Turkic. Even DNA tests prove that we don't have any similarities with our linguistic family members.
    The reason why Nikki waved the Turkish flag is so simple. Cause her husband is Turkish. That's it!