Azerbaijan’s Eurovision Quandary

The Eurovision Song contest somehow stirs up national passions and old grudges in a way that few other cultural events that don’t involve kicking around a white-and-black ball can. Azerbaijan is discovering this the hard way as Russia demands to know why its contestant did not receive a single vote from the former Soviet Republic.

The background to the story is fairly straightforward. According to Baku, Azerbaijani voters sent the largest share of their votes to Ukraine’s contestant, then ten to Russia’s, Dina Garipova. (Russia sent the maximum twelve votes to the Azerbaijani contestant.) Russia did not win, despite a great deal of internal hype and expectation in Moscow.

It is rumored that Vladimir Putin himself is outraged about the end result. He’s also miffed because none of Azerbaijan’s votes for Russia made it into the final tally. (Even with Azerbaijan’s votes, Garipova would never have taken first place.)

Somehow this has become something close to a diplomatic crisis, and Baku has launched an investigation into the botched vote relay.

Things will smooth over between Russia and Azerbaijan soon, as the two have enjoyed a peaceful but tense relationship during the decades since the fall of the Soviet Union. Although Baku remains upset about Russia’s backing of Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, it is unlikely that anything significant will come of the Case of the Missing Votes.

Lest anyone think he’s being left out, Belarussian dictator Aleksandr Lukashenko has chimed in with a conspiracy theory about his country being denied Russian votes. Someone will probably care soon.