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Page last updated at 08:53 GMT, Monday, 12 March 2012

Why has Armenia left Eurovision?

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Armenia has withdrawn from the 2012 Eurovision contest, which takes place in May in Azerbaijan, because the two countries fought a bloody war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in the 1990s, which left at least 25,000 people dead.

Author of The Eurovision Song Contest: The Official History, John Kennedy O'Connor, told the Today programme's John Humphrys that this has only happened once before - when Austria refused to take part in the Madrid contest in 1969 "staged under the Franco fascist regime".

He said that there has been "a lot of animosity" between the two countries which has recently been reignited over land.

Mr Kennedy O'Connor said that some Azaris who had voted for Armenia in the Eurovision Song Contest in 2009 had their phone records "examined by secret police" and received a night-time visit from them.

He said that, although Amnesty does not want it hosted in Azerbaijan because of human rights violations, others in the country "want people to come and see how it really is" in terms of an oppressive regime.

They will be "presenting a smiley happy face to the world while the reality is quite different", he said.


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