In the 1950s, Soviet engineers built a massive city in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Azerbaijan. It was a network of oil platforms linked by hundreds of kilometers of roads and housing 5,000 workers, with a cinema, a park and apartment blocks. Gradually disintegrating but still closely guarded, this astonishing place inspired a fiery scene in a James Bond movie.Von Arno Frank
Azerbaijan's pledges to respect human rights ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest turned out to be largely superficial, despite widespread international criticism. But organizers also failed to ensure that their democratic values were upheld, avoiding conflict for the sake of a good party.Von Stefan Niggemeier
The Eurovision Song Contest has a massive gay following. But homophobia is rife in this year's host country, Azerbaijan, where gays and lesbians have to keep a low profile and fear violent attacks. Even so, locals say that gay Eurovision fans traveling to Baku needn't fear for their safety -- because the regime doesn't want any trouble.Von Annette Langer
Preparations for the first semi-final of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest on Tuesday were overshadowed by a diplomatic row between host country Azerbaijan and its neighbor Iran. The latter recalled its ambassador over accusations that Baku was planning an accompanying "gay parade."
Azerbaijan's Eurovision hopeful believes the world's largest non-sports TV event is an opportunity to "open our hearts to Europe." But Sabina Babayeva seems baffled by the idea that some Europeans believe that they should neither visit nor support a country with an oppressive regime like that of the Aliyevs in Baku.Von Annette Langer
Ingrid Deltenre heads the European Broadcasting Union (EBU), which organizes the Eurovision Song Contest being held in Azerbaijan, a country widely criticized for human rights violations, at the end of May. In a SPEIGEL interview she defends the choice of the controversial location and warns that politicizing the contest could kill it.
German television stations and newspapers have been reporting extensively on human rights abuses in Azerbaijan ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest there. Now Baku has accused "certain circles" in Germany of orchestrating a media campaign of slander and deceit against the country.
On the eve of the Eurovision Song Contest, scrutiny of host Azerbaijan is increasing, particularly the country's human rights record. A confidential German Foreign Ministry report, which SPIEGEL has seen, criticizes "state repression" in the country.Von Walter Mayr
Baku, set to host the Eurovision Song Contest in just over a month, is rapidly trying to become a modern city. To do so, it is forcibly removing residents from their homes to make way for slick new skyscrapers and other development projects. Those who try to stay bear the brunt of the government's wrath.Von Annette Langer
They are frequently harassed, sometimes beaten and even filmed while having sex: The risks to journalists in Azerbaijan are many. Ahead of the Eurovision Song Contest, the authoritarian government in Baku has shown no signs of relenting. The country's opposition says foreign journalists should beware.Von Annette Langer
The Eurovision Song Contest in Azerbaijan this year should be used as a forum for promoting civil rights in that country, German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said on Wednesday. The same should apply to Ukraine, which will co-host the European football championship and is under fire for jailing Yulia Tymoshenko, the former prime minister, he added.
While the Azerbaijani government hopes to burnish its image by hosting the Eurovision Song Contest in May, civil rights activists are struggling to draw more attention to the country's human rights violations. Standing uncomfortably in the middle are the organizers of this supposedly "apolitical" event.Von Stefan Niggemeier
Azerbaijan will play host to this year's Eurovision Song Contest. In the run-up to Europe's largest television event, the authoritarian regime has launched a campaign to improve its image. German PR experts, lobbyists and politicians across the spectrum are playing a role in those efforts.Von Ralf Neukirch
Azerbaijan is rife with corruption and comparisons to European feudalism in the Middle Ages are hardly a stretch. But with vast reserves of oil and natural gas at stake, the US is willing to risk the embarrassment that comes with courting the country.Von Gregor Peter Schmitz
Russian President Vladimir Putin has put Bush on the back foot over the US's planned European missile defense system with his offer of a radar station in Azerbaijan. But experts say the proposal is technically unfeasible.Von Ralf Beste und Alexander Szandar
President Vladimir Putin has proposed that Russia and the US jointly use an existing radar station in the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan as a way to resolve their dispute over the planned US missile shield in Eastern Europe. George W. Bush called it an "interesting proposal." Is the ice breaking?
Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan have signed an agreement to build a rail corridor that they hope will eventually link Europe with Asia. However, one country in the region -- Armenia -- is being left out.