This year's Junior Eurovision Contest, where "seven of the 14 countries that will compete at Minsk are ex-Soviet republics," is being hosted by Belarus. Peter Savodnik reports:

The cynic’s view of Junior Eurovision 2010 is that, like parades and pyrotechnics, it is being used by the vlast, or state power, to distract viewers from the grayness of everyday life in the surreal netherworld that is Belarus, where opposition leaders and reform-minded journalists still sometimes disappear. “With this, the power can say it has real, flesh-and-blood evidence that it supports young talent, to show that it cares about the future of the country,” says Dmitri Podberezski, a music critic at the Web site experty.by, which focuses on the independent music scene in Minsk.

Hosting Junior Eurovision doesn’t quite amount to Westernization, but it does point to an openness inconceivable a few years ago. It’s hard to imagine Burma, say, or North Korea hosting a weeklong fiesta that includes hundreds of Western journalists and millions of international viewers.

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