1944 – Ukrainian victory at the Eurovision

`1944’ – that is the name of the song with which Ukraine won the Eurovision song contest a couple of weeks ago. The song was interpreted by Jamala. Susana Jamaladinova (her real name) is a half Crimean Tatar and half Armenian singer born in 1983.

Jamala’s family story is quite dramatic: her paternal ancestors were deported by Stalin in 1944. Jamaica grew up with a special historical weight on her shoulders, and it is therefore not surprising that the song she picked for the Eurovision was politically related to her family’s past. ‘1944’ tells the story of her great-grandparents and all the Tatars who were deported by Stalin after they had been accused of helping Hitler during the war.

One of the verses of the winning song mentions the consequences of deportation: ’I couldn’t spend my youth there – because you took away my peace’. Jamala actually sings this verse in Crimean: ‘Yasligima toyalmadim Men bu yerde yasalmadim’. Jamala’s  choice to use this language, which is not even her mother tongue (it is Russian), created a lot of debates, particularly as this sentence is almost exactly the same as in one of the traditional Crimean Tatar songs.

The song that was claimed to be too political to represent a country for the Eurovision. But Jamala performed it anyway, without retaining her feelings: she finished the song crying, leaving the public full of emotions. As she said in an interview, she needed that to express her sadness about what happened to her family. For her it was liberating.

But as I said, the song was considered too political to be performed at the Eurovision. So how come Jamala won? To answer this question, it is important to understand how points are given at the Eurovision. There are two rounds of votes. In each country there is a jury that attributes to their favourite song points from 1 to 12, and this is the first round. The second one is the vote of the audience, with similar points. In both rounds, no one can vote for their own country. This year, Australia won the jury vote and Russia won the televote. However, Ukraine, which came second in both rounds, came out as the winner of this Eurovision 2016, leaving Russia and Australia in great disappointment. This also created a great polemic: a lot of people claimed that Russia was boycotted by the juries because of its political situation.

And now, what next? Because Ukraine won, that means that they must organise the next Eurovision in their country. Knowing the actual situation in Ukraine, it might be a bit frightening for the rest of the competitors. Also when we think about the fact that Sergey Lazarev (the Russian candidate) and Jamala barely talked during the whole contest, and that in the end Eurovision reflects the political relations between two countries, we can fairly wonder if Russia is even going to participate in the next Eurovision Song Contest.

Noémie Gaulier