Ukrainian Tatar singer Jamala won the 61st Eurovision Song Contest with her song “1944” on the deportation of Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union, a surprise victory that could create controversy.
The 32 year old singer sang about the Deportation of Tatars from Ukraine to Central Asia by the Soviet regime during World War II. Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin had accused the Tatars, who are a Turkic ethnic group, collaboration with the Nazi regime.
Alone on stage, in front of a blood red background, Jamala explained that her great-grandmother was one of those 200,000 Tatars Crimean deportees, many of whom died in exile.
Jamala, who wished “peace and love for all” was very emotional at the press conference where she spoke about her grandmother.
“I would prefer that none of these terrible things have happened to my people and my grandmother and I would even prefer that this song did now exist,” she said.
This was Ukraine’s second win and its first since 2004. This was the first time since the introduction of professional jury voting in 2009 that the overall winner won neither the jury vote, which was won by Australia, nor the televote, which was won by Russia, with Ukraine placing second in both. It was also the first song with lyrics in Crimean Tatar, a language related to Turkish, to win or enter the contest.
Crimeans were deported to Central Asia in 1944 by the Soviets and recently Crimea was invaded and annexed by Russia in March 2014.
Turkey has many citizens of Tatar heritage. Renowned historians Halil Inalcik, Ilber Ortayli and Former Turkish PM Ahmet Davutoglu are among them.
The Eurovision Song Contest 2017 will take place next year in Kiev.