Eurovision crowned Ukraine’s Jamala — a Crimean Tatar who has not been home since shortly after Russia occupied the peninsula in March 2014 — as this year’s winner.
Her song, “1944,” about the deportation of her grandmother and other Crimean Tatars by Josef Stalin during World War II, holds parallels to Russia’s repression of the ethnic group today. Jamala’s lyrics tell a sad story, but she said that her song is not so different from the many love songs sung in the competition.
“Actually, I really want peace and love to everyone,” she said in accepting her trophy.
Jamala earned 534 points, beating Australia’s Dami Im and Russia’s Sergey Lazarev, who took second and third place, respectively. This year’s competition used a new voting system in which points were awarded by both the juries of member countries and a public telephone vote.
Beautiful and dramatic @JAMALA sets the stage alight tonight #UKR #Eurovision https://t.co/4oOLuWK2EP
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 14, 2016
Jamala, whose given name is Susana Jamaladynova, has parents and extended family still living in Crimea, according to The Guardian.
Followers rushed to Twitter to congratulate Jamala, including American singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake, who performed during the show’s halftime entertainment.
#CantStopTheFeeling #Eurovision. Congrats @jamala #Ukraine!! pic.twitter.com/1z9fA31yTR
— Justin Timberlake (@jtimberlake) May 14, 2016
U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth noted the parallels between Stalin’s repression of the Crimean Tatars during World War II and Russia’s ongoing repression of the ethnic minority group since occupying Crimea in March 2014.
Incredible performance by #Jamala, giving Crimean Tatars, suffering persecution & abuse, reason to celebrate pic.twitter.com/XWOZADrywH
— Samantha Power (@AmbPower44) May 15, 2016
Jamala's winning song about Crimean Tatars' 1944 deportation was also about 2014 annexation. https://t.co/f5w3pjsDw2 pic.twitter.com/j4sj5ub9b9
— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) May 14, 2016
This year’s show was broadcast in some 50 countries, including, for the first time, the United States. Although global viewers are still being tallied, the number is expected to exceed 200 million.
Eurovision 2017 will be held in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv.