About two years after Russia annexed her Crimean homeland, Ukrainian Eurovision representative Susana Jamaladinova belted a ballad about Soviet-era conflict on the Black Sea peninsula. Her performance of her song "1944" won her the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest.
This wasn't the first Eurovision appearance for Jamaladinova, "Jamala." She represented Ukraine in 2011 with her song "Smile," but fell short of the plateau she reached last Saturday at the conclusion of the decades-old song contest.
This year, she took top owners in the contest by edging out Australia's Dami Im. Im outscored her in the judges' opinions, but Jamala amassed enough of the popular vote to win the contest.
— Eurovision (@Eurovision) May 14, 2016
Jamala's lack of favor from the jury wasn't the only controversy she endured during the contest. Some people raised the question of her song's eligibility for the contests on the grounds that the lyrics are politically charged.
"1944" paints a picture of the Soviet Union's deportation of Crimean Tartars during the 1940s. The song's lyrics are in English and some of Jamala's native Crimean Tartar.
"When strangers are coming / they come to your house / They kill you all / And say we're not guilty / not guilty," go some of the song's lyrics.
The song was inspired by the deportation of Jamala's great-grandmother, and has drawn comparisons to Russia's 2014 annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. Heading into last weekend, Jamala confirmed to the UK's The Guardian that the song is related to the events in Crimea two years ago.
"Of course, it's about 2014 as well," she said. "These two years have added so much sadness to my life."
Because there was no direct language promoting a political agenda in the song, Jamala's story was deemed eligible for the contest. "I couldn't spend my youth there / Because you took away my peace," the lyrics go.
Of Contests And Controversies
Jamala wasn't the only contestant to endure controversy, which seems to be standard for the contest.
Spain's Bárbara Reyzábal González-Aller, "Barei," drew flack because the lyrics to her song "Say Yay!" were all in English. She reasoned that writing English lyrics is easier for her and that the language has a stronger international presence than Spanish.
Considering that Spanish is spoken by about 500 million people, Barei's choice of English "is surprisingly stupid," stated José María Merino, a member of the Royal Spanish Academy. "I understand that a country with a language that has a limited number of speakers would try to use a language known by many, but this is unacceptable," said Merino.
Meanwhile, Romania's participation in the contest was barred because the country's public service broadcaster, TVR (Televiziunea Romana), allegedly failed to pay its debts to the EBU (European Broadcasting Union). The EBU manages a collection of public service broadcasters in Europe and it also hosts Eurovision.
"The EBU is a not-for-profit association which represents 73 Public Service Broadcasters in 56 countries," said EBU Director General Ingrid Deltenre. "The continued indebtedness of TVR jeopardizes the financial stability of the EBU itself."