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Politics overshadows fun at Eurovision

Published måndag 16 maj 2016 kl 17.13
Politics beat out fun at Eurovision Song Contest
(1:32 min)
Jamala's politically charged song wins Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Martin Meissner / AP.
Jamala's politically charged song wins Eurovision Song Contest. Photo: Martin Meissner / AP.

Ukrainian singer Jamala took the top spot in this year's Eurovision Song Contest hosted in Stockholm, a victory that added a political tinge to a normally neutral event.

Jamala's winning ballad "1944" was written in remembrance of her great-grandmother and other Crimean Tatars who were deported to central Asia in World War II by Joseph Stalin. Many, however, speculate the song was also political statement about the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014. Jamala is from Crimea but has not been back since 2014, even though her parents and extended family still live there.

Sunday night's competition became a stage for more than just pop ballads and choreographed dance routines serving as a platform for a larger discussion about geo-politics and the future of the European Union.

The Ukrainian song's charged lyrics led to controversy ahead of the Eurovision competition as Russian lawmakers denounced it as offensive and blatantly anti-Kremlin, and asked that it not be allowed in the competition. Eurovision organizers decided that the song was referencing a historical event and therefore did not break competition rules against political speech.

After Jamala's win, some Russian government officials floated the possibility of boycotting next year's contest that will be hosted in Ukraine and said that the new voting system was unfair. Russian state-run television even presented their contestant and second runner-up, Sergei Lazarev, as the "champion".

Many Ukrainian journalists at Eurovision believe that Jamala's message was important for Europe to hear. They view her win as a reflection of the EU's solidarity with the people of Ukraine. Some Russian journalists at the event were disappointed, saying the competition had moved away from its stated goal of being a fun, musical event to one that rewards political punches.

Although a year away, questions were already raised as to which city would host 2017's competition. Many Ukrainians would like for it to be held in Crimea over the nation's capital of Kiev even though the peninsula is now under Russian control.

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