Eurovision: Ukraine's entry aimed at Russia

By Mark Savage
Music reporter

media captionJamala's song was allowed to compete but other entries fell foul of Eurovision's "no politics" rules

Ukraine has picked a song about Josef Stalin's enforced wartime deportation of the Tatar people as its entry to the Eurovision Song Contest.

Jamala's song 1944 is about the tragedy that befell her great-grandmother, when the dictator sent 240,000 Tatars on crowded trains to barren Central Asia.

Thousands died during the journey or starved to death after they arrived.

The lyrics begin: "They come to your house, they kill you all and say: 'We're not guilty'."


Memories of those events were revived by Russia's seizure of Crimea in 2014. Although 1944 does not directly comment on that issue, former Eurovision winner Ruslana commented: "This song... is precisely what we are all suffering in Ukraine today."

"This song really is about my family," said Jamala, whose great-grandmother was in her mid-20s when she, her four sons and daughter were deported - after Stalin accused the Tatars of collaborating with the Nazis.

One of the children died during the journey to Central Asia.

"I needed that song to free myself, to release the memory of my great-grandmother, the memory of that girl who has no grave," Jamala told the AFP news agency last week.

She added that she had entered Eurovision because she wanted people to hear a song written "in a state of helplessness" after Russia's seizure of her land.

Political songs excluded

Speaking to Radio Free Europe-Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) the 32-year-old said that she is thinking of her family members in current-day Crimea when she sings 1944.

"Now the Crimean Tatars are on occupied territory and it is very hard for them," she said.

"They are under tremendous pressure. Some have disappeared without a trace. And that is terrifying. I would not want to see history repeat itself."​

Eurovision rules prohibit songs with politically loaded lyrics. In 2009, Georgia's disco-funk song We Don't Wanna Put In, was excluded for poking fun at Vladimir Putin. The song was selected as the country's entry less than a year after Russia and Georgia went to war over the region of South Ossetia.

Ukraine's 2005 entrant Green Jolly was also told to rework the lyrics of its song, Razom Nas Bahato, which was an anthem of the previous year's Orange Revolution protests.

This year's edition of the Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Stockholm in May.

The UK will select its entry in a live vote on BBC Four this Friday, 26 February.

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