Jamala, who belongs to the Crimean Tatar ethnic group, triumphed with a song called “1944” about Joseph Stalin’s mass deportation of Tatars from the Crimean Peninsula during World War II. While there is no specific reference to the Soviet Union, the song evokes the heartbreak of that time, when Tatars were forcibly removed from their homes en masse because they were perceived as Nazi collaborators.
“Where is your heart?” crooned Jamala, whose real name is Susana Jamaladynova. “Humanity rise./ You think you are gods/ But everyone dies.”
The singer’s message was a personal one. She told the BBC that her great-grandmother and her five children were among the 250,000 Tatars uprooted and sent on trains “like animals” to Central Asia.
But it was not the historical reference that most rankled Eurovision’s Russian viewers. In an interview with the Guardian, Jamala acknowledged that the song is also about Russian President Vladimir Putin’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.