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Crimean Tatars celebrate Eurovision win

Associated Press Associated Press 15/05/2016

Crimean Tatars have celebrated Ukrainian singer Jamala's win at Eurovision with a song that shed light on their horrific deportations to Central Asia under Stalin but also hinted at their recent treatment under Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many Russians, whose Eurovision Song Contest entry won the popular vote but finished third when the national juries' votes were added, said they felt robbed of the win because of political bias.

Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova joked sarcastically that to win next year's contest a song will need to denounce "bloody" Syrian President Bashar Assad, who is supported by Moscow but blamed in the West for Syria's 5-year civil war.

Russia's annexation of Crimea in 2014 was condemned by the United States and European Union, which responded by imposing punishing sanctions.

Inside Crimea, the seizure of territory from Ukraine was most strongly opposed by the Tatar minority, who now face persecution on the Moscow-ruled Black Sea peninsula.

"This song is about our tragedy ... and I hope that people heard this," said Emine Ziyatdinova, a 27-year-old Crimean Tatar who was among those celebrating the win at a Tatar restaurant in Kiev.

Jamala's song, 1944, recalls how Crimean Tatars, including her great-grandmother, were deported during World War II.

In the space of three days in May 1944, all 200,000 Tatars, who then made up a third of Crimea's population, were put on trains and shipped off to Central Asia upon Stalin's orders, suspected of collaborating with the Nazis during their long occupation of the peninsula during the war.

Jamala, the stage name for Susana Jamaladinova, was born in the Central Asian republic of Kyrgyzstan in 1983. She now lives in Kiev.

The lyrics of her song don't touch on Russia's annexation of Crimea, and Jamala insists there's no political subtext.

But there's no doubt the lyrics are powerful. She starts the song in English, singing "when strangers are coming, they come to your house, they kill you all and say 'we're not guilty."'

Russians believe anti-Russian sentiment in Europe swayed the vote. Their entry, Sergey Lazarev, had all the right ingredients for a Eurovision winner: a song with a thumping techno beat, a catchy refrain and a buff man in a tight shirt riding on an iceberg through space.

"This is a political contest, 100 per cent," said Anastasia Bagayeva, who watched the contest from a Moscow restaurant. "This is not fair, but this is the current time."

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