By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent BosNewsLife
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MOSCOW/STOCKHOLM (BosNewsLife)-- Ukraine is celebrating after it won the Eurovision Song Contest with an emotionally charged song about Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin's deportation in 1944 of nearly a quarter of a million Crimean Tatars. Yet the song by Susana Jamaladinova, a 32-year-old trained opera singer who uses the stage name Jamala, has angered critics in Russia, which came in third after Australia.
With somber lyrics and visibly moved she recalled how hundreds of thousands of Crimean Tatars, including her great-grandmother, were deported in by Soviet authorities during the war. Many died during the deportations or starved to death on the barren steppes of central Asia. Decades later some of the survivors were allowed to return to the Crimean Peninsula.
Jamala delivered an emotional performance on a stage where flashing red colors apparently symbolized bloodshed, her voice soaring as the song built up force from a quiet start.
The singer later told reporters she wanted to express the deep pain she feels and the suffering endured by many others. "I know that this pain convinced all people who had their own tragedies in the past such as the Holocaust."
Yet the focus on Crimea, whose annexation by Russian forces in 2014 was opposed by its Tatar minority, wasn't welcomed by everyone in Russia. Jamala insisted there was no political subtext, and contest officials agreed.
Russian commentators, however, accused Eurovision of political bias, pointing out that Russia won the popular vote among television viewers. But televoting counted only for half the points as for the first time this year the other half was given by professional juries.
Not all Russians attending the Eurovision event in the Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, were angry. "We are from Moscow in Russia. We are incredible pleased that Ukraine has won. We are happy for our Ukrainian friends. We have met a lot tonight, during the Eurovision. So see you next year in Kiev," a Russian participant, his friend nodding in agreement.
Yet at least some people in the public expressed surprise. "I think there was shock really," a man said.
"We were sitting in the fan block in the area. Peoople were just bewildered. They expected either Australia to continue with their lead till the very end or they expected Russia to pulver them. We didn't expect Ukraine at all. People were just flabbergasted, people were speechless. Absolutely speechless."
This year's show was aired live in Europe, China, Kazakhstan, Australia, New Zealand and, for the first time, the United States. Last year's contest reached some 200 million viewers worldwide.
(BosNewsLife's NEWS WATCH is a regular look at key general news developments impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals, especially related but not limited to, (former) Communist nations.)