Thursday, May 19, 2016


Recently, a young woman who calls herself Jamala won Eurovision 2016 with a song called 1944. Here are the lyrics and links to video clips:

The song angered the Russians though it referred to her great-grandmother's deportation some 70 years ago. At the time, Stalin felt that Crimean Tatars might be disloyal and deported all of them to Central Asia. Members of Jamala's family had fought for the Soviets. This deportation echoes, for me, the earlier deportations of Poles from the eastern parts of Poland after the Soviets had invaded Poland while allied to Nazi Germany. In both cases, those being deported were treated inhumanely. Jamala's great-grandmother's daughters died during transport and her body was disposed of "like garbage" ( Again, Poles suffered similar treatment. Hence, it does not seem surprising that there was support for this entrant among those that has also experienced similar treatment.

Susanna Jamaladinova was born in what is now Kyrgyzstan After the deportation of her father's family from Crimea in 1944 ( Her family then returned to Crimea, though her parents had to divorce in order for her Armenian mother to buy a house in Crimea since Tatars were not allowed to own property in Crimea during Soviet times.

Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, more Tatars had returned to Crimea, and many were unhappy with Russian annexation ( To Russia, Jamala's song seems also to refer to the recent annexation of Crimea by Russia, yet the title and lyrics seem to refer to the earlier deportation ( Russia has even proposed reinstituting Intervision to counter Eurovision (

Like the dismantling of the gulags (, the avoidance of discussion of the deportation of the Poles and Tatars and others to gulags or labor camps is not a solution. The memories will live on in the stories told to relatives and will resurface in songs such as 1944 and other ways of memorializing the victims. Yet, the world should remember that many of the victims were Russians, who are still caught in the forced silence, without a way to openly remember their families, as Stalin is rehabilitated as a hero. There is an ongoing effort to rewrite this history.

Thank you, Jamala, for putting at least part of it front and center.

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