Bird Droppings from Estonia: Eurovision 2016 (6)
Arvamus 29 May 2016 Hilary BirdEWR
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'1944' - this year’s Eurovision winner - is a thinly disguised song about Stalin’s deportation of the Crimean Tatars. The singer is Jamala (Susana Jamaladinova), a classically trained jazz, blues and soul singer. She is half Crimean Tatar and half Armenian by birth and is Ukrainian by nationality. She is a also (one for Triv fans) a relation of the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian (1903-1978), known to my generation in the UK because his lovely adagio from the ballet ‘Spartacus’ was the signature tune for the BBC’s popular 1970’s series ‘The Onedin Line.’

During 1942–1944 Joseph Stalin, dictator of the USSR, ordered the forcible deportation of the Crimean Tatars as punishment for alleged collaboration with the Nazi occupation regime. A total of more than 230,000 people were deported, mostly to Soviet Uzbek-Ustan in central Asia. This included the entire ethnic Crimean Tatar population of The Crimea. More than 100,000 deportees (according to a 1960s survey by Crimean Tatar activists) died from starvation or disease as a result of deportation. Crimean Tatars and Soviet dissidents called for a long time for recognition of ethnic cleansing but recognition only came in 2015 when independent Ukraine designated the deportations as genocide and declared 18 May as a Day of Remembrance for the victims.

Jamala’s great aunt died on board a cattle truck in 1944 en route to Central Asia. Her body was tossed from the wagon "like garbage." This is what a totalitarian state did (and still can and does do) to people who don't fit their (usually idiotic) idea of acceptability. This was condemnation for what you are, not what you have chosen to be. It has nothing to do with what you may or may not have done. It’s about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. No trials, no mercy, no justice. This also happened to many Estonians, Latvians, Lithuanians, Poles, Czechs, the Volga Germans and others. And it’s not just about Stalin. Hitler doled out similar treatment to the Jews, Gays & Lesbians, Romanies, disabled people and others. Racist, sexist, homophobic ‘shut-up, be-like-me-and do-as-you-are-told’ shit has gone on since time immemorial. Religion is one of the worst offenders so it's not reasonable to blame intolerance on atheism.


Watch Jamala’s performance of ‘1944’ , at



The lyrics (by Chris Halpin) were sung half in English and half in the Tatar language .

Strangers are coming
They come to your house
They kill you all
And say
We’re not guilty
Not guilty

What are you thinking of?
Humanity cries
You think you are gods
But everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls

I couldn’t live my youth at home
Because you took away my peace
I couldn’t live my youth there
Because you took away my peace

We should build a future
Where people are free
To live and love,
happy times

Where is your heart?
Humanity rise
You think you are gods
But everyone dies
Don’t swallow my soul
Our souls

I couldn’t live my youth at home
Because you took away my peace
I couldn’t live my youth there
Because you took away my peace


Shakespeare it ain’t but the message comes over loud and clear. My vote goes 100% to anyone that does anything to inspire anyone, no matter how small, to make the world a more equitable and tolerant place. Who knows where the catalyst for a turn of events lies? "Never doubt,” said the great cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead, “that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret also advised “Children must be taught how to think, not what to think.” Wonderful woman.

I don't suppose the Eurovision win will stop the East-West (led by the Russians and the Americans who are, basically, pulling the strings in the Ukraine) conflict, but ‘1944’ is a strong statement from the Crimean Tatars. The Tatars oppose Putin’s 2014 seizure (from The Ukraine) of The Crimea and its annexation back into Russia. Is it any wonder that they resent being sucked back into a regime that is in the process of rehabilitating Stalin …

A huge international audience of around 180 million people (around 4.4% of the population of the planet) watches the show every year. Eurovision, like it or not, is an enormously popular international cultural event. And don’t knock schlock. Just because its glitz and kitsch is as camp as a row of tents doesn't mean it can't carry a message. What if the songs are crap? What if the frocks are awful, the singer’s average age is (it seems) around 14, the girls show a tad too much flesh and the boys are either wimps (they’ve been watching too many Spandau Ballet videos) or macho (they’ve been watching too many Rambo films). Who cares? It’s show business. Vulgar, brash, loud but not totally brain dead.

Eurovision values are essentially humane and inclusive. This is important. Note that Russia (third in the 2016 competition) is still included in the competition despite Russia’s rogue status in world politics, that Australia is honourary European, that Azerbaijan and Israel are not technically in ‘Europe’ (and neither, for that matter, is most of Russia), the guest singer (an over-oily appearance this year by Justin Timberlake) is from the USA, and that the show is one of the major events in the international Transgender, Lesbian and Gay calendar. It’s worth remembering that some of the most outrageous performers on Eurovision have been very visibly homosexual. There’s no shoving Dana International and Conchita Vurst back into a suffocating closet …

And who understands the power of song better than we in Estonia? Its a myth that song alone made the late 1980s 'Singing Revolution' (the harbinger of independence from the USSR) but song certainly inspired people with hope and strength in a David and Goliath scenario. And the little guy won! So. Go Ukraina! Good luck!
 
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