Eurovision 2016: Ukraine Wins With Jamala's '1944'

Andres Putting/Eurovision
Ukraine's Jamala wins Eurovision 2016.

In a shock ending, Ukraine won the Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm on Saturday (May 14) with Jamala's "1944," a political song about the deportation of Crimean Tartars in 1944, meant to be critical of Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014. There was great irony to the win, as Russia was expected to place first this year, according to fan polls and the oddsmakers.

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The dramatic conclusion to the competition was provided by a new method of reporting the votes. First, the points of the national juries, which count for 50 percent of the total scores, were announced -- and Australia was the leader, with 320 points, followed by Ukraine and France.

Then, the points from the televoting public were reported, starting with the 16 lowest countries. The final 10 were announced one by one. The four countries with the highest public votes were left for last: Poland, Australia, Russia and Ukraine. Australia was awarded 191 points from the audience televoting, pushing their total to 511. That was good enough to win -- unless Ukraine or Russia surpassed them. Until this moment, Poland was in last place, with a score of seven points awarded from the juries. The public vote gave them an additional 222 points, good enough for eighth place.

Next, Ukraine received 323 points from the televoting, giving them a new total of 534, pushing Australia into second place.

The trophy still could have gone to Russia, the public’s favorite. But the televoting only gave Russia 361 points, for a total of 491. In that moment, Ukraine claimed victory.

The winning song, “1944,” was composed and performed by Jamala. Talking about her song, she said it "concerns all people that had their own terrible tragedies in the past. We should always remember and never forget them to avoid the same things in the future."

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This was the second Eurovision championship for Ukraine, which first competed in the annual event in 2003. The following year, on only its second try, Ukraine triumphed with Ruslana’s “Wild Dances.” In 2007 and 2008, Ukraine placed second with “Dancing Lasha Tumbai” by Verka Serduchka and “Shady Lady” by Ani Lorak, respectively. Serduchka reprised his winning song in the 2015 film Spy starring Melissa McCarthy.

Russia first competed in Eurovision in 1994 but didn’t win until 2008, four years after Ukraine took first place. Russia’s winning song was “Believe” by Dima Bilan. Ukraine had threatened to not participate in Eurovision next year if Russia won, which seemed like a real possibility given Sergey Lazarev’s standing in the polls with his song “You Are the Only One.”

The top 10 for the 2016 competition are:

Ukraine (534 points)
Australia (511)
Russia (491)
Bulgaria (307)
Sweden (261)
France (257)
Armenia (249)
Poland (229)
Lithuania (200)
Belgium (181)

Australia first participated in Eurovision last year as a special guest for the 60th anniversary edition. Guy Sebastian, the first winner of Australian Idol, sang “Tonight Again” and came in fifth. Although announced as a one-time-only invitation, the European Broadcasting Union asked Australia to return for the 2016 competition. With two top five placements, it may be difficult to uninvite them in the future.

Bulgaria had its highest finish ever. In 2007, “Water” by Elitsa and Stoyan ended up in fifth place. From 2008-2013, Bulgaria failed to qualify from the semi-finals into the grand final, and they did not participate in 2014 or 2015.

This is France’s highest placing in Eurovision since 2002, when Sandrine François finished fifth with “Il Faut de Temps.”

The Eurovision Song Contest is broadcast live to the 43 participating countries, including China and this year, for the first time, the U.S. The competition was hosted by Logo.


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