Ukraine's Jamala Wins 2016 Eurovision Song Contest

Michael Campanella
Eurovision winner Susana Jamaladinova

The country's contestant performed a moving song about wartime mass deportations ordered by Stalin.

STOCKHOLM (AP) — Ukraine's Jamala was crowned the winner of the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest early Sunday for a melancholic tune about the 1944 deportation of Crimean Tatars by Soviet authorities.

Susana Jamaladinova, who uses the stage name Jamala, received the highest score of 534 points for her song "1944," after votes from juries and TV viewers across Europe were tallied following performances Saturday night by the 26 finalists at Stockholm's Globe Arena.

Australia's Dami Im was second with 511 points, followed by Russia's Sergey Lazarev in third with 491.

The show was broadcast live in Europe, China, Kazakhstan, Australia, New Zealand and, for the first time, the U.S. Last year's contest reached nearly 200 million viewers globally.

Amid entries about love and desire, Jamala's song stood out. With somber lyrics it recalls how Crimean Tatars, including her great-grandmother, were deported to central Asia in 1944 by Josef Stalin's regime during World War II.

"I really want peace and love to everyone," she said, hoisting the Eurovision trophy and a Ukrainian flag.

The focus on Crimea, whose annexation by Russia in 2014 was opposed by its Tatar minority, could be considered a swipe at Moscow, but Jamala insisted there was no political subtext, and contest officials agreed.

The rules of the glitzy competition prohibit political statements.

Im, who was born in South Korea and is a former Australian X Factor talent show winner, was in the lead following a count of the jury votes, but her song "Sound of Silence" was bumped down to second place when the popular vote was added.

Though Australia is far from Europe, the Eurovision show is hugely popular Down Under, where it has been broadcast for more than 30 years. Australia was invited to compete for the second consecutive year.

The annual contest, which started in 1956, is known for its eclectic mix of rock ballads, techno-pop and occasional folkloric tunes. However, in recent years entries have moved away from ethnic influences toward more mainstream dance music.

All but one of the 26 entries in the final were performed entirely or partially in English.

The stage production also is getting increasingly elaborate, with pyrotechnics and computer graphics.

Lazarev's club anthem "You Are the Only One" had the most striking visual effects. At one point, the black-clad Russian scaled a LED display and rode a virtual iceberg through space.

It was Ukraine's second Eurovision win; its first came in 2004 when Ruslana won. The victory means Ukraine gets to host the contest next year.

The theme of this year's contest was "Come Together," a subtle message for Europe to stay united amid a backlash against migration to the continent and rising nationalism.

In a rare serious moment at the beginning of the show, co-host Mans Zelmerlow — last year's winner for Sweden — warned that Europe once again is "facing darker times."

The director of the TV alliance that produces the Eurovision Song Contest says the show's message of unity is particularly significant at a time when Europe is seeing its internal borders returning and Britain is holding a referendum on whether to exit from the European Union.

European Broadcasting Union Director-General Ingrid Deltenre told the Associated Press before Saturday's final that "you have reactions in Europe which are very polarizing ... we are sending out a signal. It's a signal about tolerance, about openness, about diversity."

Watch the full performance below. 

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