Ukraine, Jamala, 1944, Eurovision, 2016, victory, hug

Ukraine Defeats Russia In Surprising Eurovision 2016 Upset

Why we’re covering this: Ukraine proved the victorious underdog in yesterday’s nail-biting conclusion of the 61st annual Eurovision Song Contest, a victory which brought centuries old conflicts between Ukraine and Russia bubbling back to the surface. The combination of pop-diplomacy and real-world conflict is astounding, and it makes beautiful music as well.

Russia was a big favorite to win this year’s Eurovision song contest, but during the final minutes of yesterday’s final round, televoters from 42 different countries helped Ukraine gain enough points to keep Russia from snagging the number one spot. Ukraine had ranked along the lower tier of songs, but their televotes helped them gain a 23-point lead that Russia could not surmount, even after Russia received the highest number of televotes points (361).

It’s poetic justice, especially since Ukrainian performer Jamala’s sad song “1944” was about the historic forced deportation of her Ukrainian ancestors by the Soviet Union back in 1944, an event that echoes Russia’s more recent invasion of the Ukraine in 2014. Russian members of parliament had complained that Jamala’s song broke Eurovision’s rules forbidding overtly political content, but they allowed it and her song went on to soundly defeat Russia — poetic justice!

You can hear Jamala’s winning song below:

The lyrics go:

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

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

I couldn’t spend my youth there
Because you took away my peace
I couldn’t spend my youth there
Because you took away my peace

We could build a future
Where people are free
To live and love
The happiest time”

Looks like we no longer have to worry about how Russia would have gone about hosting the contest’s openly gay, lesbian and bisexual performers and fans — this year, Netherland had an openly bisexual performer (Douwe Bob) and Israel had a gay one (Hovi Star).

Oh, and if you’re curious, you can hear the second and third place winning songs from Australia and Russia here.