Russia Puts Jamala, Popular Ukrainian Singer, on Wanted List

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Jamala, the song contest’s 2016 champion, had been a prominent advocate for Crimea’s Tatar population. The region was annexed from Ukraine by Russia in 2014.

a woman in a flamboyant dress with a hood.
Susana A. Dzhamaladinova, a singer known professionally as Jamala, backstage at a concert in Kyiv, Ukraine, in May.Credit…Nicole Tung for The New York Times

Ivan Nechepurenko

Russia has added a popular Ukrainian singer who won the Eurovision song contest seven years ago to its wanted list, as Moscow expands its efforts to target cultural figures who have been critical of its invasion of Ukraine.

The singer, known professionally as Jamala, appeared in the Russian Interior Ministry’s wanted database under the name Susana A. Dzhamaladinova. Her name appeared to have been added to the list in October but was publicized in the Russian media on Monday.

The listing did not specify the accusations against her, but according to Zona Media, a Russian news website, Jamala, 40, has been accused by the authorities of spreading false information about the Russian Army’s activities.

The action is likely to have little more than symbolic impact for the singer, who lives in Ukraine. Jamala, who is currently in Australia, reacted to the news by posting a picture of herself in front of the Sydney Opera House on Instagram with a face-palm emoji superimposed.

The Ukrainian singer is of Crimean Tatar origin, and she has been a prominent advocate of the Tatar people who are native to the Crimean Peninsula but who were deported in large numbers when the region was part of the Soviet Union. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 after a popular uprising ousted a Russia-leaning president in the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv.

Jamala won the Eurovision song contest in 2016 with a song dedicated to the Crimean Tatars who were deported in the 1940s after they were accused of cooperating with Nazi Germany. Her ancestors were deported to Central Asia, where she was born.

“No matter where I am, the first priority for me is to remind that foreigners came to my house to kill and mutilate life, to destroy and rewrite my culture,” Jamala told President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine in Nov. 2022. “It happened in 1944, and then in 2014, and now again,” she said. “Now everyone in Ukraine understands that this can happen to anyone, if evil is not stopped and brought to justice for crime.”

Ukraine has been using Crimean Tatar heritage to counterbalance Russian cultural domination of the region, which became part of the Russian empire after it was conquered in the 18th century. In 1954, the peninsula was transferred from Russian to Ukrainian authority within the Soviet Union.

The targeting of Jamala appears to be part of a campaign by Moscow to silence activists who refuse to accept its rule of Crimea and who oppose the war against Ukraine — both within Russia and beyond its borders.

According to Izvestia, a Russian newspaper, more than 30 Ukrainian artists had been banned from entering Russia as of April 2022.

At least a dozen popular Russian artists who publicly condemned the invasion of Ukraine were declared “foreign agents,” a term that stigmatized them as being on the payroll of foreign governments. Many other artists were prohibited from performing in the country.

Russia has also stepped up efforts to create its own popular-music market, after being essentially shut out of the European one — including the Eurovision contest — after the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Last week, Olga B. Lyubimova, Russia’s culture minister, announced the creation of the country’s own popular song contest, called Intervision, according to Interfax, a Russian news agency. It will share its name with the communist equivalent to the Eurovision song contest during the Soviet era.

Ivan Nechepurenko has been a Times reporter since 2015, covering politics, economics, sports and culture in Russia and the former Soviet republics. He was raised in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in Piatykhatky, Ukraine. More about Ivan Nechepurenko

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