• Laura Smith

Eurovision 2021 Russia Profile: ‘Russian Woman’ by Manizha




Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest


Russia has participated in Eurovision 22 times since their debut in 1994 with the song ‘Vechni stranik’ by Youddiph. They have won the contest once, with Dima Bilan’s song ‘Believe’ in 2008. They have had nine top-3 finishes including their 2008 victory, with their most recent result being 3rd place in 2019 with the song ‘Scream’ by Sergey Lazarev. Russia have only failed to qualify for the final once (in 2018) and have made the Top 10 thirteen times.


2021 Entry: Manizha - ‘Russian Woman’

  • Semi-final: Manizha will compete in semi-final 1 in 3rd position in the running order

  • My Eurovision Scoreboard fan ranking: 16th out of 39 entries

  • Odds to win ranking: 15th out of 39 entries

  • Odds to qualify ranking: 7th out of 16 entries

(rankings as of 30th April 2021)



About the artist:


Originally hailing from Tajikistan, Manizha and her family fled to Russia during the Tajik civil war when she was just three years old. After settling in Moscow, Manizha studied piano at a music school, then left the school to begin training with private vocal coaches.


Manizha began her musical career in 2003 as a child singer using a stage name, where she participated in a number of children’s singing competitions, and later joined the band Ru.Kola, leaving it to join the band Assai, and eventually leaving Assai to form Krip De Shin with fellow Assai members.


After leaving Krip De Shin citing creative differences, Manizha moved to London and studied gospel music in London and New York. She eventually released music independently under her own name, a name she was told was “too Muslim” to find success in a Russian market.


Manizha has also spearheaded a number of public campaigns, launching a flash mob called “The Trauma of Beauty” against beauty standards imposed by the media. In February 2019, she launched a campaign to fight domestic violence. She developed an app ‘Silsila’ (Persian for ‘thread’) which allows users to quickly call for help in an emergency by pressing a panic button, and lists the nearest crisis shelters.


Manizha supports many charitable organisations and has taken part in several charity festivals. She also supports the LGBTQ+ community, performing at pride events and starring in a video for the Russian online queer magazine ‘Otkritiye’ (Open), losing 10,000 Instagram followers by doing so.


About the song


The Russian national selection show ‘Yevrovidenie 2021: Natsionalnyy Otbor’ was used to select Russia’s 2021 Eurovision Song Contest entry. Manizha was declared the winner of the competition, receiving 39.7% of the public vote and beating two other songs in a contest decided 100% by the televote.


‘Russian Woman’ is a feminist empowerment anthem about breaking the stereotypes faced by women. When asked about the inspiration behind her song, Manizha told eurovision.tv:


"This is a song about the transformation of a woman's self-awareness over the past few centuries in Russia. A Russian woman has gone an amazing way from a peasant hut to the right to elect and be elected (one of the first in the world), from factory workshops to space flights. She has never been afraid to resist stereotypes and take responsibilities. This is the source of inspiration for the song.”


‘Russian Woman’ is written by Manizha, Ori Avni, and Ori Kaplan. Ori Kaplan is notable for his work with the band Balkan Beat Box, and his saxophone playing can be heard on two Top 10 global hits - ‘Talk Dirty’ by Jason Derulo and ‘Worth It’ by Fifth Harmony. The song was written in March 2020 while Manizha was on tour, and it was still in its demo form when submitted to the Russian broadcaster. ‘Russian Woman’ was completed in one day after being chosen by the broadcaster.


For her Eurovision performance of ‘Russian Woman’, Manizha plans to wear a dress made of fabric from every region of Russia.


Controversy


After winning the Russian National selection, the lyrics to ‘Russian Woman’ were investigated for “possible illegal statements” after Russia’s Investigative Committee received a request to do so. Yelena Drapeko, First Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee on Culture, suggested that Manizha be banned from performing in the Eurovision Song Contest under the Russian flag, also commenting that the Contest offered no cultural value, as well as being too politicised and pro-LGBTQ.


The Russian Union of Orthodox Women published an open letter accusing Manizha’s lyrics of inciting “hatred towards men, which undermines the foundations of a traditional family” and calling for her music video and participation in Eurovision to be banned. Veteranskie Vesti, a website devoted to war veterans, published an letter to Alexander Bastrykin, the Head of the Investigative Committee, calling for an investigation of criminal proceedings and claiming that the song “humiliates the human dignity of Russian women.”


However, a verdict was reached and the outcome of the investigation was that “no illegal statements were found in the song”.


Manizha also received abuse from online trolls targeting her Tajik heritage, her Muslim background, and her gender.


Speaking to the BBC’s Russian correspondent Steve Rosberg, Manizha spoke out about the hateful messages she received:

“You can not like my voice. You can not like the song. But if you don’t like me because I was born in Tajikistan, that was hard. It was very hard to understand that someone can hate you so much, like one woman who has two children wrote me a message like ‘I will pray to God that your aircraft will crash when you go to Rotterdam.’ And we’re having some threats like ‘if you’re gonna sing like this about Russia, you’re not gonna live here anymore.”

Despite the controversy, Manizha has also received positive responses from her fans.


In an interview with Vogue Russia, Manizha said:

“They approach me on the street, write words of gratitude for the song on Instagram, say thank you for the inspiration. I can't afford to get unstuck. I cannot afford to arrange some kind of important competition in my life from this event. No, for me it's just an opportunity to go and show people how I go. Sometimes this is enough for people to start believing in their actions more.”

Aussievision podcast Russia episode

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