Singer Manizha has been chosen to represent Russia at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest with her song Russian Woman.
The announcement was made on 8 March after the singer-songwriter stormed a nationwide public vote, winning with 39.7 per cent. The news put an end to the speculations that Little Big, the punk-rave band chosen to represent Russia in the 2020 song contest — ultimately canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic — would be making a return for this year’s iteration.
Manizha, whose full name is Manizha Sangin, is an outspoken advocate for women’s and LGBTQ+ rights. After receiving the news, she explained in an interview to Eurovision.tv that “Russian Woman”, written on International Women’s Day in 2020, “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.”
Born in Tajikistan in 1991, Manizha and her family moved to Russia during the civil war in her home country between 1992–1997. She went viral in 2016, after releasing what she claimed to be the world’s first Instagram music album. Four years on, the artist boasts a repertoire spanning from blue-eyed ballads to feminist gospel rap, complete with a collection of videos tackling conservative notions of beauty, ethnicity, femininity, and family relations in Russia. Activism is also a big part of Manizha’s career, whose tongue-in-cheek videos and deep-feeling tracks often carry messages of social justice. In 2020, Manizha was appointed a UN Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees.
The star will travel to the Dutch port city of Rotterdam on 18–22 May, where the Eurovision contest will be held without a live audience. Since making its debut in 1994, Russia has participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 22 times and finished in the top five on 10 occasions.