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The Significance of ‘Russian Woman’

How a last minute national final produced one of Russia’s most respected entries

Cast your mind back to March 2021; we got songs almost daily, had confirmation of the artists, and reveal dates for the majority of countries. If not, there were at least rumours.

However, this wasn’t the case for Russia.

The further into the national final season we got, Russia’s silence on their plans began to become the main topic of discussion. Were Little Big going to be their entrant? Many had assumed they would return after 2020’s cancellation, but the deadline for entries was creeping ever closer, and we still didn’t have a date for their song reveal.

And then, on March 2nd, Russia’s broadcaster Channel One confirmed that they were holding a national final only 6 days later, on March 8th.

Were Little Big still in the running to represent Russia?

The advert promoting the show used the dancer seen in Little Big’s video for ‘Uno’, their entry for the 2020 contest, so, many believed they would be either competing against other acts, or having the public vote on a selection of their songs. After all, they had previously expressed interest in participating again.

On the day of the national final, Little Big confirmed that they wouldn’t be competing to represent Russia again, writing on Instagram:

“We are not going to the Eurovision-2021. We think that Russia has many talented and unique artists, each one of them deserves to be seen out there. […] We wish the best of luck to all the Eurovision-2021 participating countries! Yours, Little Big”

Little Big, March 8th 2021

The national final

There were rumours of Zivert and Cream Soda participating in the selection, but these eventually turned out to be false. On the night, the contestants were revealed to be Therr Maitz with ‘Future Is Bright’, #2Mashi with ‘Bitter Words’, and Manizha with ‘Russian Woman’. Manizha was declared the eventual winner, with 39.7% of the vote. It seemed only fitting that a song with a clear message of female empowerment in Russia won on International Women’s Day.

Manizha was added to the shortlist for the national final just 3 days prior, and ‘Russian Woman’ was only a demo at the time, making her victory even more impressive.

Taking 2020 out of consideration, Manizha became the first new Russian participant to actually go to Eurovision in 5 years. Since 2016, Russia had only entered 2 artists – Sergey Lazarev (2016 & 2019) and Julia Samoylova (2017 *withdrawn* & 2018). Fans of Eurovision were excited to see a new face representing the nation, especially with such a powerful entry, and even more so to see them sing in their native language. However, the feeling wasn’t shared by some Russian viewers…

Reaction In Russia

Many were unhappy that a woman of Tajik descent was singing about rights for Russian women, despite Manizha living in Russia since 1994. Others found issues with her Pro-LGBTQ+ stance; Russia has historically held strongly negative views about LGBTQ+ people, and still have no legal protections for those who suffer from homophobic & transphobic attacks. Manizha’s participation was questioned, and some people called for her to be disqualified. Her social media was flooded with abuse and threats. She discussed the challenges she faced in an interview with the BBC:

At Eurovision

Leading up to the contest, there were doubts over the possibility of Russia qualifying. The song was considered by some to not be ‘accessibleโ€™ to the average viewer. This caused some to wonder if those at home would connect to it as much as the majority of Eurovision superfans did. Semi-Final 1 was often described as the “strongest” in terms of song quality. ‘Russian Woman’ is a great song, but could it hold its own among so many high calibre entries?

Russia performed 3rd in the Semi-Final, after Slovenia and before Sweden. The performance was powerful, and engaging: lyrics appeared on the screen to give viewers who do not speak Russian a greater understanding of the songs message, and, later in the song, videos of women representing those from all walks of life.

Manizha performing Russian Woman in Semi Final One
Manizha performing in SF1 // Photo: EBU – Andres Putting

Any doubters over their result were silenced, as they finished 3rd in their Semi-Final, and 9th in the Final, making it Russia’s 14th top 10 entry since their debut, overcoming the criticism she was facing in her home country to provide yet another impressive result for them.

The importance of the entry overall

‘Russian Woman’ informed women – specifically those in Russia – of their importance and worth. It encouraged them to break out of the stereotypes and expectations set for them, and strive for better. Seeing someone use such a big platform to spread her message of equality was a huge moment. Historically, Russia hasn’t been viewed as the most ‘accepting’ country, and the decision to send a singer who represents and speaks out about the values not held by some Russian people should hopefully be seen as a good direction for Russia, not only in the contest but in general society. It may only be a small step on a global stage, but one that should be praised.

Did you like ‘Russian Woman’? What do you think is next for Russia in Eurovision? Let us know in the comments!

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