Russian Woman by Manizha
With the political and social climate being what it’s been in Russia over recent years, it’s an unexpected joy to get an entry by a pro-feminist, LGBT-inclusive artist that brings a message of female empowerment to the stage. It’s even more pleasing that it appears to have happened by accident. All the signs pointed to the return of Little Big, until a hastily arranged national final and an apparent contretemps with the broadcaster suggested otherwise. A low-key programme, yet with an impressive count of previous Russian entrants as guests, delivered the prize to Manizha, by far the most interesting of the three last-minute options.
Of course, with such liberal views, and the audacity to stand up on a stage and voice them, Manizha’s attracted quite the attention, not least because of her Tajik heritage. It’s tiresome, even just to read about it, but given a Eurovision winner often manages to tap into the zeitgeist, what could be more 2021 than having to defend your ethnicity, gender, and social views from relentless right-wing attack?
Musically Manizha’s tapping into the great Russian folk tradition, in voice, melody and lyric. It’s a move I feel suits the song well, and it progresses to incorporate a much more modern sound into its call to action. She plays with the stereotypes women have to endure: you don’t want to wait too long to marry and get left on the shelf; your skirt’s too short, or too long (it can never be just right, obvs.); and why haven’t you popped out a baby yet? Manizha gives it all short shrift and asks why can’t we just get over all this bullshit?
I’m a Russophile at heart, having lived there in my formative years, and I’m so pleased to see this side of young Russian culture: a fresh, feisty, determined woman, reminding us that Russia is not the product of its authoritarian government. She joins a long line of cultural protest, and I really hope she does well. It won’t stop her detractors, of course, but it’s much harder to knock you if you return home with a great result under your belt.
My marks: DOUZE POINTS!
Will it qualify? Yes