The way Russia determines its Eurovision is mostly mysterious, either there is an internal choice or a last minute national final. This year there was a real national final on a short notice level with three entries, the entire show lasted one hour only. Unfortunately, the Russian band Little Big, who should have represented Russia last year in Rotterdam did not intend to take part this year again. They have been one of the favourites last year. At least they have been performing in this year’s national final as opener.
The most outstanding song was “Russian Woman” by the Manizha and she could win the ticket to Rotterdam. With 39,7% of the votes, she was the clear winner of the night.
Manizha’s real name is Manischa Dalerowna Sangin and was born in Dushanbe, USSR (now Tajikistan) in 1991. She starting singing as a child and took part in many competitions. In 2011 Manizha joined the Russian group Assai with whom she toured around Russia and played on many festivals. Later Manizha moved to London and studied Gospel music. Then she released several singles and studio albums “Manuscript”, “ЯIAM”, and the extended play “Womanhizha” was following in 2019. In 2020 Manizha has been awarded for “Nedoslavyanka” at the Berlin Music Video Awards. This video was about the challenges of immigrants, like her own experience when Manizha’s family fled to Russia during the civil war in Tajikistan.
Manizha is responsible for all her songs: composition, lyrics and video editing. With her good hand in video directing Manizha got very popular on Instagram. Most of her songs are about self-love, body positivity, women’s and children’s rights, tolerance and her support for the LGBTQ+ community.
The Eurovision song “Russian Woman” is another song for women’s rights:
Every Russian Woman Needs to know You're strong enough to bounce against the wall What’s the rattling about? Hey, beauty! Are you waiting for your Prince? Hey, beauty! You’re 30! Hello? Where are your kids? You are cute overall But should lose some weight
The song is an interesting mix of rap, folklore and contemporary music in a special sequence, which may be irritating and not matching together by first hearing. The stage performance in the national final was special as well, Manizha also was wearing a red overall and later traditional Tajik clothes, surrounded by a choir. The melody in-between the rap parts sounds like an anthem from the Black Sea Fleet. Even without understanding the Russian language it’s clear that Manizha is fighting for women’s rights. Her participation has been criticized in Russia. But diversity and tolerance should always be the main goals. A very brave and cool woman!
Top 10: 13
Chance for Top 10: 57%
Chances for Final: 88%
Russia’s debut year has been in 1994 in Dublin with “Vechni Stranik” by Youddiph, she made a very good 9th place in Dublin. At that time Russian pop music was not very well known in Western Europe. In the same year the ESC has opened its doors to six new countries, which were Lithuania, Slovakia, Romania, Poland, Hungary and Estonia. This was due to a very high interest in participation of these countries.
In the past there has been the Intervision Song Contest – the music contest from the ex-Soviet countries – the network of Eastern European television stations, which mostly took place in Sopot, Poland. The contest was also open to non-European countries such as Cuba, Canada, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan. The famous singer Alla Pugachova, who also represented Russia in the Eurovision Song Contest could win the Intervision Song Contest with “Vsyo mogut koroli” in 1978. Also the Finnish singer Marion Rung could win it with “Hyvästi yö” 1980.
It’s no surprise that the majority of the Russian entries were sung in English, only the three first entries have been sung in the native Russian language. This has been made to increase the chances of good placings. Furthermore the aim of the Russians is to spread out the image of the utmost contemporary music to the world – the new music from Russia. A similar effect could be monitored at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi during the opening ceremony. The newest beats and techniques have been used to show that Russia is ultra-modern and this should overtrump the level of the western standard.
The big wish to win the ESC came true in 2008, when Dima Bilan sang “Believe” in Belgrade, with the help from the violinist Edvin Marten and the Russian figure skater Evgeni Plushenko, who won three gold medals at the Olympic Games. This was the first ice-skating performance at Eurovision. For many this exaggerated performance was far too much, but it also contributed to the first Russian victory at the same time.
One year later the Eurovision Song Contest took place in Moscow for the first time in history. The Russians have put every effort into these three live shows to make it the most modern ESC ever. The latest technology has been used, in particular the massive usage of LED lights ever in ESC history. But the Russians have often been close to victory four times 2nd place, and four times 3rd place. With such a good statistics nobody can complain. 13 times Russia made it into the Top10, so there is a chance of 57% for Russia to be on a top position. There is always a lot of neighbour country voting from the ex-Soviet countries, so Russia mostly qualifies for the Grand Finals, but in 2018 Russia did not make it into the Grand Final for the first time ever. Julia Samoylova has been disqualified from the 2017 ESC, which was held in Kiev. At her second chance in Lisbon with “I Won’t Break”, she could not fulfil her dream, she did not reach the Grand Final. In 1996 there has been an international pre-decision as too many countries wanted to participate, a lot of countries could not go to Oslo, also the Russian entry “Ja, eto ja” by Andrej Kosinskij. Between 1998 and 1999 Russia refused its participation.
Russia is the biggest country in the world and it has a huge amount of viewers, the interest in the ESC has grown from year to year, there were also singers from the Asian part in Vladivostok: Mumiy Troll with “Lady Alpine Blue” (12th). Interesting to see is that there are ten time zones in Russia. Watching the ESC in Eastern Russia means people have get up at 7 o’clock in the morning to witness the live show, similar to Australia.
1x 1st place “Believe” ǀ Dima Bilan (Belgrade 2008)
4x 2nd place “Solo” ǀ Alsou (Stockholm 2000) “Never Let You Go” ǀ Dima Bilan (Athens 2006) “Party For Everybody” ǀ Buranovskiye Babushki (Baku 2012) “A Million Voices” ǀ Polina Gagarina (Vienna 2015)
4x 3rd place “Ne Ver, Ne Boisia” ǀ t.A.T.u. (Riga 2003) “Song #1” ǀ Serebro (Helsinki 2007) “You Are The Only One” ǀ Sergey Lazarev (Stockholm 2016) “Scream” ǀ Sergey Lazarev (Tel Aviv 2019)