Russia chooses Tajik child refugee turned pop star & UNCHR ambassador Manizha to represent country in 2021 Eurovision Song Contest

Russia will be represented by singer-songwriter Manizha at the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest, after TV viewers voted for the 29-year-old Tajik-born artist and her track ‘Russian Woman’ on Monday night, over two other contestants.

Born in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, Manizha moved to Moscow in 1994 during the Tajik civil war. There is a significant Central Asian population in Russia, with many living as guest workers in the country’s capital. “I want to say thank you for this trust,” she said to the audience after her victory, dedicating her success to her grandmother. Now 29, she became a child star in the early 2000s.

She says the chosen song is about the “transformation of women’s self-perception” over the past few centuries in Russia – in particular, the “amazing” route from living “in a peasant hut” to becoming elected officials and being launched into space.

The competition took place on March 8, which was International Women’s Day – an important public holiday in the former Soviet Union and a day off in Russia.

“I’m a Tajik, but Russia took me in and raised me,” she said, speaking to the TASS news agency. “I would like the world to see our country as I know it: generous, open, bright, unlike anything else.”

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As well as her music career, Manizha is known for being the first-ever Russian UN Goodwill Ambassador for Refugees, and in 2019, launched SilSila, an SOS mobile app to help women suffering from domestic violence.

The 2021 Eurovision Song Contest will be held from May 18 to 22 in the Dutch city of Rotterdam. Last year’s contest, scheduled to be held in the same city, was canceled, due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the imposition of international travel restrictions. In 2020, Russia was due to be represented by Little Big, a now world-famous rave band from St. Petersburg. The song they had planned to sing, called ‘Uno’, reached the No. 1 spot on the country’s music charts.

Eurovision is an annual song competition contested by nations from throughout Europe. In recent years, Australia has also been invited to take part. Russia has won the contest once, with pop singer Dima Bilan taking first place in 2008 with his song ‘Believe’.

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