Russian Eurovision star: I edit my words as I don’t know if they will be my last

The last Russian entry for the Eurovision Song Contest has come under “pressure” from politicians and says they are constantly editing their words.

Russia was banned from competing in the 2022 contest following the invasion of Ukraine, and its national broadcasters subsequently suspended their memberships of the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) – which organises the show, preventing them from taking part in future contests.

As the Eurovision Song Contest takes place in Malmo, Sweden, Tajikistan-born and Russia-raised Manizha Sangin, known by her first name, is releasing the new single Candlelight, as a symbol of hope in dark times.

She reached the 2021 final of Eurovision with Russian Woman by using impressive costume changes, and has come under fire from pro-Kremlin voices for being outspoken on LGBT+ rights and feminism, her anti-Ukraine war stance and for being a Tajik migrant representing Russia.

Manizha is also not allowed to perform live in Russia and she says her social media is cyber-attacked frequently.

She told the PA news agency: “Have you ever edited your thoughts before you’re gonna say them? Like I’m editing it every time right now during our interview, because I don’t know which word will be the last word.

“And I don’t want to go into prison, because I’m having a newborn baby. And I’m, just a human who doesn’t wants to be in prison because… what I’m doing is (trying) to make hope viral, through my art, and that… gives me (the) strength to stay stable.”

Manizha. (Egor Shabanov/PA)
Manizha. (Egor Shabanov/PA)

Manizha added she is not trying to “battle with politicians”, while being outspoken about the safety concerns for Tajiks following the Crocus City Hall concert venue attacks in Krasnogorsk, close to Moscow.

“When you are having this, pressure in your life, every time, every day, every single day,” she also said.

“You like, you’re not just tired. You’re just understanding that you have to find something, (that) you can believe. And it’s, very simple things, it’s love, and hope.

“And I’m a musician and I have this instrument to spread this messages, and I’m not stupid, I can’t stop war, I can’t stop this pressure. I can’t fight with system but I can step by step build my world full of people who are having the same views as I do.”

Manizha also said that it is “weird” to be the last Russian entrant of Eurovision and she is still proud as it was “about our power, about our strength about our beauty”.

When asked about the calls to ban other countries, amid campaigns for an boycott due to Israel competing following the outbreak of conflict in the Gaza strip, and Russia not being allowed, she replied saying that “it’s not fair to ban music” but understands why it happened.

Manizha added: “For example, If it was me, representing Russia in 2022 and Eurovision ban me, but my song, my views are different (than the government) and I’m still banned, it’s not fair.

“I think we need to give people choices, and music is a beautiful choice. I understand there’s so many dark colours right now.

“And I understand that… everything what’s happening right now in Ukraine is horrible and I’m having lots of friends there.

“And my husband is half Ukrainian, I understand what I’m saying. But also I understand that music can you know unite people and why we are choosing sides, we are burning all sides, but the only one right side is to choose (the) side of peace.”

The former refugee and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNCHR) Goodwill Ambassador also said that she was “surprised” as a critic of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine that the official Instagram page of Eurovision has unfollowed her following two years of war.

She added: “They know me but they unfollowed me just because I’m Russian, so it’s also like, it wasn’t cool.

“And I don’t understand… why we see nationality, but… we don’t see humans through nationality.”

Manizha also advised the 2024 contestants to “make your moment slow” and enjoy the experience of being on the big music stage.

Candlelight, written by Manizha, Liz Horsman and Evgeny and produced by Mike Spencer, is out on Wednesday and is available on Soundcloud.

It was recorded in London and Moscow.