Russia’s most recent Eurovision artist has become the target of a cyberbullying campaign. Born in Tajikistan, Manizha represented Russia at Eurovision 2021 in Rotterdam. She has been a harsh critic of Russia’s war against Ukraine, going as far as to call it a “fraternal conflict” that goes “against the will” of all Russians.
Manizha fled the Tajikistani Civil War (1992-1997) as a child. Her fiancé is half-Ukrainian. So it came as no surprise when she made this post to Instagram earlier this year:
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In an interview with NPR, Manizha had this to say about her childhood in Tajikistan:
“When you see these tragedies from the inside, your position is crystal clear – you never want this to happen to anyone ever again.”
Speaking with the BBC, her spokesman Sergey Yakovlev explained that many of her concerts this summer had to be canceled due to threats against her, her team, and the promoters.
Social media has been used to post and share the phone numbers and addresses of the upcoming Aleksandrovskaya Fortress Festival which celebrates the Cossak heritage of Ukraine and Southern Russia. People were urged to contact the promoters and demand Manizha’s performance be canceled, but to do so in a “polite and non-offensive” way.
Festival organizers have confirmed a significant number of emails and calls from people upset about Manizha’s “support for peace.” At time of writing, Manizha is still due to perform at the Festival.
Of particular concern for Manizha is her name appearing on the unofficial blacklist of Russian artists that began circulating after the invasion of Ukraine. Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin decreed that describing the war as anything other than a “special military operation” could land someone a penalty of up to 15 years in prison.
It was around this time that Manizha released her song “Soldier” which contains the lyrics “Stop our war”. While the song was written to describe her childhood experiences in Tajikistan, Russian officials still took offense.
Despite all of this, Manizha has been live streaming concerts since the outbreak of the war in aid of Ukrainian refugees as part of her charity (the Silsila Foundation) and as part of her role as a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador.
Manizha refuses to stop spreading her message and her music. Notwithstanding the comments from her spokesperson about the fears for her safety, Manizha still wishes to live and work in Russia.
Her new tour, nicknamed the “Uncancelled Tour,” kicks off in September. Performances are planned in six former Soviet Republics, including Armenia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan.
She has also planned what will no doubt be an emotional performance in Dushanbe, the Tajik capital where she once lived. No dates in Russia have been announced as of yet.
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