Russia’s Eurovision act is a fearless feminist and LGBT+ rights campaigner and – shock – Russian bigots are mad

Manizha Sangin holds her microphone in the air against a constellation of spotlights

The people of Russia made a striking rebuke of the country’s relentless homophobia as they chose a proud LGBT+ ally for its Eurovision 2021 act.

For this year’s song contest, Russia will bank on celebrated queer campaigner and modern feminist torchbearer, Manizha Sangin.

The 29-year-old was voted by 40 per cent of state television viewers on International Women’s Day (8 March), sending conservative politicians and government supporters into a tizzy, according to Russia Beyond.

The Tajikistan-born singer was voted Russia’s Eurovision entry with her empowering banger “Russian Woman“. She has weathered criticism from her homeland – and Russia – for her unwavering support of LGBT+ rights.

Manizha Sangin told Hello! magazine in 2020 that “half of Tajikistan” believes she is a lesbian. “They think that if you support the LGBT+ community it means that you’re definitely gay,” she explained.

“But this isn’t true. I just love people and I adore the LGBT community, and I think it’s cool to support them.”

Manizha Sangin makes a heart-shape with her hands

Singer Manizha Sangin. (Valery SharifulinTASS via Getty Images)

That same year, her Instagram following took a blow when she publicly threw her weight behind the queer community, losing thousands of followers as a result.

Pro-Kremlin journalist Yury Kotenok led conservative tantrums over Sangin’s success, branding Eurovision selection as an “insult” and a “spit in the face” to Russia, despite its people voting for her.

He cruelly called her a “migrant who has made her career on the LGBT+ agenda” in a post on the messaging app Telegram.

The leader of the ultranationalist Liberal Democrat Party of Russia took aim at a pair of lines from Sangin’s song, which brazenly mocks outdated gender stereotypes.

The lyrics go: “A son without a father, daughter without a father / But a broken family won’t break me,” and: “You’re already over 30, hello, where are your kids? / You’re beautiful on the whole, but you could lose weight.”

“I’m not sure if this is good for raising the image of Russian women and Russia in general,” whined party leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky on Telegram.

Such outrage is unsurprising considering president Vladimir Putin has sought to make the LGBT+ community public enemy number one – trying to ban marriage equality further and erase trans people, among other attempts to curtail queer rights.

Moreover, Sangin seems worlds away from Russia’s Eurovision 2020 entry, punk-rave group Little Big.

The band’s song poked fun at a Chechen leader who has overseen the deaths of countless queer people. However, Little Big drew outrage for uncovered footage that showed members using anti-LGBT+ slurs at a Pride event.