This article offers an account of how digital-media communication enables the negotiation of nationhood from the bottom up. It explains how conservative understandings of national belonging can be challenged and co-constructed in the process of public communication over a given discursive event. Using a discourse-historical approach and multimodal critical discourse analysis focused on Manizha’s performance on the Eurovision Song Contest, the author shows the role of race, gender, citizenship, and origins for the construction of a sense of national belonging in the Russian Federation right on the eve of the full-scale war with Ukraine. The author argues that despite the commonly shared racialized understanding of Russian nationhood and the state-imposed conservative values that shape it, there was a dynamic toward a more inclusive understanding of national belonging that was advanced by some popular celebrities and picked up, bottom-up, by minority groups and liberal-minded RUnetizens.

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