Alexei Navalny and the Long Tradition of Moral Defiance Against Tyranny in Russia

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Alexei Navalny and the Long Tradition of Moral Defiance Against Tyranny in Russia

When the news of Alexei Navalny’s death in Russia’s Arctic gulag spread around the world, the avalanche of commentary ensued in which the most prominent opposition leader and the
fiercest critic of president Vladimir Putin was mourned as Russia’s most daring, sophisticated and Western-looking politician. Yet Navalny’s political struggle with tyranny that ended in a
polar penal colony in what looks like a state-sponsored murder makes his “life and fate” very Russian – a part of the long historical tradition of moral defiance against a cruel and deceitful

Navalny himself did not like to be called a dissident. Very early on in his public career, Navalny styled himself as a professional politician – one who leads a political movement or party, participates in debates, wins elections, takes public office, and carries out his political program. He openly declared that he was going to vie for top position – that of the president of the Russian Federation.

Navalny was well endowed to pursue this goal: he was charismatic, intelligent, handsome, telegenic, and had a good sense of humor. As a political operator, he was also very modern and “un-Russian” in a sense that he was extremely media-savvy: he instantly grasped the power of internet and social networks for spreading his message. Navalny was an exceptionally talented organizer and manager: he was successful in building a powerful political machine in the form of the Foundation for the Fight against Corruption and its regional chapters across Russia’s vast expanse.

These capabilities made Navalny a unique figure among Russia’s opposition leaders: over the last decade or so, he was the only one who could bring huge numbers of protesters on to the streets in support of his political agenda.