22 February 2024

Aleksei Navalny 1976 - 2024

This issue of Sobesednik, the only national newspaper in Russia that covered Navalny's death, was seized by authorities when it hit the streets. Cover photo caption: "Aleksei Navalny before his death: 'BUT THERE'S HOPE.'" Tagline at bottom of page: "When others keep silent, we speak!" Coverage of Navalny's death was also removed (or blocked) from the paper's Web site. Source.

Last Friday morning began with a terrible shock, a message on my Whatsapp account from a friend in Elektrostal:

Navalny has been killed in the prison today... ๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜”๐Ÿ˜”

Since that moment I've been spending far too much time in the Russian Internet, trying to understand the meaning of his death for Russia, and why I feel so much personal grief. A relatively small percentage of Russians actively supported him, but those who did were willing to take enormous risks to do so. The hope he gave them (and the feeling of hopelessness that many testified to in the first shocked hours after Navalny's death) reminded me instantly of nine years ago, the killing of Boris Nemtsov.

I can't deny my own fascination: I mentioned Aleksei Navalny 39 times on my blog over the years, not counting reposts and annual digests. The first mention was January 12, 2012.

It wasn't that Navalny was perfect. (Jeremy Morris reliably delivers his trademark mixed evaluation, which to my mind isn't entirely fair, but at least you know I've read it!) But, among other things, I loved the enthusiasm with which he did his political work, the care he put into being accessible, both on a personal level and in his unparalleled digital presence, his unquenchable humor, even in prison—and that energy and enthusiasm was clearly infectious. The Russian power vertical decreed his movement's total removal from the public arena, but those thousands of alumni/ae no doubt cannot forget how they felt serving the cause of "the beautiful Russia of the future," and what they learned, in the Navalny laboratory of hope.

Listen to their voices now, as they react to the news of his death: (source)

Ksenia: When he returned to Russia after being poisoned, I understood his decision: because being a brave person and a true patriot of our country, he couldn’t be torn away from it. But I felt very sorry for him and his loved ones: it was clear that years of tribulations lay ahead, with no apparent way out, and possibly with a tragic ending. He’d still have chosen this path. There are people who let themselves burn up, giving light and warmth to others. He was — and remains — such a person in my heart.

Now, I’m grieving. And I feel love for my country. If the best among us are ready to die for it, then it’s worth the price.

Anastasia: I’ve been having these horrible thoughts that there’s no point in a beautiful Russian future anymore because Alexey won’t see it. He deserved it more than anyone, and without him, it won’t be the same. It also seems like Russia was beautiful when he was free, could travel around the country and speak to us from the screen, and we didn’t appreciate it enough. I know he’d scold me for these thoughts, but I have them. I see no point in anything. I just have this pain that he’s no longer here.

Yulia, Dasha, Zakhar [his wife and children], I think of you every minute. There’s still the chance that he’ll see our country free through your eyes. And that keeps me going.

I could go on to describe some of the gratuitous cruelty with which Russia's propaganda machine has treated Navalny's widow Yulia (as if memos must have gone out to all those media outlets with the same trashy messages, so that a simple and heartfelt "we're sorry for your terrible loss" seemed beyond the realm of official possibility). I won't go into detail about the unseemly ways that the authorities have been playing hide-and-seek with Navalny's body and its proper Orthodox burial. I won't list all the ways his years in prison were made as vexatious as possible, including poor medical attention, and over 300 days in solitary. You can find all that in other places. I'll just end with one more tribute, a screenshot from Dozhd TV ("the optimistic channel")... with a supporter holding up a sign that used a common nickname for Aleksei: "Forgive us, Lyosha...."

A brief political biography of Aleksei Navalny from the USA's National Public Radio. 

"I will continue Aleksei Navalny's work."

Navalny's channel on YouTube. Many of his greatest hits have decent English subtitles. In this video, Yulia Navalnaya commits herself to continuing their work.

Russian authorities declare Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty an undesirable organization. (Story in Russian.)

The Carlson/Putin interview is apparently going to be an educational resource in Russia.

Martin Indyk on the "strange resurrection of the two-state solution" for Israel and Palestine.

Heather Cox Richardson warns that theocracy and authoritarianism go hand in hand. (Russia-related update: open letter from the Orthodox Christian Study Center and a growing list of cosigners, with a plea to the ecumenical world to hold the Russian Orthodox Church accountable.)

Micah Bales on a Transfiguration observation: reality can be hard to take.

"5-O Blues", Corey Harris. Not sure why, but this seemed appropriate.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

People of good will in Russia bewail Navalny's death.
Let the Lord rest his poor soul!!!
Thank you, dear Johan, for commenting this terrible event!!!