Alexei Navalny, “the Kremlin’s personal political prisoner,” 1976-2024: 5 acts to honour his life

Image of a Russian flag in a blog about Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny, the Russian anti-corruption activist and opposition leader, has died in prison near the Arctic circle, media worldwide cite Russian prison authorities as saying. As The Economist puts it, we may never know the full facts about his death.

Sad, tragic, depressing? All of that and more. Here are five steps we can take to honour the man who, remarkably, seemed to maintain his good humour and dignity in spite of being poisoned, subjected to physical attacks, then put into solitary confinement.

1: Read about his courage

Pointless, it will make no difference. Give away your power? Respectfully, I disagree. Knowing even something about Alexei Navalny’s life of courage and sacrifice honours his memory.

His death “further weakens a Russian opposition already decimated by death and imprisonment,” The Week, a magazine that summarises UK and foreign media, cites France 24 as reporting.

The UK website newsnow.co.uk has articles ranging from The Independent to Newsweek via Vanity Fair and The Washington Post.

Navalny was “[r]egarded as the Kremlin’s personal political prisoner by many Western governments” – newswire Reuters says by email.

In August 2023, Navalny was sentenced to an extra 19 years in prison on top of 11-1/2 years he was already serving in a criminal case that he said was designed to cow the Russian people into political submission.

Reuters obituary of Alexei Navalny, “Putin Nemesis”

“you cannot lock up
the whole country”
Alexei Navalny
The Washington Post

2: <Like> Navalny posts, social media

It might not seem like much, but even a so-called like on Facebook will get more eyes on those posts. Reuters, The New York Times, Sky News, the European Commission: they’ve all posted about Navalny’s death on Facebook.

A comment on Instagram: what good does that do? Gets more and different eyes on the post about his death, for starters.

LinkedIn: OK, it’s a funny old place.

(A comment on a YouTube video, which explores the online network’s strangeness, describes it as “a network of toxic positivity”. That gets 11,000 thumbs up, for what it’s worth.)

Still, the Post Office scandal in the UK has got a lot of attention on the professional network, so why not the death of Alexei Navalny?

I’ll be posting this blog on LinkedIn, that’s for certain.

Post Office scandal: 10 (quick, free) ways to lend your support – and keep up the pressure #BeMoreAlanBates

3: Watch the documentary Navalny

If you’re in the UK, you can see it on streaming service Amazon. The CNN trailer for the 2022 Oscar-winning documentary lasts for 2 minutes or so on YouTube.

In a hurry? The trailer on IMDb is just under a minute long.

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil
is for good people to do nothing.
So don’t do nothing.”

Alexei Navalny, cited in The Independent
(YouTube trailer for Navalny too)

You can rent it for £2.49 in standard definition (SD). Amazon pushes the high-definition (HD) version for £3.49. Click on “More purchase options” for the cheaper rental option. (Saving a pound here and there: mini-wins.)

Buying the documentary, which had to be made in strict secrecy, will cost you £5.99 on Amazon whether in HD or SD.

“We shot in secrecy. We went to extraordinary lengths to keep the footage secure” – executive producer Diane Becker, quoted in the Independent.

(You can get a free one-month trial to Amazon Prime and pause your subscription straight away. Pausing, rather than cancelling, means you get the benefits of Prime for the rest of the month.)

Food, farming, frugal living: my focus for 2024. Here’s a flavour

If you’d like your local independent cinema to screen it, go ahead and ask them. (It might not be possible, but if we don’t ask…) The nearest to me are the Silver Screen Cinema in Folkestone and the Curzon Canterbury.

Before I get to watch the documentary, that audio profile of Navalny in The Economist is just shy of 23 minutes long.

4: Shun despair (as far as possible)

This news out of Russia is desperate. It’s hard to imagine the grief of Alexei Navalny’s wife and children.

Giving in to despair can be hard to avoid when we hear about an event like this.

Grey image in a blog about the death of Alexei Navalny in Russia

But, gloomy as a death like this can make us, Alexei Navalny’s bravery, dignity, and the scale of his achievements are also impossible to ignore.

Here are a few headlines that remind us, amid the sadness, of those accomplishments:

  • Alexei Navalny, a life of resistance and sacrifice – Le Monde obituary
  • Russian opposition leader who galvanised huge protests against Putin – The Telegraph obituary
  • Alexei Navalny, galvanizing opposition leader and Putin’s fiercest foe – The Associated Press

“For many, Navalny embodied a more hopeful future for Russia – because of his remarkable ability to cope in the most difficult conditions, his sense of humour and confidence in himself and the country, which he did not lose even in prison.”

His worldwide recognition as “a leader of the Russian opposition […] greatly irritated the Kremlin. But that very irritation is itself a sign that Putin is not as confident either in himself or the future as he wishes to appear.”

Alexander Baunov, senior fellow at the Carnegie Russia Eurasia Center, Berlin, writing in the Financial Times. The headline? Navalny’s death is a watershed for modern Russia

5: Raise a glass to him

I’ve just invited some friends over to watch the documentary with me when they’re back from a weekend away.

(Maybe I’ll also invite my family – some out west in Wiltshire, Bristol and Cornwall, others back in south London or nearby, one nephew in the States and another in Australia – to watch it in our different locations on the same night.)

An evening in, sharing home-cooked food, and making a toast to the courage, dignity and example of Alexei Navalny: a small tribute, maybe, but one worth making.

***

“If they decide to kill me,
it means that we are
incredibly strong”

Alexei Navalny
quoted in Vanity Fair

Image credits: Chickenonline, Ichigo121212, onkelglocke, PellissierJP, jplenio, all on Pixabay

*Taking some kind of action, faced with news such as
the death of Alexei Navalny: futile, or worth doing?
Please add a comment below. Many thanks.
My target? Five reader comments on this blog.*

Image of sunlight  in a forest in a blog by Brian McGee

12 comments on “Alexei Navalny, “the Kremlin’s personal political prisoner,” 1976-2024: 5 acts to honour his life

      • Erica Steenkamp on

        Thank you Brian, your blog is inspiring. I hope all our individual efforts to keep Navalny’s vision alive will galvanise a movement to overthrow Putin. A better deal for Russians is well overdue.

        Reply
        • Brian McGee on

          That’s very kind of you to say, thank you Erica. It’s so easy to think that we can have no impact on such big, seemingly intractable issues, but of course that’s not true. If that makes us appear idealistic, or unrealistic, I’m fine with that. Long overdue? Definitely.

          Reply
  1. Alison Mclean on

    Thank you so much for this inspirational and pragmatic article. I am deeply saddened; not letting despair overwhelm us is going to be the hardest goal for me.

    Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      That’s a very kind comment, thank you Alison. It’s only natural to despair at times, not least when we learn of such terrible news. Taking some action, however small, seems like the best kind of tribute to a remarkably brave man.

      Reply
  2. Marion Bain Smith on

    I hope the seed is sown, may Navalny’s legacy grow and grow and inspire our Russian brothers and sister (or anyone else!) to keep fighting for freedom and democracy. Thanks for your blog, Brian! Xxx

    Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks a lot for your comment Marion. Yes, Alexei Navalny was an inspiration for sure. In fact I find it hard to get my head around just how brave he was. Such sad news about his death but, as you say, let’s hope his example inspires many others. Small actions by individuals… add them up, keep going. And repeat.

      Reply
  3. Philip on

    Let’s hope, in sadness, that some good will come from this abhorrent crime by at least awakening consciences across the world. How many times do we have to learn the hard way that it never pays to give an inch to dictators?

    Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      Many thanks for your comment Philip. Let’s hope some good comes of it, as you say, though maybe that will take time. News like this is hard to digest even at such a distance. Alexei Navalny’s family, friends and colleagues must be devastated by his death.

      Reply
    • Brian McGee on

      Thanks a lot for your comment Eddie. Yes, extremely sad news. It’ll be interesting to see what changes this might lead to in Russia.

      Reply

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