Daily Review: What Navalny Symbolized in Russia

Daily Review: What Navalny Symbolized in Russia
A man holds a poster in support of opposition leader Alexei Navalny that reads, “One for all and all for one,” during a protest against the Navalny’s arrest, St. Petersburg, Russia, Jan. 23, 2021 (AP photo by Dmitri Lovetsky).

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny has died in jail, according to the country’s prison service. Authorities said Navalny, who for years was the most prominent critic of President Vladimir Putin, lost consciousness after taking a walk in the prison just north of the Arctic Circle where he was moved last year. (The Guardian)

Our Take

Alexei Navalny now joins the long and ever-growing list of opposition figures, activists and perceived threats to the Putin regime that have been killed, both in Russia and outside its borders. In this case, even if Navalny was not literally assassinated, his death still comes at the hands of the Russian state that sentenced him to jail in what was widely agreed to be a sham trial. As a result, his sudden death may be shocking, but it isn’t surprising.

In many ways, Navalny was the defining symbol of what already seems like a distant period of Russian history, when there was still some optimism in Russia and the West that democracy may gain a stronger hold in the country. In 2011, after disputed parliamentary elections, he helped lead the protests that were the first to truly rattle the Putin regime. In 2013, he won 27 percent of the vote in Moscow’s mayoral contest despite fierce state interference, signaling that even in Russia’s managed authoritarian democracy, there was still room for electoral surprises. And throughout the decade, Navalny mobilized Russia’s opposition on numerous occasions, particularly by targeting corruption, an issue that resonated for many Russians.

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