Memorial for Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Novi Sad, Serbia.

Russia's Opposition Has Lost a Crucial Leader but Gained a Martyr

February 20, 2024
The Economist

This is a summary of an article originally published by The Economist.

The author, a columnist for The Economist, writes:

  • “If it happened, if they decided to kill me, it means that we are unbelievably strong at that moment,” Alexei Navalny once told an interviewer, on one of the many occasions he was asked about being assassinated. .. But now that Mr Navalny has been pronounced dead in an arctic prison, it is Vladimir Putin, his longtime nemesis, who appears all too strong.
  • On social media, many Russians reposted a picture showing Mr Navalny holding up a sign reading, “I’m not afraid, don’t you be afraid either.” Yet the fear that Mr Putin uses to rule is real, and growing. As Alexander Baunov of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, an American think-tank, argues, the Kremlin’s treatment of Mr Navalny shows how Russia has transformed “from a dictatorship of lies, to a dictatorship of fear, and after the beginning of the war, into an open dictatorship of terror.”
  • The grieving opposition movement will have to reinvent itself from abroad. Mr Navalny’s foundation, which now operates from Lithuania, can still reach millions of followers through broadcasts on YouTube and posts on social media. But his personal charm and authority were unparalleled, and will be hard to replace.
  • Their first test will be to catalyse a show of opposition to Mr Putin at next month’s elections. Although the results are preordained, the vote remains a rare legal window to express dissent.... Yet even a powerful midday showing will not be enough to prevent Mr Putin’s “election” to another six years in office.
  • With the elections behind him, Mr Putin will have a freer hand to further escalate his campaign of repression. “In Russia people love to say that it’s darkest before dawn. I think that’s true—only we probably haven’t come to know true darkness yet,” Greg Yudin, a political philosopher, wrote in Meduza, an independent Russian news site, after Mr Navalny’s death. “It looks like dusk is just beginning to fall. The sun is gone.”

Read the full article on The Economist's website.

Opinions expressed herein are solely those of the author, unless otherwise stated. Photo by Alexander Babochkin shared in the public domain.