Navalny for Novices

Amil Boudbajer digs into Alexei Navalny, the man at the center of media coverage on Russia's civil unrest.

Amil Boudjabeur
12th February 2021

An outspoken blogger, an anti-corruption campaigner, a 'democratic-nationalist', and above all, Vladamir Putin’s biggest threat. Who is the man at the center of widespread protests against the Kremlin?

Alexei Navalny, a former lawyer-turned-politician, is currently the face of the opposition in Russia. Although he is now becoming an international political figure, he first caught the Russian public’s attention in 2008 with his blog posts exposing corruption within Russian politics. Navalny has just been arrested for the third time, on this occasion for extremely dubious reasons. As part of a previous suspended sentence, he was meant to frequently report to the police. However, this became impossible for Navalny to commit to, whilst he laid in a coma on a German hospital bed, recovering from what the evidence suggests was an attempted poisoning by the Russian government. Quite a shocking thing to believe that a man in a coma could not adhere to such simple instructions, no? On a serious note, Russian officials taking the risk of attempting to assassinate the face of the opposition is a testament to how much of a threat they believe Navalny is.

Once disregarded as an ‘angry-blogger’ by Putin, through the power of social media and humorous comments, Navalny has been able to galvanise the support of many across the country.

The man seeking to expose the corruption that is deeply rooted within the Russian system, is putting the ruling-class at unease. Since recovering from his attempted assassination, he has been able to make an agent of Russia’s Federal Security Service embarrassingly admit to being involved with the poisoning attempt. Recently, Navalny released a video named ‘Putin’s Palace’, in which he reveals a luxury property that was gifted to Putin through bribes – piling further pressure on the Kremlin. Once disregarded as an ‘angry-blogger’ by Putin, through the power of social media and humorous comments, Navalny has been able to galvanise the support of many across the country.

His previous comments on Islam, his support for the war against Georgia, and his call to deport illegal immigrants, reflect why he has often been dubbed as a ‘Russian Trump’.

Navalny’s basic principles of democracy and anti-corruption are aligned with that of liberals, providing scope for cooperation and support. However, there is concern that his nationalist stance on issues such as immigration do not give Russian progressives the belief that the end of Putin’s reign would result in the much-needed change that society needs. His previous comments on Islam, his support for the war against Georgia, and his call to deport illegal immigrants, reflect why he has often been dubbed as a ‘Russian Trump’. Some may find it difficult to understand how someone who despises an oppressor such as Putin can also may hold these views. However, Navalny responds to this criticism by explaining it is perfectly possible to campaign for proper democracy, while maintaining these beliefs.

Despite the breath-taking protests across the nation, it is unlikely that Navalny will actually obtain power. Even with recent upsurge in his support following his arrest, he only polls at around 5%. Nevertheless, if he were to oust Putin, many believe it would be a step in the right direction for Russia. Unfortunately, there is also a severe worry surrounding his some of his nationalist political views, and that ultimately, he may only be the best of a bad bunch.

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