Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Alexei Navalny: The Russians Also Have Their Heroes

One of the most implacable Russian critics of Putin’s neo-Stalinist regime, Alexei Navalny died “inexplicably” on February 16, 2024 at the “Polar Wolf” Arctic Penal Colony. +Memory Eternal. May the Lord receive him in Peace
It’s tragic but hardly surprising to learn that the infamous Gulag is back in business.

Navalny had already survived the Russian secret services’ attempt to poison him in 2020 with a toxic nerve agent. During months of recovery and extensive rehabilitation in Germany, Navalny worked with independent investigators and a documentary team to identify the Soviet Russian undercover operatives who tracked his movements and ultimately doused his underwear with what was meant to be a fatal dose of “Novichuk.” But he survived, and the originally independent documentary Navalny was picked up for distribution by major networks including CNN and HBO. This documentary’s significance unfolds in the process of its being made, portraying the tentacles of espionage, the actual unmasking of vast secret surveillance and murderous plots against peaceful citizens whose only “crime” is telling the truth, and the moral bankruptcy of a legal system that brazenly engages in “disappearing” Putin’s opponents.

This great documentary (see trailer HERE) tells the compelling story of how Alexei Navalny—a lawyer from Moscow, a husband and father, a man of no particular political ideology who simply loved Russia and wanted a life of basic freedom and human dignity for Russian people—led an anti-corruption movement that used then-still-accessible Russian media platforms to expose the massive criminality of the Putin-Inner-Circle’s unscrupulous kleptocracy.

Navalny did not cast himself as a Western-style liberal. He has been criticized by Western media for his past outreach and strategic alliance with Russian “right wing” nationalist groups (although he sought to connect with people all over the political spectrum). Navalny also didn’t oppose Putin’s seizure of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, but he soon changed when he saw the unfolding of the Putinist plan for the subjugation of Ukraine, and he condemned the regime’s neo-Stalinist expansionism.

Three times they tried to poison him, and they nearly succeeded in 2020. No one would have blamed Navalny for accepting the refuge offered by numerous countries in 2020—the chance to live in greater safety but also in exile. He chose instead to return to Russia, to carry on his work as much as possible or at least to live in solidarity with the suffering of his people. But he was immediately arrested upon his arrival in Moscow in January 2021, and soon after was convicted of “extremism” and sentenced to 20 years in prison. Transported numerous times through the prison system, he finally ended up at Polar Wolf, built on the site of a Stalinist gulag camp far above the Arctic circle. We have as yet no way of knowing whether he died from the effects of slow and tortuous treatment at the hands of his captors over the past three years, or whether he was finally dispatched in a more direct fashion.

But it is clear that Alexei Navalny was killed at the age of 47 by the ruthless Soviet Russian regime led by Vladimir Putin. He was murdered for speaking the truth.

This may seem a rather beguiling quotation from a man facing death (although it was known that he never lost his sense of humor). What does Navalny mean by this text? Perhaps he echoes the words of another famous Russian dissident who said, “Live not by LIES!