"Faster than a speeding bullet." .
Organized anti-government rallies in 109 cities across Russia from jail for January 23 and January 30, 2021. Watch each weekend.
"More powerful than a locomotive."
Able to make a miraculous recovery from Novichok poisoning on Aug. 20, 2020 after remaining in a coma for nearly a month. His is the only known case of survival of that strain of Novichok.
"Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound."
Aired "Putin's Palace" on youtube, a two hour exposé of Putin's wealth viewed by more than 83 million people in less than a week (reported on January 24). Navalny's investigative report released after he was imprisoned, shows the vineyards and palace where Putin has been depositing billions of state funds for his own enjoyment. The views from a drone display a palace that would make Louis XIII through Louis XVI and Donald Trump green with envy. Added features include an underground ice rink, an "aquadisco", and a room filled with pinball games.
More popular than Superman.
Navalny has six million youtube followers and two million twitter followers and counting. From jail he can rally tens of thousands of Russians to protest. See above regarding youtube viewership.
What is Navalny's kryptonite?
Putin has been trying to figure that out. According to Vera, one of our heroines from Jewish Luck, his kryptonite (weakness) will be success. Navalny and his followers have been preoccupied with exposing corruption. However, there is no unifying vision for a democratic state to replace Putin's autocratic rule.
Where did Alexei Navalny come from?
Navalny is an individual who doesn't observe limits. I imagine him as the smart kid in the classroom who took everything a bit too far, didn't learn from example, and couldn't be bullied into submission by his superiors. I have no evidence of this. There is no way that a sane person would take the chances he does unless he is a true believer in justice and the rule of rational law. No, not even then in Putin's Russia.
Navalny graduated law school in Moscow in 1998 and spent a student year in the US as a Yale World Fellow in 2010. His specialty was real estate law. In Russia, as we learned from Vera in Jewish Luck and from Donald Trump, real estate can be a very corrupt business. In 2007, he started buying a few shares in Russian state-owned companies such as oil companies, banks and ministries and then asked pesky questions about lack of financial transparency. He sued the companies for information and published that information on a blog which became quite popular in the Russian financial community. From a shareholder rights activist, he became an anti-corruption activist. He established the Anti-Corruption Foundation in 2012. Putin had been expected to step away from power in 2012, but he walked right back in. In 2013, Navalny ran for Mayor of Moscow against Putin's former chief of staff, Sergei Sobyanin. With no access to airwaves, he got an unprecedented 27% of the vote. In 2014 he was convicted of fraud. He took this case to the European Court of Human Rights and won. Navalny has been arrested many times, but it seems only to increase his popularity.
Since 2011, he has been saying "Putin's party is a party of crooks and thieves." What journalist Anton Troianovski suggested in NYT The Daily podcast is that Putin has been supporting "managed democracy" which gives the people the "feeling, the illusion of" freedom of expression. Allowing Navalny to speak up proves Putin's tolerance. Up to a point. After annexing the Crimea in 2014, Putin was riding a wave of popularity. That changed during the summer of 2018.
Since Soviet times, Russians have prized their right to pensions as sacred. Putin raised the age at which people can receive their pensions by five years for men and by 8 years for women, and the citizens were outraged. Years followed like a Whack a Mole game-- Navalny stirring things up and Putin trying to keep him in line. Navalny intended to be on the 2018 ballot, creating a chain of campaign offices across the country. Putin, in turn, conducted a series of raids on Navalny's offices and charged him with embezzlement. Putin's work was done. Navalny was barred from seeking office because of trumped up charges.
As the internet expanded, Navalny was able to use youtube to hone his "60 Minutes" type of investigative reporting skills with some awesome background music.. In March, 2017, he aired "Hidden Wealth of Dmitri Medvedev", the Putin approved President. He not only displayed Medvedev's yachts, his Italian property and his connections to oligarchs financed by a billion dollars from the Russian budget, but he was able to explain the byzantine links which made this all possible. Navalny's style is like the excoriating Michael Moore combined with the grace and good looks of Tom Brokaw. Russians were being shown the corruption they had always suspected. If this was Medvedev, how much more must Putin possess?
Also astounding is that Navalny investigated his own attempted assassination by posing as a senior Russian official. Navalny called and taped a phone conversation with one of the intelligence agents on the assassaination team demanding a verbal report. This agent revealed the entire plot including that poison was applied to the inside seam of Navalny's underwear. The dose would have been enough to kill him if the plane had not stopped in Omsk on the way back to Moscow, and if he had not been attended by EMT's who recognized poisoning. For those who did not know, Navalny was eventually flown to Berlin for his recovery. This tape was released a month before Navalny's return to Russia.
Why did Navalny return?
Why return to Russia from Berlin? Masha Gessen in her words understood that to Navalny "becoming an exile would give Putin exactly what he wanted: to be rid of him."
Although Putin threatened Navalny with arrest upon his return, Navalny announced his plans and invited the public to meet him. The plane was diverted to a different airport, where Navalny stood in front of a sign of the Kremlin to offer a brief statement.
"...People keep asking me if I'm afraid. I am not afraid. I feel perfectly confident heading toward passport control. I'm going to go through, exit the airport and go home. Because I know that I'm right. I know the criminal charges against me are falsified…"
A prophet, he is not. At passport control he was arrested. He argued with the police, kissed his wife goodbye and was taken away - a video that more than a million people watched. The charge was violating his parole by not reporting his whereabouts when he was recovering in Berlin, an event that was on international news.
Since his arrest on January 17 Navalny's supporters released a two hour investigative report "Putin's Palace" on January 19 viewed by, as mentioned, over 83 million people. If you haven't seen it, I would highly recommend it. In addition, through facebook and twitter, a call was issued for people to go out and march at exactly 2 pm on Saturday, January 23, and tens of thousands of people answered across 109 cities. These protests were a wave that began on the Pacific Coast and went across 11 time zones throughout the night and day. Even in minus 58 degree weather in Yakutsk protesters marched. About three thousand people were arrested including Navalny's wife, Yulia. The same thing happened this past Saturday at 11am with tens of thousands heeding the call to go out on the street. According to Anton Troiananovski, Navalny's belief is that "elections are well and good but at the end of the day, this is an authoritarian system and the only real way to make our voice heard is to go out on the street."
Many of the participants had never protested before and they risked their jobs, their university stipends, their freedom and their lives, but they have reached the point of disgust with Putin's corruption and tyranny. Joshua Yoffa calls this "guerrilla political warfare for the digital age." He noted that the chants he heard in Pushkin Square in Moscow were not so much in support of Navalny but aimed at the "perceived impunity and lawlessness of Putin's system."
For the first time in four years, our US leaders are speaking out against Putin. As Rachel Maddow would say "Hold this space." More news will be coming.
Barbaro, Michael. Interview with Anton Troianovski,. NYT Podcast, the Daily. 1/29/21
Frye, Timothy, "What's Vladimir Putin's End Game? Other Post Soviet Autocrats Give a Few
Clues", Washington Post Online 7/3/20.
Gessen, Masha,"Alexey Navalny's Fearless Return to Russia" New Yorker online 1/10/21
Yoffa, Joshua. "Navalny's Long Running Battle with Putin Enters a New Phase". New Yorker