The Guardian • Issue #1948

Who is Alexei Navalny?

After a decade of Western media falsely insisting that Alexei Navalny is a major Russian opposition leader, a certain section of the Russian population – particularly disaffected youth under the influence of online propaganda – has taken the bait.

Although Western media and governments had begun to identify Navalny as a significant opposition figure by 2011 and only a few years later began to refer to him as the main opposition leader, this had no basis in fact. Rather, Navalny was a useful tool, a representative of the particular sliver of the opposition most amenable to Western interests. If you are looking for the largest opposition force, consider the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, which has held the largest or second largest number of seats in every State Duma election since 1995. But of course, the Western media term “opposition” here doesn’t mean political opposition which represents the interests of the Russian people, but rather that which represents the interests of the US government.

Before his supposed transformation into pro-democracy liberal darling, Navalny had been expelled from liberal party Yabloko in 2007 for his far-right nationalist and racist views. He cooperated with fascist groups on an anti-immigration platform, at times referring to various ethnicities as “cockroaches,” “rodents,” and other slurs and advocated for violence against them.

Western media often report a quote about Navalny calling him “the most dangerous man in Russia,” contextually implying this to be a badge of honour of his supposed heroism in his struggle against Putin. However, it was in fact said about him by a former coworker in Yabloko referring to the danger of his nationalist and racist views.

Although he has opportunistically toned down the overt racism as his profile has increased, Navalny’s party “Russia of the Future” places anti-immigration policy as a significant feature of its platform, including Navalny’s longstanding desire to end visa-free access to citizens of the Central Asian countries.

The party also advocates for a pro-Western foreign policy, and less “government interference” in the economy – a euphemism for further mass privatisations. Herein lies the secret of why Western media and governments have pushed Navalny as “opposition leader.”

Navalny spent five months hospitalised in Germany since August 2020, claiming that he had survived an assassination attempt by the Russian government. German authorities claim that he was poisoned by Russian nerve agent Novichok.

Similar claims were made in 2018 regarding the supposed assassination attempt on Sergei Skripal. Novichok was also blamed, and fingers pointed directly at the Russian government. Skripal survived.

If these stories are true, why does the Russian government keep choosing to use this chemical which doesn’t kill its target and immediately implicates them? Dramatic flair?

After his harrowing experience of not being killed by Novichok, Navalny returned immediately to Russia in January. He was arrested upon arrival for breaking the terms of the suspended sentence due to his 2014 conviction for fraud and embezzlement. Moscow City Court ruled 2nd February that the sentence is no longer suspended, and he will have to spend his three-and-a-half year sentence (minus ten months’ time served under house arrest) in prison.

His imprisonment is likely to help him in his capacity as an empty figurehead. It’s safer for Western interests that he can’t show up to any more neo-Nazi rallies for a while and can continue to be made to symbolise whatever is most opportune.

Tags racism Russia
The Guardian can also be viewed/downloaded in PDF format. View More