Putin’s Naughty List: Alexei Navalny and the Movement He Inspired
There has always been a wave of confusion when handling Russian current events. Whether it is scandal, corruption, or blatant lies presented by the censored media and government, Russia remains a mysterious country filled with a rich culture ranging from world-famous cathedrals to Vladimir Putin. However, there is a relatively new face in Russian politics who is attempting to bring honesty to Russia: Alexei Navalny.
Alexei Navalny found his calling as the “voice” of the anti-corruption movement in Russia, and is a leader of the opposition to Putin. He became interested in exposing Russian corruption when investigating shareholder rights and has since garnered international attention. Recently, Navalny received treatment in Germany after a near-fatal exposure to a believed Soviet-era nerve agent (a kind of chemical that disrupts the body’s neurofunctioning), Novichok, used in assassination attempts carried out by Russian intelligence. The Kremlin denies the attack, which is “viewed by Navalny supporters and western nations as an effort to eliminate a troublesome critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin.” Now that he has returned to Russia, Navalny faces a thirty-two-month prison sentence claiming that he violated his probation from a 2014 embezzlement conviction.
The arraignment is noted as extremely “politically motivated” by journalists, and as an attempt to silence Navalny. There is nothing new with the Kremlin punishing its opposers, however, so why is this man sending shock waves throughout the media? Because he is signaling a new generation of Russian politics, one planning to rid the country of corruption once and for all. More than 3,000 people have been arrested protesting Navalny’s imprisonment. Despite a pause in protests until spring, there is absolutely no end in sight to the rebellions, and the tide is shifting. Navalny’s goal has always been to stop and criticize Putin, as well as to alter the Russian political system. While this seems hefty, especially since Putin has survived rebellion before, new uncensored communication mediums centered on this issue might be the push Navalny needs to accomplish his agenda. The internet is completely out of the Kremlin’s control, therefore completely in play to educate more Russian’s about the cruelty of their government. It also appears that punishing Navalny has backfired by bringing even more media attention to the corrupt administration. More and more Russians have spoken out against the status quo, which seems to make Putin nervous, thus ringing to question of if he is noticing a shift in the country’s attitude or wondering about the probability of him remaining in power.
This unrest signals that Putin’s rule has entered its terminal phase amongst this political tension and uncertainty. It is a moment for which Russians and citizens all over the world have been waiting. Much is still unknown about this situation, but what is clear now is that this time is not like the others. Even if Putin is successful in silencing Navalny, this movement has already planted its roots, especially since his supporters are also worried about the “instability” he has created. Further, just the sheer length of his term and age beckon the question of what’s next. The new generation of Russians, along with Navalny, will be the leaders of this timely change.