02/17/2024, 20.20
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Navalny and the sudden death of the Russian soul

by Stefano Caprio

A man full of life, passion, and humour, he was able to adapt to the harshest conditions. His soul, more than his ideas and programmes, counted. With death, Alexei Navalny becomes the embodiment of a defeated Russia, showing the inconsistency of its claims to domination and empire. And it lays bare the shame of Putin's Russian world.

In Alexei Navalny’s latest video, posted online by his lawyers right after his sudden death "during a walk" in the pleasant camp in Russia’s far north, we see Vladimir Putin’s great opponent in his last court appearance via remote link in one of his many trials, his usual energetic and jovial self, acting as the real master of the situation in the face of the pettiness of judges and prosecutors.

This was Alexei’s true charisma, as the most loved and popular dissident of the Putin era, ever since he led masses of protesters and young people into the streets of Moscow and across Russia, starting with Putin's re-election in 2012 and all the years of ruinous neo-Stalinist slide in Russian society.

He was a man full of life, passion, and humour with the ability to adapt to even the harshest conditions. More than his ideas and programmes, which were criticised and confusing in many respects, it was his soul that counted, the Russian soul that died suddenly in the winter frost.

The echoes of the Navalny’s ordeal between the concentration camps in Vladimir and those of the Yamalo Nenetskaya region in the last two years highlight the indomitable spirit of so many people oppressed in Russian history, recent and ancient, from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's Gulag Archipelago and the young Fyodor Dostoevsky's The House of the Dead in exile in Siberia to the 17th century Protopope Avvakum in The Life Written by Himself, repeatedly jailed for opposing tsar and patriarch, to defend the true faith of the Russians.

The martyrdom chosen by Navalny, who returned home after being poisoned, knowing full well how it would end, puts him on par to a martyred saint like the Metropolitan of Moscow Philip II who refused to bless the massacres of Ivan the Terrible, and was finally strangled in the monastic cell where he had been imprisoned.

He, too, had survived previous assassination attempts, like when a ferocious bear was put in his cell only to be tamed, a sign of the greatness of the soul in the face of the ruthlessness of the powerful.

The metropolitan was killed with bare hands, by Malyuta Skuratov, head of Oprichnina, the forerunner of Russia’s political police, from the Tsarist Okhrana to the CHEKA-NKVD-KGB-FSB, with Vladimir Putin as the last heir.

Other examples can show even more this tragic historical picture of a soul so often crushed, trying each time to rise again like a firebird, the Zhar-Ptitsa (жар-пти́ца) of Russian literature and music.

In the oldest literature of Kievan Rus’, the true masterpiece is The Tale of Igor's Campaign (Слово о пълкѹ Игоревѣ), which celebrates the sacrifice of a young prince who throws himself into a fight against the invading peoples of Asia, the Pechenegs and the Khazars, ahead of the Tatars, knowing full well that he is going to meet his death.

It is a defeated Russia that shows the inconsistency of its claims to domination and empire, it is Navalny's Russia that lays bare the shame of Putin's Russian world.

As one commentator put it on the Telegram channel Rodina Slonov (Родина Слонов), the Birthplace of Elephants, a euphemism given to the USSR in Stalin's time: “Putin's assassination of Navalny means the end of a whole era in Russia's recent history, the age of Putin's authoritarian rule.”

The comment goes on to say: “Navalny's struggle with the Putin regime was the symbol of this era, which gave hope for change in Russia, to change course and not end in nothing . . . His assassination is the last nail in Russia's coffin. The authoritarian era is over, the totalitarian era has begun, which will end with the disintegration of the entire country.”

The fact that Navalny's death – already referred to as "Special Operation thrombosis" in reference to the surprising blood clot that developed during the hour of fresh air at 20 degrees below zero – is deemed a deliberate assassination does not actually refer to any actual evidence suggesting violent acts like poisoning, similar to the Novichok found in his blood by German doctors in 2020.

It is the long series of arrests, imprisonments, convictions, and transfers that indicates the will to crush him, to silence him, to get rid of his presence, so annoying for the almighty and arrogant caste used to repression and invasion.

It is also not unsurprising that it coincides with the last month before the tsar’s holy re-election, given Putin's propensity for symbolic timing, from 16 February to 16 March, like the explosion of Prigozhin's plane, exactly two months after the Wagner Group’s march on the Kremlin.

Some even think that Russian leaders wanted at all costs to avoid including Navalny in the prisoner exchanges between Russia and America, with negotiations underway to transfer him together with the American journalist Evan Gershkovich, in exchange for the Russian Vadim Krasikov who killed the Chechen commander Zelimkhan Khangoshvili, an operation that the American journalist Tucker Carlson hinted at in his interview with Putin a few days ago.

Navalny officially died at 2:17 pm, which was reported in a press release by the prison administration at 2:19 pm, carried by TASS outlets at 2:20 pm. By 2:23 pm, six minutes after the death, the cause was described as “probable formation of a blood clot," without any autopsy or confirmation from qualified doctors.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov commented on the "unpleasant news" at 2:30 pm, less than a quarter of an hour after Navalny's death.

The official timetable, not the postulations of evil Westerners, shows that it was a planned operation, agreed upon at the highest level, down to the last minute, with communiqués ready to go.

Putin will obviously have no qualms about denying any unpleasant evidence as this is his best professional qualification since his KGB days, but there is no way to hide a crime of such sensational magnitude, so much so that spontaneous, emotionally charged protests have broken out across Russia, a sign that Navalny’s flame still burns in the depths of Russians’ soul.

Of course, one cannot expect that the show of solidarity of protesters, which was immediately repressed by the police, can top the mountains of flowers piled up on top of the monument to Stalin's victims.

As much as he was able to bring hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in past years, his martyrdom will not provoke a revolt against Putin's totalitarian regime, bound to last for who knows how much longer.

As always in Russian history, the "weather factor" becomes decisive: spring is always too short compared to the endless winter, the "thaw" gives way to "stagnation".

With the disappearance of the great opponent, the dictator’s real stuff also disappears for good; he too was given up for dead or dying many times, and now is evidently devoid of any breath of human life.

An anonymous brood of faceless beings remains in place, as was the case of the Soviet politburo, led by an embalmed Leonid Brezhnev, to ideally merge with Lenin's mummy in the mausoleum in Red Square.

Not that Russia lacks people worthy of representing political and ideological alternatives, including a few hundred political prisoners, among them high-level figures like Vladimir Kara-Murza, Ilya Yashin, and many more.

Then, there are thousands of Russians actively debating the future of the country while in exile, such as Putin's first real adversary, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who survived a decade in a concentration camp only because the tsar thought he had nothing to fear, or the chess champion Garry Kasparov and others, including many of Navalny’s followers, and his wife Yulia, who received the news of his death at the Munich Security Conference.

Russia's future is still to be made, despite the Kremlin’s decision to condemn the country to death.

Navalny was a Christian, who read the Bible in the concentration camp like so many other martyrs before him.

His fate brings to mind characters in one of Dostoevsky's great novels, Crime and Punishment, the murderer Raskolnikov, who justified his crime by believing that he was a superman, but in the end was convicted and sent to in Siberia as punishment.

He went with Sonya, a young woman forced into prostitution by her father’s and society’s violence. Together with her love, she gave him a Bible, to teach him to suffer for the salvation of his soul, and for that of the whole world.


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See also
Navalny tells judges, 'You're all going to hell'
22/02/2021 15:10
Vladimir Putin inaugurated for fourth term as president
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A fine and 15 days in prison for Alexei Navalny. Criticism from Europe and the US
28/03/2017 15:56
Dozens of anti-corruption demonstrations. Alexei Navalny arrested
27/03/2017 09:07


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