Who was Alexei Navalny?

Alexei Navalny died in a Russian prison on Feb. 16. His legacy has been preserved through his YouTube content and an Oscar-winning documentary.
Alexei Navalny died in a Russian prison on Feb. 16. His legacy has been preserved through his YouTube content and an Oscar-winning documentary.
Used with permission from Michał Siergiejevicz

“If you are killed, what message do you leave behind to the Russian people?” 

This was asked of Alexei Navalny while filming for the documentary on his anti-corruption movement and the subsequent poisoning he endured because of it. 

It is chilling now to see how a seemingly morbid question like this could be so prevalent. Navalny, an outspoken opponent of Russian President, Vladimir Putin, died in prison on Feb. 16. 

“You are not allowed to give up,” Navalny said in response to the interviewer’s question regarding his possible death. This has been his resounding message to the Russian people.  

It is widely believed Navalny was murdered by Putin.  

“If they decide to kill me, it means we are incredibly strong.” Navalny’s words have spread to so many people thanks to his online presence on platforms like YouTube and TikTok. Some of his videos have over 100 million views. 

“We need to utilize this power, to not give up, to remember we are a huge power that is being oppressed by these bad dudes,” Navalny continued. “We don’t realize how strong we actually are.”

One of the biggest pieces of Navalny media was an Oscar-winning HBO documentary titled, “Navalny” (2022). It was incredibly dramatic, and a staunchly accurate retelling of Navalny’s poisoning and his quest to find out who did this to him. Through their own investigation, they were able to find who exactly poisoned him and precisely how they did it. 

The poison was the nerve agent Novichok, which Navalny’s chief of staff, Leonid Volkov, called “like leaving Putin’s signature on the crime.” 

Some have been skeptical of Navalny’s Russian nationalist past. “Of course, I would never be within the same political party with them,” Navalny said. “But we are creating coalition, broader coalition to fight a totalitarian regime, just to achieve the situation where everyone can participate in an election.” 

“I consider it my political superpower, I can talk to everyone,” Navalny said when pressed further on this topic. “If I want to fight Putin, if I want to be a leader of a country, I cannot just ignore the huge part of it.”

“We’re living in the country where they are poisoning a politician and killing people. And arresting people for nothing.” Navalny attempted to unite Russia not by what citizens disagree on, but what they do agree on which is to put fair, legitimate leaders in power. 

“So, of course, I am okay to sit with a guy who’s rally looks kind of not very good for me,” Navalny said.  

After Navalny was poisoned on Aug. 20, 2020, he spent much of his recovery in Germany, before returning to Russia on Jan. 17, 2021. He was immediately detained by Russian authorities upon arrival and was imprisoned up until his death. 

Even after Navalny’s death, his legacy and message still live on for Russians and non-Russians alike. Most importantly he was never afraid. He was never afraid of Putin, or a totalitarian government. Navalny went back to Russia in Jan. 2021 knowing full well he was going to be arrested as authorities had broadcast their intentions via state media to try to get Navalny to stay out of the country. 

It seems now Navalny will be seen as a martyr, spurring this idea for greater change far bigger than himself. 

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing,” Navalny said, speaking in Russian. “So don’t be inactive.”

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Ben Schneider
Ben Schneider, Section Editor of Style and Culture
In his third year as a Chatterbox staff member, Ben Schneider is excited to work as the Style and Culture Section Editor. He hopes to put out consistent and quality work about all things Style and Culture. While mainly focusing on reviews himself, Schneider hopes to broaden the variety of his pieces this year.  Schneider also plays for the WHHS tennis team and has been a part of the basketball program in the past. He hopes to attend college and have a future in journalism. He likes to spend his free time listening to music, playing basketball, and writing for Chatterbox.
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