The Life and Legacy of Alexei Navalny 

By: Emily Goldberg  |  March 26, 2024

By Emily Goldberg, Publication Manager and Layout Editor

With each and every day that passes by since Alexei Navalny’s death, there is much to be learned from his commitment to the pursuit of freedom. As Russia’s most prominent opposition leader, Navalny was an exceptionally dedicated figure who strived to attain positive change every single moment of his life. It is now our job to continue his legacy. 

According to an article published in The Hill, Alexei Navalny became known as one of the Kremlin’s most ardent critics in 2010 when he began publicly speaking out against the authoritarian Russian government and its leader Vladimir Putin. Navalny declared that he would run for President of Russia in 2018, and spent his entire political career lobbying for democracy in Russia. 

Navalny constantly participated in protests campaigning against Putin’s abuse of power. He was arrested multiple times and convicted of baseless and fabricated charges solely because of his political outspokenness. “When men are arrested without any legal basis and for political reasons, it’s merely a routine, everyday occurrence in Russia, and hardly anyone has any sympathy,” stated Navalny. 

On August 20, 2020, Alexei Navalny fell ill while on a plane traveling to Moscow from Tomsk. He later discovered that he was poisoned by the Kremlin with Novichok, “a military-grade nerve agent developed by the former Soviet Union,” as explained by the U.S. Embassy in Georgia

Navalny was transported to a hospital in Germany, where he layed in a coma, to recover. On January 17, 2021, after recuperating, Alexei Navalny boarded a plane to return to Russia, knowing full well that he would probably be arrested by the government that had just attempted to kill him the minute he landed in Moscow. 

That did not stop him. 

“There was never a question for me whether to return or not, never” stated Navalny in an interview reported by The Free Press. “Russia is my country. Moscow is my city. I miss them.” 

In an interview reported by the Associated Press, he added, “It doesn’t seem right to me that Alexei Navalny calls for a revolution from Berlin.” He continued, “If I’m doing something, I want to share the risks with people who work in my office.”

Indeed, Navalny was arrested by Russian authorities upon his arrival in Moscow. On Friday, February 16, 2024, Alexei Navalny died at the IK-3 penal colony in the Northern Arctic circle. Navalny was there serving a ridiculous 19-year prison sentence for falsified “charges of extremism,” as reported by the Associated Press. There is no doubt in my mind that Putin was personally behind his death. Even after locking Navalny up and throwing away the key in an obvious attempt to suppress Navalny’s fight for freedom, Vladimir Putin has struck his opposition leader once again.  

How is it that we have found ourselves here yet again? How is it that “the threat to democracy continues to triumph” and nothing is being done?

Alexei Navalny had the bravery to fight an extremely important battle. Imagine how much courage it must take to look death right in the eye and not be afraid. How much bravery one must have to willinging walk right into danger after having just narrowly escaped its grasp. 

Alexei Navalny spent his life pursuing a privilege many often take for granted. As a democratic nation with the unique opportunity to continue his legacy, we must not remain silent. Silence must be the enemy of those who seek to change the world for the better, just as it was for Navalny. 

Now more than ever, it is important to understand how crucial our role as citizens of a democracy is in Navalny’s fight. More than anyone else, we have the unique privilege to continue the battle that Alexei Navalny forged and to speak up for those who do not have the privileges that freedom of speech allot to us. “People don’t believe in positive change anymore,” declared Alexie Navalny. He would want us to prove him wrong. “You are not allowed to give up. If they decide to kill me, it means that we are incredibly strong,” relayed Navalny.   

As a journalist, calling out those who abuse positions of power and the pursuit of positive change are my life’s missions – ones I am privileged to engage in because of the democratic nation I am fortunate to call my home. I am very lucky that journalism can be my life endeavor. I can’t imagine what it must be like living in a place without it.  

Truly believing in something greater than yourself means dedicating your entire life to it. The legacy that Navalny left in this world cannot die with him. The fire that he lit within those around him must continue to burn inside us. His fight is now our fight. Our responsibility, and one that we must hold dearly. 

Find what it is that you will never stop fighting for and never give up trying to attain it. If we all fight with the dedication that Alexei Navalny did to fix the injustices in society, the world would become a much better place. We all have a little bit of Navalny’s courage inside of us. We have the power to make a real difference in the world if we take advantage of the opportunities that democracy provides us with. Standing up for what you believe in might be frightening, so accept that, and then do it anyway

Continuing the legacy that Alexei Navalny forged does not only mean advocating for democracy in Russia. Rather, by questioning the status quo and dedicating your passions in life to improving the world just as Alexei Navaly did, you will be able to look back and find consolation knowing that you did everything in your power to make the world a better place in your own unique way. 

In a letter published by The New Yorker, Navalny wrote to fellow journalist Yevgenia Albats from jail expressing exactly why we must always unapologetically keep fighting for what we believed in. “I have no regrets… Everything will be all right. And, even if it isn’t, we’ll have the consolation of having lived honest lives.” 

On one occasion, after spending multiple days in jail for participating in protests against the Russian government, Navalny “told reporters outside the prison: ‘I’m not afraid and these 15 days convinced me there is nothing to fear. Let them be afraid instead.’”