Who Is Alexei Navalny And What Will Happen To Russia Now?

Want more Junkee in your life? Sign up to our newsletter, and follow us on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook so you always know where to find us.

Russia has seen tens of thousands of protestors take to the streets over the past couple of weeks. 

They’re being met with some really disturbing violence from the Kremlin but people keep turning up, and they’re doing it all in the name of defending this man: Alexei Navalny 

He’s become Putin’s most charismatic critic and a pretty powerful opposition leader to the Kremlin.  

So, how has Navalny stirred up so much unrest in Russia, and could this be a turning point for the country?  

Huge Putin Nemesis Energy

The protests started a few weeks ago after Navalny was arrested and jailed.  

He was detained pretty much immediately after returning from Germany, where he was being treated after he was poisoned last year by the Soviet-made nerve agent Novichok, in an attack that he blamed personally on Putin. 

Navalny has been taking shots at the Kremlin for years.  

In 2011 he established the Anti-Corruption Foundation to expose the inner workings of Putin’s administration and the ways that Putin secures power.  

He’s even organised a bunch of mass protests against the Kremlin himself.  

Anna Byesyedina (The University of Sydney): Navalny has played, lets just say, a very important role in virtually exposing the riches of a lot of political figures – not only of Putin but of Putin’s cronies. And he’s been investigating property, he’s been investigating budget, how it moves around and whether it ends up in somebody’s pocket basically.” 

Taking Shots At Putin From Inside

Navalny’s imprisonment hasn’t stopped his team from seriously agitating Putin’s administration 

Navalny ordered this video to be released from jail, which talks about 1 billion US dollar Black Sea palace reportedly owned by Putin that’s on an estate 39 times the size of Monaco. 

The video kind of went viral because it states that the property was paid for using cash that was quietly skimmed from trade deals and other corrupt sources.    

Here’s the thing though, the palace scandal was already brought to light 10 years ago.  

There Are Other Factors At Play

Even though Navalny is igniting a movement against the Kremlin, there are other factors at play.   

AB: I think that people are being pushed to a point of being feeling cheated. People are angry at seeing all of these riches while the country is suffering during COVID-19. 

I’m finding this timing very interesting and maybe this is giving us a hint that Russian society is possibly changing. Maybe civic society is growing and being able to come out on the street and speak up for their rights.” 

But Anna told me she still isn’t totally optimistic about where the protests will go.  

Over 5,000 people have been arrested so far, and the violence against protestors is escalating.  

AB: We’ve seen, even today … the images of students being detained and beaten up, very sure he’s not going to stop at that. 

While people are wiggling this thread that binds authoritarianism in Russia, it would be naive to think that there will be a democratic outcome from these protests because Putin holds a big grip on the country and he does so through force that has been well established.” 

Navalny has now been sentenced to 3 and a half years in prison. His team are planning on appealing, but it doesn’t look promising.  

What Will Happen To Alexei Navalny’s Movement?  

AB: “Navalny has played a very important role not only in exposing corruption but also showing Russia that opposition does exist. 

I’m quite certain that he has established this virtual social media authority and I believe that a lot of his followers might continue … that his work will keep going.” 

The Takeaway 

The violent crackdown on protestors in Russia over the past couple of weeks has been really disturbing to see and it’s still unclear what, if anything, these demonstrations will achieve.  

But regardless of whether or not they’re shut down, the movement really symbolises significant push against Putin and Russia’s authoritarianism, and it doesn’t look like that will go away any time soon.