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Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The Student News Site of The Webb Schools

Webb Canyon Chronicle

The death of Navalny through the eyes of a Russian political activist

Elena Petrova
In Beverly Hills about a hundred people came to honor the memory of Alexei Navalny on March 1st. On the day of his funeral ceremony, Russian emigres gathered in cities around the globe to hold vigils with Navalny’s portraits, flowers, white-blue-white flags, and many loving messages from his supporters. “I have never met a person who had such a profound belief in the freedom of Russians as Alexei,” said Vasya Oblomov, Russian musician and political activist, sharing his story of friendship with the politician at the gathering.

Navalny is dead.  

It took me a considerable amount of time to gather my thoughts before I could address the topic of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s murder. Information about Alexei, his Anti-Corruption Foundation, and the large-scale demonstrations in support of him floods the internet. “Navalny,” a documentary about the poisoning and imprisonment of Alexei Navalny, won an Oscar for best documentary feature in 2022. Many more articles, videos, books and films have been dedicated to his story. 

However, for Russian opposition activists like me, Navalny carries a significance far beyond what books and films could capture. Amidst the fear instilled in Russians by Putin’s power, Navalny stood as a pillar of unrelenting courage. 

Navalny took every opportunity to act.  

In 2013, he ran for Moscow’s mayoral office and was close to forcing a second election round. In 2018, he campaigned for president, but was kept off the ballot. Once they barred not just Navalny but also anyone remotely associated with him from running for any office, he came up with “Smart Voting,” a strategy of consolidating votes for candidates who oppose the ruling party. 

As a part of his campaign, he formed the Navalny Headquarters, a network of regional political organizations which became the center of Russian opposition within the country. Navalny turned the genre of anti-corruption investigations into a series of blockbusters with millions of views. 

Watching Navalny’s videos about corruption in the Russian government, I found myself pondering the fate of my country for the first time. I fondly remember following his pre-election campaign in 2018, feeling immensely proud of those who rallied in support of him.  

Since the age of 12, I have taken to the streets of Moscow — initially to support him and his ideas and later to advocate for his freedom. 

For us — supporters of the opposition, activists and civilians alike – he was the source of our fearlessness. Watching him resist and poke fun at the system taught us that we, too, should not be afraid. We looked at him and realized that we were a force to be reckoned with. 

He was not afraid of the officials, the police, or Putin; and, most importantly, he was not afraid of death. Neither searches, trials, arrests, imprisonments, nor a poisoning in 2021 — which left him in a coma for 18 days — could break him. Even his physical weakness after being poisoned did not affect his incredible resilience in the fight for freedom in Russia.  

His love for Russia was stronger than police batons, prison bars, and even Novichok poison. His love was stronger than fear. 

For three years, he was cut off from the outside world and tortured. For three years, he was starved and isolated in a tiny, freezing, concrete prison cell. But his spirit remained unbroken. He still found words of encouragement for his supporters, wrote tender letters to his wife and children, and debated with his opponents from his cell. No matter how much they tortured him, he remained alive, which infuriated his killers. 

Navalny never doubted what he was fighting and suffering for. He would go to any lengths for even the faintest chance of freedom in Russia — the country he loved more than anything in the world, so much so that he gave his life for it. 

Putin feared Navalny’s strength, his connection to the people of Russia — and that is exactly why Putin killed him. And beyond that, he killed Navalny disgracefully, like a coward, too afraid to look him in the eyes. 

On February 16th, our hope for freedom in Russia died with Navalny. While we all lived in a country of repression and prisons, Navalny extended a hand to us from the future Russia, one that is happy and free, peaceful and democratic. A country where political conflicts are resolved through debates and fair elections, not poison and bullets — a country Putin stole from us. 

Alexei is no longer with us, but he left us his immense love for Russia. We will carry his love despite intimidation and repression and use it to continue his work. With his love, we are much stronger than those who cling to power with greedy and trembling hands.  

Navalny’s name will forever be the symbol of boundless love for Russia; it will remain in our hearts, in the names of streets and town squares. With the strength of his love, we will continue to fight for our freedom and happiness.  

They killed Navalny, but they cannot kill what he stood for. And we will prove it to them. With his love we will inspire those whom the regime has made numb, resigned, and desperate. 

“Putin is not Russia. Russia is not Putin,” said Yulia Navalnaya, Alexei’s widow, at the European Union Foreign Affairs Council. “Today, tens of thousands of people across the country are laying flowers at spontaneous memorials. They are being beaten and detained by the police, but they do not give up. This is Russia. The Russia of Alexei Navalny.” 

On March 1st, memorials in honor of Navalny were held across the globe. In Moscow, despite countless threats of detention, thousands of people gathered to bid farewell to Navalny, and to this day, they continue to bring flowers to his grave. 

We are the true Russia, the Russia that Putin desperately attempts to conceal in prisons, drown in despair, and silence with fear. We number in the tens of millions. And we will not surrender. 

Thank you, Alexei.

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About the Contributor
Elena Petrova
Elena Petrova, Copy Editor
Elena Petrova (‘25) calls Moscow home, knowing every street and every pigeon, and yet she has been chased through the city for holding a piece of paper questioning the authority of her country's president. Always wanting her voice heard, she fights for her future and her community, hoping for a day when Russia can be free. As such, Elena looks forward to indulging her fascination with Russian and Soviet history and culture in Advanced Studies Cold War class. She also gives others a voice: as a passionate learner of many languages, she helps six students, including a Webb alum, embark on their linguistic journeys by teaching them English and Russian. As a Webbie, Elena serves this community as a prefect in Appleby, and a stage manager for this year’s fall play. Though she is very busy, you can also find her cooking new recipes, including her favorite dish: ratatouille. This year, Elena hopes to balance her urge to serve others with protecting her mental health and well-being. At the Webb Canyon Chronicle, she hopes to continue making the student community’s voice heard through more opinion articles, understanding that authority shall be questioned.   Favorite song:  ОГНЕЙ by SALUKI

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