Konstantin Morozov: Aleksei, in front of the entire country and the whole world, vanquished them very visibly and forever! 

19 February 2024

by Konstantin Morozov

Konstantin Morozov is a doctor of historical sciences, a visiting researcher at EHESS/CERCEC (Paris), and head of the programme ‘The History of the Struggle of Anti-Authoritarian Forces for Freedom in the Russian Empire and the USSR” of the Memorial Association (Vilnius).


I had a hard time making myself believe the reality of what was happening, making myself fight the stress and start analyzing. I think Aleksei Navalny’s tragic death will have very serious political and social consequences. Consequences so important that the regime’s smartest people will have more than one occasion to regret making his death a reality. Later we will certainly learn how this came about, no matter how hard they try to hide it. What is most important is something else: Aleksei, in front of the entire country and the whole world, vanquished them very visibly and forever! 

As the defendants in the first group (“the intransigents”) said at the SR [Socialist Revolutionary] trial of 1922 to their betrayers and enemies, “Better to be a dead lion than a live mutt!” 

And the regime is not going to do anything about the fact of his moral victory, no matter how many lies and how much mud they sling now. . . . 

Aleksei had already become a symbol of the fight for freedom, a symbol of resistance, a symbol of unbreakability. In the history of the Liberation Movement in Russia at the turn of the century, and the anti-Bolshevik resistance, and the dissident movement, and the anti-authoritarian resistance of the last few decades, there have been quite vivid and unbroken people who never gave up. Some of them were even symbols for their own generations. . . . But the majority of them have been painstakingly erased from history and textbooks and from the historical memory. Few remember the names of Sofia Perovskaya, Andrei Zhelyabov, the “grandmother of the Russian revolution” Ekaterina Breshko-Breshkovskaya, Egor Sozonov, and Ivan Kalyev—the defendants in the first group of the SR trial of 1922. Abram Gots, Evgeny Timofeev, Florian Fedorovich, Nikolai and Elena Ivanov, Mikhail Likhach, Dmitry Donskoi, Mikhail Gendelman, Vedenyapin, Liberov, Evgeny Ratner, and others. Of our contemporaries, Anatoly Marchenko, Anna Politkovskaya, Natalia Estemirova, and Boris Nemtsov have become such symbols. They have all gone down in our history. 

Aleksei Navalny, too, has gone down in our history and will become a very bright symbol of will, freedom, and resistance. . . . There are many reasons for this: his charisma, his directness, and the fact that his entire struggle and dramatic self-sacrifice unfolded in front of millions. . . . Of course, many will squint so nothing can keep them from surviving. . . . Propaganda and the regime will continue to sling mud, but by killing him they committed both a crime and a mistake. . . . 

For many, his death pushed his mistakes into the background and brought out his desire for struggle, his self-sacrifice, and his unbreakability. He will become a symbol and example for those who come to politics today and tomorrow. . . . 

Aleksei’s significance for Russia and his role for a better future are huge because with his life and death he disputed a very harmful and live postulate: “Politics is a dirty business!” 

Now and tomorrow Aleksei will bring into politics thousands of sincere people and, what is important, they are under no obligation to copy his views. . . . 

Also, his way of addressing the people was very important, his appeals to the people, his attempts to act through the people—and all this distinguishes him greatly from those who look on the people with poorly concealed contempt. This forces us to recall the first generations of the Russian intelligentsia with their populism and their desire to serve their people. Later, though, in the Soviet and post-Soviet periods, these features of the majority of the intelligentsia vanished. . . . He also provided a vivid example of how one should treat one’s own people. . . . 

Aleksei Navalny left behind tremendous political, moral, and symbolic capital, as well as a very important question: Will society and the opposition be able to use it well? . . . But there is hope. . . . I think that we will soon be witnesses to very dramatic and dynamic processes and a struggle between opposing forces and values. . . . I, too, have hope for the future. . . .


Translated by Marian Schwartz

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