17 January 2022
by Aleksei Navalny
Exactly one year ago I returned home to Russia.
I wasn’t able to take a single step in my country as a free person, I was arrested even before I had passed border control.
The hero of one of my favourite books, Lev Tolstoy’s Resurrection, says, ‘Yes, the only decent place for an honest person in Russia these days is prison.’
It’s very nicely said, but it was wrong then and even more so now.
There are a great many honest people in Russia – tens of millions. There are far more of them than is commonly thought.
But it isn’t honest people of whom the authorities – disgusting then and even more so now – are afraid. They fear those who are not afraid. Or, to be more precise: those who, perhaps, are afraid, but who overcome their fear.
There are many people like that, too – we constantly meet them in different places, from rallies to what’s left of independent media. And even here, on Instagram. I recently read about how the Ministry of Internal Affairs is firing employees for liking my posts. So in Russia 2022, even a ‘like’ can be an act of courage.
In all ages, this is the essence of politics: the tsar, who wants to usurp the right to sole and unlimited power, must intimidate the honest people who are not afraid. And they, in turn, must convince everyone around them there is no need to fear. That the honest ones outnumber the tsar’s guards by an order of magnitude. Why live your whole life in fear, and even be robbed, if everything can be organised differently – more justly?
And it’s like being on a never-ending children’s swing. Or a tug-of-war: today you are brave, tomorrow you seem to be frightened a little. And the day after that, they scared you so badly that in your desperation you become brave again.
I don’t know when my ‘journey through space’ will end, or if it will end at all, but on Friday I was told that another of the criminal cases against me will go to trial. And yet another is coming up – the one where I figure as an extremist and a terrorist. So I’m one of those ‘astronauts’ who doesn’t count the days until the end of their sentence. What is there to count? Some have been in jail for 27 years.
But I got into this group of ‘astronauts’ because I tried my best to pull this end of the rope. I have been pulling over to this side those honest people who did not want to be afraid, or who no longer could.
I did it, I don’t regret it for a moment. And I will continue to do it.
Translated by Simon Cosgrove