Alexei A. Navalny: Dead but Never Forgotten


On Friday, Feb. 16, 2024, Alexei A. Navalny died after being held for two years in a West Siberian prison for his anti-corruption beliefs. Mr. Navalny was 47 years old and was a leading opposition force against the Kremlin. 

His death reminded the world that President Vladimir Putin will expel anyone who stands in his way. Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s Chief of Staff, wrote on X, “If this is true, then it’s not ‘Navalny died,’ but ‘Putin killed Navalny,’ and only that.”

While the news earlier this year was heartbreaking to many, it was not surprising. Even Mr. Navalny himself knew that he would eventually face fatal consequences for standing up for what he believed in, but he saw these risks as worth taking.

In a 2017 interview with 60 Minutes he said, “I think I’m ready to sacrifice everything for my job.” 

Micheal Klebnikov, a Grace history teacher, said that his reaction to the death of Mr. Navalny was “very sad” but “utterly predictable. [Navalny] knew he was going to die, and he was willing to die.

From 2011-2012, Mr. Navalny started the Anti-Corruption Foundation in Russia and protested against Mr. Putin. Mr. Navalny joined 25,000 demonstrators when he won the parliamentary election through what was believed to be electoral fraud. Arrested during these protests, he was later convicted with embezzlement and fraud in 2012. In 2013, he gained 27% of the vote for the mayoral elections of Moscow. Because of his previous convictions, when Mr. Navalny announced he would run for president in 2016, he was barred.

Navalny is rushed to the hospital after being poisoned. Media provided by Alexey Malgavko/Reuters for The New York Times

In 2020, Russian authorities attempted to assassinate Mr. Navalny by placing Novichok nerve agent in his underwear. Navalny survived this after escaping Russia to the Charité hospital in Berlin, Germany. He was able to figure out who poisoned him by recording a conversation with the FSB operative Konstantin Borisovich Kudryavtsev who admitted to poisoning him over the phone. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021, Mr. Navalny released a video titled “Putin’s palace. History of the world’s largest bribe.” In this video, Mr. Navalny goes into detail about a $1.35 billion dollar property near Gelendzhik, Russia, where funds were supplied to him by members of the “inner circle.” 

In February 2021, Mr. Navalny was given a three-and-a-half-year sentence to prison. In 2022, he received a nine-year sentence for embezzlement, and in 2023, he was given a 19-year sentence for “extremism.”

At first, many of Mr. Navalny’s supporters were skeptical of his death because of the Kremlin’s frequent lies. The New York Times reported that his wife, Yulia Navalnaya, said that Putin’s government is  untrustworthy and “they are lying constantly.”

People lined up for Mr. Navalny’s service shouting “no war”. Media Provided by Reuters for The New York Times

Mr. Navalny’s funeral confirmed that the death was real. Supporters created altars to this fallen hero and many have been wearing red as a sign of support to him. 

Antonia A. ‘27 spoke to a Russian citizen who said that “there were a lot of people coming outside to honor his death… It was just peaceful people, but obviously there was a lot because it’s a tragedy and it’s not okay… many were arrested just because they were trying to give a tribute to Navalny.”

With the figurehead of anti-Putin resistance gone, some wonder if the resistance will begin to fizzle out. Grace student Adrian K. ‘26 believes that there is a possibility of a new opposition leader, but “they tend to hide in the shadows more.  Talking to my family [in Russia], I know that there are people who have the composure and confidence to speak their mind about the topic.”

During his life, Alexei Navalny fought for his beliefs no matter the costs. His death, according to Adrian, brought people like Adrian’s family members together. It also acts as a reminder of what Vladimir Putin is capable of, and how he silences the people he should protect. 

Mr. Klebnikov thinks that although Navalny’s death was inevitable, “[Navalny] will be an inspiration to future leaders against Putin.”

Fiona Miller ‘26, the author, is a staff writer for The Grace Gazette.