Meet the Man Vladimir Putin Fears
His influence on the Russian public has been such that he was named as “the man Vladimir Putin fears most” by The Wall Street Journal.
Alexei is also an active blogger and article writer, contributing articles to various publications in Russia such as Forbes Russia. He has several awards for his efforts and actions in eliminating corruption in Russia, the most notable being named as a Yale World Fellow in 2010 and being included in the 100 Most Influential People of TIME Magazine.
Alexei was born in 1976 in Obninsk, a city just a hundred kilometres south of Moscow. His father is Anatoliy Navalny, a former army officer that grew up from Ukraine (once a part of the Soviet Union), while his mother is a pure-blood Russian.
Due to the work of his father, Alexei spent his early years in several closed military towns around Moscow, until they returned and finally settled in Obninsk. During the summers, Anatoliy would bring Alexei to his hometown in Ukraine and have Alexei spend the entire vacation with his grandmother. In some interviews made with Alexei, he often recalled how his summers with his grandmother were only among the few good memories that he has regarding his childhood.
Alexei grew up during the time when the Soviet Union was transitioning from communism to democracy; the political infrastructure was beginning to crumble and the former Soviet states were starting to declare their independence one by one. Alexei often related during his interviews that life was a lot difficult back then; there was a huge shortage of goods, and people were lining up every day just to get little rations of meals.
Because of the harsh life that he experienced when he was young, Alexei already had his mind opened to the realities of life at such a young age. And while his father did serve in the military, Anatoliy kept on instilling the values and ideals of freedom and social justice in his son Alexei, who accepted them wholeheartedly. This birthed a dream in Alexei to see his fellow Russians free from oppression and poverty one day.
Alexei was in his early teens when he saw the fall of the communist Soviet Union and the rise of the new Russian Federation. He was among the people who celebrated the dawning of a new Russian era, with high hopes that things would start changing for the better.
Alexei becomes a Lawyer
Alexei entered the People’s Friendship University of Russia to study law. He was among the school’s brightest and most outspoken students, greatly impressing many of his peers. He did, however, occasionally get into arguments with pro-communist fellows at the university, clashing with their ideals of bringing communism back into Russia. In 1998, Alexei received his bachelor’s degree in law with high remarks.
While always dreaming of becoming a lawyer to make his mark in fighting injustice in his country someday, Alexei realized that as a politician, he would have greater influence and capacity in rooting out the corrupt practices of the officials that caused the masses to live in poverty. Because of this, he decided to shift to politics and entered the Finance University under the Government of the Russian Federation to study securities and exchange. He graduated in 2000 and received his master’s degree. Around this time, Vladimir Putin won the elections and became the president of Russia.
Joining Russian March but Condemns Racists
Alexei immediately joined Yabloko, the Russian United Democratic Party, after leaving the university. Because of his charismatic and outspoken personality, he soon garnered the respect of many of his fellow members and rose through the ranks, becoming a member of the party’s Federal Political Council. His fame soon spread amongst the members of the party and by 2002, Alexei was voted to be a part of the Moscow regional council of Yabloko, giving him more credibility and authority.
After being chosen to become the acting deputy chief of the Moscow regional branch of Yabloko, Alexei became more active in the work of the party and engaged in various political watching activities in the wake of numerous protests that started due to an increasing number of reports about corruption in the government.
In 2006, widespread demonstrations occurred all throughout Russia in what is now called the famous “Russian March.” It was a series of protests and marches that was initiated by the Movement Against Illegal Immigration, and joined by several other groups such as the National Patriotic Front “Memory,” the “Truth” Community, The Russian National Union, the Eurasian Youth Union, the Russian Social Movement and the Russian Order Movement.
Although the march was fiercely opposed not just by the government itself, but by other groups such as the Moscow Bureau of Human Rights and the Russian Jewish Community, made a statement that the he supported the march as a demonstration and guarantee of the freedom of assembly and that he condemns “any ethnic or racial hatred and any xenophobia" (source: Wikipedia).
After Alexei released his statement, several members of the party retorted, claiming that the Yabloko did not support the event and was against “any ethnic or racial hatred and any xenophobia.” This was in reference to the extensive use of the Swastika symbols in the march, which many referred to as a “symbol of Fascism.”
Alexei, a Nationalist Through and Through
Within a few months, turmoil and division began to spread amongst the members of Yabloko; seeing no other option, the higher ups of the organization expelled Alexei from the party for ‘causing political damage to the party due to nationalist activities.’ In December 2007, a meeting was held to discuss Alexei’s expulsion from the party, to demand the resignation of the party chairman, and to re-elect at least seventy percent of the leading people.
Alexei has focused much of his efforts and activities into monitoring any wrongdoings not just by the government, but also by several companies related to them. He is a minor stockholder in a few major state-related companies and corporations, and he has been aiming to put into transparency the financial properties of these companies, due to the belief that several of the top brass of these companies are involved in corruption and have been covering their actions by keeping their financial records obscured.
Alexei also kept on monitoring various events such as the wrongdoings committed by the Russian Militsiya, the quality of state services, the improper use of government funds and other malicious activities by the then Russian government. Alexei gradually grew in popularity for his articles, which constantly uncovered the various corrupt practices of the government officials.
Alexei Navalny was declared the winner of the “virtual Mayor of Moscow elections” that was held in October 2010 by Gazeta.ru and Kommersant. He won around thirty thousand votes out of the sixty-seven thousand votes that were cast, which was about forty five percent of all the total votes. Although the election was held on the internet and did not have any “legal” ramifications, it became clear to many that Alexei was becoming a major figure in the opposition.
Alexei Navalny Exposes Transneft Corruption
The following month, Alexei released an article that discussed on several confidential documents that exposed corrupt activities in the company Transneft. It was revealed that the company stole over four billion dollars for the construction of the Eastern Siberia—Pacific Ocean oil pipeline.
In December 2010, Alexei launched the RosPil project, a movement to expose corruption in the government procurement process. This project took advantage of the procurement regulations of that time, which required all requests for tender by the government as well as its winning bids to be available online.
Due to his commitment in exposing corrupt practices and promoting an honest government, Alexei was recommended to be a part of the Yale World Fellows Training Program by other famous Russian celebrities such as Yevgenia Albats, Gary Kasparov and Sergei Guriev. After the six-month training period, Alexei was officially inducted as a Yale Fellow.
After returning to Russia, Alexei further got involved with activities against the corruption that was prevalent in the government. An interview with him in February 2011 got Alexei the government’s full attention when he labelled the United Russia party (which was the dominant party at that time) a “party of crooks and thieves.” From that time on, this statement became the common nickname of the party amongst the masses.
In May of that same year, Alexei established the RosYama project, which encouraged the citizens to track how the government responded to complaints and to report any potholes in government dealings. The following month, Alexei publicized articles regarding a real estate deal between the Russian and Hungarian governments, which he called “scandalous” for allegations of overpricing.
After an extensive investigation held in Hungary, officials who were involved in the deal were arrested. However, there was no response made by the Russian government to these allegations, which Alexei used as a target for his criticisms.
In response to Alexei’s activities, the Russian government started a criminal investigation against Alexei. This was meant to silence Alexei and drive him underground, but the government’s efforts did not work – Alexei continued on exposing the illegal activities that the government was involved in, which only drew more people on his side.
In December of 2011, Alexei participated in a mass demonstration held in Moscow to protest against the alleged electoral fraud that occurred in the parliamentary elections. Around three hundred protesters, including Alexei, were arrested by the police and were kept underground for a period of time.
Criticized in Twitter
Each of them was sent to trial and was sentenced to fifteen days imprisonment for defying a government official. Konstantin Rykov, a senior member of the United Russia party, tweeted this statement: “A person who writes in their blog the words 'party of crooks and thieves' is a stupid, cock-sucking sheep.” This was re-twitted by the then president Dmitry Medvedev’s official twitter account, and got international attention which caused many groups not just in Russia, but also around the world, to criticize his government for violating human rights.
The Russian Blogger Fights Back
Upon his release fifteen days later, Alexei declared that he would try to win in the 2012 presidential elections, and called on his fellow Russians to unite against Vladimir Putin, who was the most ideal candidate of the government. In a mass demonstration that was attended by around fifty thousand people four days later, Alexei related how he would be willing to run if the government held “fair” elections. He also told the crowd who were wildly cheering for him that there were “enough people to take the Kremlin.”
Throughout the early months of 2012, Alexei actively involved himself in protests and demonstrations against the election of Vladimir Putin as president of Russia. In March, after the re-election of Putin, Alexei led a rally at Pushkin Square which was attended by around twenty thousand people. The rally called for the stepping down of Putin, as he was alleged to have won the elections through fraud. Authorities were then dispatched to disperse the rally, and Alexei was again arrested; he was released a few hours later.
Alexei Keeps Exposing Corruptions in His Blog
A day after Vladimir Putin was inaugurated as President; the police arrested Alexei and Sergei Udaltsov, another opposition leader, for being involved in an anti-Putin rally a few days before. They were both sentenced to fifteen days in prison for defying a government official. This action caused the international community to look favorably upon Alexei; Amnesty International declared Alexei and Sergei as prisoners of conscience, and began a worldwide campaign to promote the release of the two as soon as possible.
In spite of being arrested and detained twice, Alexei never lost heart in his dream of rooting out corruption in the country. Upon his release, he immediately resumed his activities and continued on exposing anomalies in the government.
His first target was Deputy Prime Minister Igor Shuvalov, whom he accused of corruption after collaborating with several major companies to transfer tens of millions of dollars to his company to share in the sale of Corus, a British-owned steel company. He released document scans that showed the money transfers that were conducted between Shuvalov’s company and the companies that he collaborated with.
In June, Alexei was fined thirty thousand rubles for causing “moral harm” to Vladimir Svirid, who was the then State Duma Deputy of the United Russia party. The case was filed by Svirid himself, who referenced the comment that Alexei made in an article he submitted to the magazine Esquire regarding the United Russia party: “In United Russia, there are people I come across that I generally like. But if you have joined United Russia, you are still a thief. And if you are not a thief, then you are a crook, because you use your name to cover the rest of the thieves and crooks.” The following month, Alexei revealed that Alexander Bastrykin, who was the head of the Russian Investigative Committee, had undeclared businesses outside of the country.
Alexei was again arrested and detained in October 2012 after participating in a rally that was held for Leonid Razvozzhayev, who was alleged to have been kidnapped and tortured for being an opposition leader.
Throughout Alexei’s career as a political activist, he has been arrested and detained several times by the Russian government for allegations of disrupting the peace and promoting rebellion. He has received numerous threats and charges against him to keep him quiet and to run him down. In fact, many international commentators have described the Russian government’s actions against Alexei as a means to try and ‘silence’ him.
In spite of the great and overwhelming amount of persecution laid out against him, Alexei never faltered nor got discouraged in continuing the fight. In fact, he saw the government’s actions as an encouragement, knowing deep in his heart that his activities have been making a difference and that more and more of his fellow countrymen are being awakened to fight against corruption and to establish a better society.
Organizations and Programmes Supported
- Russian United Democratic Party (Yabloko)
- Ros Yama Project
Awards and Achievements
- 2009: Named as the Person of the Year by Vedomosti (a Russian Newspaper)
- 2010: Named as a World Fellow at the World Fellows Program by Yale University
- 2011: Included in the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine
- 2012: Included in the Top 100 Global Thinkers by Foreign Policy magazine
- 2012: Included in the World’s 100 Most Influential People by TIME Magazine