Scared people can become bloggers

Russia: Putin and Navalny: the fearful and the fearless

Russian President Vladimir Putin has found many names for Alexei Navalny over the years. Once this is a "simple blogger", then "a well-known accused" or "the Berlin patient". The 68-year-old never mentions the name of his greatest adversary. As if the utterance of the few letters cast an evil spell over the president, even over the country, and Putin would have to face this spell. Instead, the Kremlin pretends that Navalny, who can justifiably be called the second most important politician in Russia - after Putin - is a nobody - and does the opposite: The 44-year-old's vehement ignoring shows just how important he is Kremlin takes this and how much potential it gives it. Putin's system involuntarily did what he denied the opposition politician from Navalny with all his might: a danger to the Kremlin.

The power apparatus sees Navalny as a national traitor and denies him any place in politics. Ordinary politics with parties, elections and discussions is long dead in Russia, Navalny makes unusual politics and vehemently attacks the leadership, which portrays an illusory world as real. That threatens the system.

Navalny exposes the hypocrisy of the mighty

So the Kremlin operates on the principle: oppress and deny. Kremlin spokesman Dmitri Peskov described the allegations that Putin was afraid of Navalny as "absolute nonsense". The man is a Russian citizen who does not obey the law, the actions of the judiciary against the returnee have nothing to do with the president. On January 29, a court should have decided whether Navalny had violated the suspended sentence.

But no sooner had Navalny returned to Moscow than he ended up in bondage. The next day, a court at the police station sentenced him to 30 days' arrest. "A political decision," says the Moscow lawyer Alchas Abgadschawa, because all the events surrounding Navalny's arrival, his arrest and his trial violated Russian laws. Even the requested conversion of his probation into a real punishment does not stand up to the matter.

Navalny has been fighting for years to call things by their names. He transcends the limits that Putin's authoritarian system sets on Russian society. The reaction of the state: also border crossings, with a much more powerful effect - threats, attempted murder, prison. Navalny says: "I am not afraid" and the fearlessness alone poses a threat to a system that prides itself on being stable, but proves to be unstable as a result of the repression.

The self-confident Navalny exposes corruption, shows with his accusing exposé videos how the political elite enriches themselves at the expense of their people, how they turn critical spirits into foreign agents with laws, but live a Western life themselves - and thus lays the hypocrisy of "power " open. That brings him sympathy. Recognition, which, however, did not yet earn him the trust of the masses.

The fight on the street that Nawalny's team is calling for Saturday is likely to be even harder than it always was. Because of the corona pandemic, any mass gathering is prohibited. The police arrested the best-known supporters of the opposition politician beforehand. Kira Jarmysch, Nawalny's press spokeswoman, was sentenced to nine days' arrest on Friday, and Wladlen Los, the lawyer for Nawalny's anti-corruption foundation - he has a Belarusian passport - is to be deported. Lyubov Sobol, the producer of Navalny's successful channel on YouTube, was also temporarily arrested. Several coordinators from Navalny's regional offices were also taken into custody.

Indifference has spread

Rallies are to take place in more than 60 cities. But many in the country are preoccupied with their own survival because of the economic situation. Indifference has long since spread, the TV propaganda of "foreign interference" has an effect. Surveys by independent institutes show that the majority of people in Russia consider Navalny's poisoning to be a staging. And even if they suspect the state is behind it, they accept it. "It's easy to explain psychologically," says the political scientist Andrei Kolesnikov from the Moscow Carnegie Center: "People have to continue to live with and in this state, they push everything negative away from themselves."

Navalny and his colleagues do not want to come to terms with the situation as it is. The lawyer benefits from his moral superiority through his fight against the elite, nothing more he has to oppose Putin's monopoly of power and violence. He would have forfeited this superiority if he had stayed in Germany. It is much more difficult to criticize the country from abroad and to be taken seriously in the process than from the country itself, even if it is from prison.

Navalny consciously accepted the risk of lack of freedom in order not to leave the leadership in Moscow in peace. "The villains in the Kremlin," writes Navalny on Instagram, divided the people in Russia into three categories: the idiots; those who understand everything but keep silent; and those who refuse to remain silent and fight as best they can. He himself tries with all his might to stay in the third column. But the system doesn't like anyone who is loud.