Alexei Navalny – the irresistible power of non-violent opposition

The Russian prison service reported that opposition leader Alexei Navalny had died “after falling ill on a walk today,” a few weeks after being transferred to a remote prison in the Arctic circle. Almost dying in 2020, after being poisoned with Novichock by the GRU, Navalny faced a difficult choice. Give up his struggle and live a comfortable life as an exiled dissident in the West or return to Russia where he would almost certainly be arrested and imprisoned on trumped up charges. He chose the latter. A mark of personal courage.

He was no doubt murdered by the regime ahead of the March presidential elections — where he had succeeded in orchestrating non-violent opposition to Russian leader Vladimir Putin from his prison cell.

Here is Navalny’s message to fellow Russians, from the documentary bearing his name:

President Biden’s response to his death:

Russia has a long history of non-violent resistance to oppression, including:

  • Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn — historian and author who raised global awareness of political repression in the gulags in the Soviet Union, awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1970;
  • Andrei Sakharov — nuclear physicist who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1975 for his efforts in the struggle for human rights in the Soviet Union and for nuclear disarmament; and
  • Another physicist, Boris Nemtsov, who led political opposition to Vladimir Putin until his assassination in 2015.

Alexei Navalny joins the list of global leaders who have dedicated their lives to non-violent opposition to oppression for the betterment of their fellow man:

Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi
Martin Luther King Jr.
Nelson Mandela
Bishop Desmond Tutu
and many others, including Aung San Suu Kyi (currently imprisoned in Myanmar) and Vladimir Kara-Murza (imprisoned in Russia), whose courage we should honor.

Water is fluid, soft, and yielding. But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield. As a rule, whatever is fluid and yielding will overcome whatever is rigid and hard. That is the paradox: what is soft is strong.

~ Lao Tzu/Laozi, the Tao Te Ching (circa 400 BC)