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  • Writer's pictureMariah Nimmons

The Death of Alexei Navalny


This post is a special edition of our Russia-Ukraine Resource Updates.


Oppositionist Alexei Navalny on a march in memory of politician Boris Nemtsov, who was killed in Russia. 2 March 2020. (Michał Siergiejevicz, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

UPDATED 4/10/2024 - ADDITIONAL RESOURCES (Click to Expand List)

  • Daniel Roher and Julia Ioffe remember the Navalnys (Meduza)

  • Meduza’s Russian readers who attended Navalny’s funeral describe their experiences (Meduza)

  • Journalist Christo Grozev on the circumstances of Navalny’s death and Putin’s plans for the future (Meduza)

  • The case against unrealistic faith in the ‘beautiful Russia of the future’ (Meduza)

  • Reflections, goodbyes, and eyewitness accounts as Alexey Navalny is laid to rest (Meduza)

  • Navalny’s mother’s resolve was the deciding factor in the Russian authorities’ decision to allow a funeral, Meduza’s sources say (Meduza)

  • Navalny’s Difficult Relationship With Indigenous Russians (The Moscow Times)

  •  After Navalny, What Next For Russia’s Opposition? (The Moscow Times)

  • Putin Discussed Prisoner Swap Hours Before Navalny’s Death – Agentstvo (The Moscow Times)

  • Navalny Mourners Share Their Thoughts on Late Activist (The Moscow Times)

  • The Martyrdom of Saint Alexei: Navalny’s death is the latest instance of a long tradition of self-sacrifice in Russia (The Conversation)

  • ‘My Russia now lies in a coffin’ (Novaya Gazeta Europe)

  • Not in vain (Novaya Gazeta Europe)

  • Packing for prison (Novaya Gazeta Europe)

  • With Navalny’s Death, Putin Is Feeling More Confident than Ever (The New Yorker)

  • Scammers are spreading a fake Navalny letter to swindle people out of money (Meduza)

  • Russian officials release Alexey Navalny’s body to his mother (Meduza)

  • Navalny's death shouldn't close off talks with Putin (Responsible Statecraft)

  • Russia After Alexei Navalny (The New Yorker)

  • Russian Opposition Leader Navalny Was Brave, Authentic, Funny, Larger Than Life. Will His Movement Survive Him? (The Nation)

  • Navalny dies in prison − but his blueprint for anti-Putin activism will live on (The Conversation)

  • Western leaders threaten to undermine Navalny’s legacy in Russia (The Conversation)

  • Podcast: Navalny's Legacy for the Russian Opposition (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

  • Navalny’s Death Highlights a New Global Division on Political Violence (Carnegie Endowment for International Peace)

  • Biden promises personal sanctions against Putin after meeting with Navalny family (Novaya Gazeta Europe)

  • Ilya Yashin urges world leaders to seek urgent release for Vladimir Kara-Murza (Novaya Gazeta Europe)

  • With Navalny’s death, Russia’s opposition loses its last leader (Christian Science Monitor)

  • Opposition politician Ilya Yashin writes about Alexey Navalny from prison (Meduza)

  • Former inmates on life and death in the Arctic prison where Alexey Navalny died (Meduza)

  • Belarusian writer and Nobel Prize winner Svetlana Alexievich on the implications of Navalny’s death (Meduza)

What follows was written and originally posted on February 20, 2024.

On February 16, 2024, Russia’s Federal Penitentiary Service announced that opposition leader, lawyer, anti-corruption activist, and political prisoner Alexei Anatolyevich Navalny died while imprisoned in Yamalo-Nenets in Western Siberia. An unnamed source reported to RT that the cause of death was a detached blood clot. Today we offer a special edition update, sharing insights, global and domestic responses, and further perspectives on the consequential passing of Russia’s most prominent opposition leader at this sensitive moment in Russia's relationship with the West.

To begin, we offer more generalized information for those looking to get up to speed. Meduza provides an overview of the circumstances surrounding Navalny’s death, including insights into the state’s typical handling of a prisoner’s death while in custody. The publication offers a second piece that updates readers on Russia’s Investigative Committee report that Navalny is undergoing a ‘chemical autopsy’. From The Moscow Times, a timeline of his final hours. A piece from Novaya Gazeta Europe chronicles the last years of the opposition leader’s life in one piece, and in another, takes the current temperature of this evolving story within and beyond Russia. The New York Times details Navalny’s recent experience in prison and publishes a letter written in his own hand.

Yulia Navalny, Alexey Navalny, Anna Veduta and Ilya Yashin at Moscow rally. 12 June 2013. (Bogomolov.PL, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Next, we include pieces that detail public and personal reactions to this untimely passing. Meduza and The Moscow Times chronicle the heartbreak and steadfast resolve of the deceased’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya. The former publishes excerpts from a statement Navalnaya released on her husband’s YouTube channel (full video available below), while the latter offers greater insight into her experience as partner to Russia’s most well-known political prisoner. The Kremlin’s crackdown on public mourning and shows of support is covered by The Washington Post and The Moscow Times, with the latter also reporting on the reactions of Russia’s elite as well as diaspora’s response to Navalny’s passing.

We then look to the broader societal significance and implications for Russia’s future. Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers a perspective on the significance of this life - and death - within the segments of Russia’s citizenry hoping for change and within broader Russian society. The Washington Post suggests that this passing further cements Putin’s hold on today’s Russia, drawing historical parallels and questioning whether anyone is capable of galvanizing the same level of resistance to the state. This line of questioning is continued in a piece from The Insider which submits that the opposition leader’s death signifies that Russia cannot turn away from Putinism on its own. In the New Yorker, Masha Gessen eulogizes the lost leader's life, work, and defiance. On a more hopeful note, The Moscow Times seeks to distill the lessons from Navalny’s approach to opposition. In another piece from The Insider the publication’s editor-in-chief memorializes his late friend and suggests that this death should serve not to extinguish hope but to ignite it.

From Clockwise: Meeting in memory of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Novi Sad, Serbia. 16 February 2024. (Alexander Babochkin, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons); Spontaneous memorial to Alexei Navalny at the monument to victims of political repression in St. Petersburg on February 16, 2024 (Gesanonstein, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons); Flowers and messages left at the National Monument on Dam, Amsterdam. 19 February 2024. Procrastineur49, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons); Anti-Putin rally on afternoon after the murder of Alexey Navalny. Berlin, in front of the Russian Embassy Unter den Linden. 16 February 2024. (A.Savin, FAL, via Wikimedia Commons)

Finally we examine this event through the lens of Russian media. The Moscow Times offers a digest of Russian state media coverage, including that of Channel One, Rossiya 24, and more. In one piece TASS, the state-owned news agency, reports on remarks made by Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador-at-Large Gennady Askaldovich that Navalny’s death has sparked increasing dissent among the ‘fringe opposition’ abroad. In another, Russian Ambassador to the United States Anatoly Antonov questions whether the US has the right to pass judgment on these circumstances and shares his sentiment that the US reaction is merely an attempt to interfere in domestic affairs. RT publishes a perspective on the ‘many hats’ worn by Navalny throughout his decades-long career, as well as the Russian Foreign Ministry’s comments on Western reactions to his death.

In the arts, the New York Times reflects on Navalny, the Oscar-winning 2022 documentary that examines the opposition leader's poisoning in 2020.

Below, we include a brief, ‘man on the street’ video of Muscovites’ reactions to the news, as well as the words of Navalny’s widow, Yulia Navalnaya, who speaks out about the loss to her family and to greater Russia as published on his YouTube channel.


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