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Alexei Navalny: A Closer Look At His Death

Born on June 4, 1976, Alexei Navalny would have a short life ahead of him, full of activism and courage. Known as an anti-corruption activist, Navalny was a main opponent and critic of the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin. President Putin has been a leader of  Russia for the past 25 years. Only Joseph Stalin has been in power longer (31 years), when Russia was known as communist Soviet Union. Russia was declared a democratic state through the Russian constitution in 1993, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991. Despite this, some have observed that Russia is still a dictatorship that does not allow citizens to freely criticize the Russian government. Navalny was an exception to this authoritarian rule, and attempted to expose the antidemocratic tendencies of the Russian government.

Navalny created the “Stakeholder Activism” campaign in 2008, that would target publicly traded state-owned companies in an effort to infuse public interest in Russian companies. By doing this, he was hopeful that Russian companies would serve the public as opposed to serving corrupt government interest. Then in 2010, Navalny launched the website “RosPil” which publicized cases where state contracts had been awarded corruptly and unfairly. Anonymous people would post suspicions about government deals and, if found plausible, they would be discussed freely and publicly online. 

As a result of Navalny’s fight against government corruption, the Russian government kept a close eye on his actions and whereabouts. In 2020, Navalny was poisoned and almost died, while campaigning in Siberia for the upcoming elections. Tests later found that he was exposed to a nerve agent called novichok, created by the Soviets to cause paralysis and death. There was great speculation on who tried to poison Navalny, with many accusing the Russian government under Putin's direct order for the killing. This was based on a rash of deaths over the years that involved many of Putin's critics, some dying in Europe and even in the United States.  Navalny survived the illness after being flown out of Russia to Germany for emergency medical care. In 2021, Navalny returned to Russia and was soon arrested and sentenced to over three years in prison. Russian officials claimed he had failed to communicate with them while he was in the hospital, and that this violated his terms of a prison suspension in 2014. Later in 2022, Navalny was found guilty of contempt of court and fraud and sentenced to nine years in a “strict” prison in a penal colony of Siberia. Even while in prison, Navalny continued his efforts to expose corruption in the Russian government and sought to inspire Russians to stand up for their freedom and democracy.

On February 16, 2024, it was announced that Navalny died in prison in the Arctic Circle. The prison workers had said that Navalny felt unwell after a walk and fell unconscious. They called it “Sudden Death Syndrome” which refers to an ailment that caused a sudden cardiac arrest and death. Shortly after his death, the whereabouts of his body were kept secret from the public, including his own family. Finally, on February 24, 2024, his body was released to his grieving mother, 12 days after his death.

It is still unclear what happened to Navalny as he appeared healthy and in good spirits just twenty four hours earlier. However, a prisoner at the same penal colony prison reported a “strange disturbance” causing the guards to hurriedly finish their evening security check followed by a request for additional security, raising suspicions around the manner of Navalny’s death. Investigations of his death will be hampered by the politics of Russia and both the Russian people and the World will likely never know the true circumstances of his death. Whether Navalny's vision of a more democratic and free Russia will continue remains ambiguous. 


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