Navalny’s Death is the Death of Russia

‘Putin has won.’

Sergey Faldin 🇺🇦

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When I was 12, my father came home one day and said, “I met this guy today. A very interesting fella. He wants to become the mayor of Moscow. His name is Alexey Navalny.”

Around the same time and a little earlier, I remember watching protests on familiar streets of my birth city. Roughly 150,000 people went to the streets, and this “very interesting fella” was one of the leaders of the demonstrations. Famous artists, poets, writers, and musicians went on stage to chant “Freedom to Russia!” and demand fair elections — not the “ritual” Putin’s party is conducting once every four and, for the last two times, every six years.

Then came 2014, with its own problems — the illegal annexation of Crimea, the war in Syria, a revolution in Ukraine, and the war in Donbas. And during all of this, I had no idea what was happening.

I was in the midst of it all, living in Moscow, studying at one of the best schools in the centre of the city, and I had no clue that I was witnessing history. I was never told that. The school system and propaganda machine did everything to make it seem like life kept going as it always had been. The “problems” were elsewhere. In Crimea. Ukraine. Syria.

Slowly, as I grew older, I began doing my teenage share of spreading pamphlets and putting bumper stickers with Navalny’s name on them on my father’s car. (Writing this now amazes me — it was ten years ago, and it was a time when you didn’t end up in jail for a Navalny sticker. How fast things change.)

On a few occasions, I ran away from the police — not that they were chasing me, though — and I felt proud. I was a Democrat. I cared for my country. I was doing something.

Following Navalny’s work, I felt unity with people of the same passport. It was a strange feeling I only experienced in America when we sang the national anthem in the mornings. Supporting Navalny was what hipsters and normal (read: anti-Putin) people did. It was a symbol of adequacy. It gave you a feeling of brotherhood and sisterhood almost unseen in my country.

It gave you hope.

You must understand. Where I come from, the state does everything to prevent you from having that feeling of unity. (Unless it’s directed towards the state’s goals, like war with Ukraine.) Coming together is dangerous. Those 150,000 people who protested in 2011–2013 were nothing compared…

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Sergey Faldin 🇺🇦

Honest thoughts. Unpopular opinions. Not necessarily true or smart. | The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Meduza | muckrack.com/sfaldin | Subscribe: sergeys.substack.com