Politics & International Studies

Navalny’s death, a crisis moment for democracy

Navalny’s death, a crisis moment for democracy

For democracy to return, the prerequisite is the democratisers must stay alive.


Sreeram Chaulia, Professor and Dean, Jindal School of International Affairs (JSIA), O.P. Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana.


The death of Russia’s leading opposition activist Alexei Navalny, 47, in an Arctic penal colony brought to a tragic close an idealistic life of non-violent struggle against an entrenched tradition of authoritarianism going back centuries. It was not a coincidence that the harsh Siberian prison where Navalny perished while serving a thirty-and-half-years long sentence had been constructed on the site of Gulag number 501, the notorious labour camp that housed political prisoners during the Communist dictatorship of Joseph Stalin. To rewind further back in time, Navalny met the same fate as thousands of dissidents and rebels who had staged uprisings against the Czarist empire and were subjected to the Katorga punishment system in Siberia since the 17th century.

Russia’s political culture of an absolutist State, which brooks little dissent and where rule by law overrides the rule of law, has devoured millions of victims over the ages. President Vladimir Putin, now in his 25th year in power, is only the latest exponent of a model of a strong police State that has forever been associated with Russia. It is this accumulated legacy which ultimately devoured Navalny and put to rest a restless crusader who dared to imagine and mobilise people for a break from the past.

Published in: Hindustan Times

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