- Documents on Democracy
Alexei Navalny, an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin, underwent treatment in Germany after being poisoned in a Kremlin-backed assassination attempt. Immediately upon returning to Russia on January 17, he was detained and then tried for defaming a veteran. Sentenced to two-and-a-half years in prison, on February 20 he delivered the final testimony of his unsuccessful appeal against charges that were widely denounced as politically motivated. Translated excerpts follow:
And here a man recently writes to me: "Navalny, and why does everyone write to you, 'hang on, do not give in, endure?' What do you have to endure? You said in an interview that you believe in God? And after all it is said: 'Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.' And there, excellent for you." Well there, how well this person understands. Not that things are excellent for me, but I more or less always took this commandment as an instruction for action.
I of course do not take great delight in the place in which I find myself. Nonetheless, I do not feel any regret about having returned, about what I am doing, because I did everything correctly. On the contrary, I feel such satisfaction, because in a difficult moment I did as prescribed by the instructions, and did not betray the commandment.
… An important thing about this: Undoubtedly, for a contemporary person this commandment—"blessed are those who thirst, those who hunger"—sounds pompous and a bit strange, frankly speaking. People who talk like this appear strange and crazy. … And all our authorities and our system are trying to tell such people: "You are alone. You are alone." First it is important to frighten, and then to prove that you are alone.
… This is important as a goal of the authorities. One of the wonderful philosophers by the name of Luna Lovegood spoke splendidly about this, do you remember such a person in Harry Potter? And speaking with Harry Potter in difficult times, she said that it is important not to [End Page 187] feel yourself alone, because in Voldemort's place, I would very much like for you to feel alone. Our Voldemort, he undoubtedly wants this.
… But I do not feel alone at all, because this construction seems exotic, a bit strange. … What is the most popular political slogan in Russia? … "In what does strength lie? Strength lies in the truth."
This is a phrase that everyone repeats. And this is it—that commandment. Just compressed to the dimensions of Twitter. Everyone repeats it. And the whole country repeats that strength lies in the truth, the person whose side the truth is on, that person will win. Of course, our country now is built on injustice. We constantly collide with this injustice. The worst kind of injustice is the armed kind. At the same time, millions of people want to attain the truth, and sooner or later they will attain it, they will be satisfied. It is obvious to everyone: Well, there is a palace, you can say it is not there, but it is. There are people in deep poverty, you can talk as much as you like about the standard of living, but the country is poor, people should be rich. Here they built an oil pipeline and they earn money, and yet there is no money. But it is the truth, and you cannot trample it. And sooner or later, people who want the truth will attain it. They will be satisfied. …
Piles of letters come to me now. Every second letter comes with the phrase: "Russia will be free." … And I think: Something is insufficient for me. … This cannot be the goal in itself. I want Russia to be rich, the national wealth to be justly distributed. I want men to live to reach the retirement age, because right now this does not happen for half the men in Russia. I want education to be normal. I would like people to receive the same pay for one and the same job in Russia as on average in European countries. Because now it is much lower. In any (profession...