Navalny REvolution Collapses in Mutual Recrimination

Last week, I spent some time writing about the Decembrists – a group of disgruntled army officers who launched a failed coup in December 1825 in an attempt to overthrow Tsar Nicholas I. The Decembrists were divided into two groups – the Northern Society and the Southern Society. The former were considered more moderate, and came up with a plan for a constitutional monarchy. The latter, by contrast, plotted to murder the entire Royal family and institute a republic.

The leader of the Southern Society was an officer named Pavel Pestel, who wrote a sort of draft constitution for his proposed republic, in which everyone was to be equal before the law, citizens would enjoy full civil and political rights, and the country would have a parliament elected by universal franchise. It all sounded very democratic. Except that Pestel made it clear that all of that stuff would have to wait for at least ten years. In the meantime, Russia would be run by a dictatorship. Who was to be the dictator? Pestel didn’t say, but many of his colleagues felt that it was obvious that he had himself in mind. According to his biographer, Pestel alienated many others in the movement by ‘the perceived Napoleonic scale of his personal ambitions.’

The idea of the wannabe Napoleon lurking behind a democratic façade was making headlines again this week, with the publication of an article by the leader of the liberal Russian party Yabloko, Grigory Yavlinsky. In this Yavlinsky denounced opposition activist Alexei Navalny, who was recently jailed after returning to Russia from Germany, where he had been recovering from poisoning.

After making some unsavoury comments about the Putin ‘regime’, Yavlinsky condemned Navalny’s tactic of endless street protests, saying that they couldn’t possibly overthrow the government and would only lead to more repression. He then cited at length the late liberal writer Valeriia Novodvorskaia, who called Navalny ‘the future leader of the mindless mob, with a Nazi inclination.’ ‘If the masses follow Navalny’, Yavlinsky quoted Novodvorskaia as saying, ‘fascism awaits the country.’ Yavlinksy made it clear that he agreed. ‘There is nothing positive in Navalny’s pretensions to participate in Russian politics,’ he wrote.

Yavlinsky’s suspicions of Navalny aren’t unique among Russian liberals. I get the impression that a lot of them don’t like him very much. But Russian oppositionists have long taken the view that the only real enemy is the state, and so you shouldn’t attack others who are with you in wanting to overthrow it. Consequently, it didn’t take long for people to start laying into Yavlinsky for having dared to break this taboo. Most notably, the former mayor of Ekaterinburg Evgeny Roizman declared that it would now be impossible for him to ally with the Yabloko party in the forthcoming parliamentary elections.

Russian liberals are divided enough as it is, with several parties competing for what is already a small share of the vote. Rather than uniting the opposition, it would seem that Navalny’s return to Russia has served to split them into even smaller fragments.

This is not what was meant to have happened. For weeks, Western media was crowing that something had fundamentally changed in Russia, and that the demonstrations against Navalny’s arrest which took place in cities across the country were a sign of a new mood of discontent that was bound to lead to an accelerating wave of protest. Navalny, it was said, had galvanised the Russian population against the government.

Yet after two weekends of demonstrations, last week Navalny’s deputy Leonid Volkov called them off. That was it – the great wave of protests lasted all of two weekends. All things told, it can only be deemed a failure.

Volkov then made things worse by declaring that he was embarking on a new strategy, namely to mobilize Western states to impose more and more sanctions on Russia. If he’d wanted to endorse the Kremlin’s claim that Navalny and his team are in the pay of the West, Volkov couldn’t have found a better way.

Meanwhile, Navalny dug his own grave a bit more this past week in an appearance in court to face charges that he had slandered a World War Two veteran. If you don’t want to be convicted of slander, one might imagine that you would avoid insulting the person you are accused of slandering in court. You might, but not if you’re Alexei Navalny, who took the opportunity to accuse the veteran of being a ‘puppet’. Putting aside the validity of the court process, one can see that this wasn’t the wisest thing to do. There aren’t many war veterans left alive, and those that are have a sort of holy image that is wrapped up in Russians’ sense of patriotic pride of the victory over Nazi Germany. You insult that at your peril. Needless to say, the Russian media were all over the story, painting Navalny as treacherous and unpatriotic, and disrespectful of Russia’s sacrifices in the struggle versus fascism.

If something like the modern press had existed two hundred years ago, one can imagine how they would have covered the Decembrist revolt: ‘Regime in trouble’; ‘Failed coup marks first step in campaign of protest’; ‘Arrest of Pestel further undermines Tsar’s legitimacy’. And so on. Yet Nicholas I lived on as Tsar for another 30 years, and it took another 50 years on top of that before another serious attempt to overthrow the regime took place. Of course, history never exactly repeats itself, but for now it looks very much as if the Navalny revolution has shot its bolt.

18 thoughts on “Navalny REvolution Collapses in Mutual Recrimination”

      1. You did discuss the larger NGO issue around here once, remember, you, Lytt and ? Or wasn’t it you?
        Ford is non-committal and merely suggests that Ashurkov look to one of the foreign NGOs that the British fund. (It should be understood that the “N” in “NGO”, is silent like the “p” in “pseudo”.). But, given that the video was made six or seven years ago, we don’t know whether the British or others took up Ashurkov on his offer. But we can be reasonably sure that the FSB knows the answer to the question

        Interesting article by Patrick Armstrong. Otherwise Strategic culture seems to be a mixed bag of goods. Some really good people. What authors are your favorites?


        Not that it is important, minor detail: Both humanitarian aid via plane and doctors and the Hollywood/Black forest production of the video may (seem to be) be connected to Jaka Bizilj’s, (Cinema for Peace Foundation). Who is also an activist. I am not an activist, are you? Sometimes I have the impression activism is a profession by now in the US.
        check “advocacy events” 2014

        Apparently he was already quite familiar with Pussy Riot at least since the World Football Championship in Moscow, when he brought their speaker from Russia to Charité Berlin in 2018.

        On 18 September, doctors at the German hospital said in a statement that it was “highly probable” that Verzilov had been poisoned, that the cause was being investigated, but that he was going to make a complete recovery.[30] In a statement from the same day, the Pussy Riot group stated that Verzilov was still very confused, and they accused the Russian government of poisoning. They also noted that the poison was designed to leave the victim’s body quickly, so that it would be difficult to prove the exact details.[31]


  1. Standard US behaviour on losing a war. Declare victory and retreat.
    Navalny just hasn’t worked out for his paymasters. Poison and prison is the best way to abandon the project while somehow gaining recognition back at Langley/London that the project was a success and the next one deserves funding.


  2. “to mobilize Western states to impose more and more sanctions on Russia”

    How much more idiotic can the navalnobots get? The population in the current economic situation really would welcome more sanctions and then string Volkov from the next lampost?

    I wonder if this could not be construed as treason, as a call for more sanctions against the economic interests of the Nation would be an act of warfare – and Volkov/Navalny seem to be just asking for it…the lamppost or more time in court.


    1. “string Volkov from the next lampost”

      Currently, Volkov and his second wife are abroad. Through that marriage he got himself a residence permit for the Luxembough in 2013, which allows him to travell through the EU. Currently, he and his new family resides in Vilnus, Lithuania (EU).

      So, that time when he’s been busy calling Net-hamsters to protest and get themselves arrested? He was 100% safe Yes, even from paying alimony to his first wife and their 2 underage children 🙂


      1. “Yes, even from paying alimony to his first wife and their 2 underage children”

        I call that a sign of a good liberal…very liberal in disposing of his responsibilities…


  3. That’s why the participants want the secret history of the 2020 election told, even though it sounds like a paranoid fever dream–a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information. They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it. And they believe the public needs to understand the system’s fragility in order to ensure that democracy in America endures.

    Professor, I apologize for this off-topic, but I wanted to link this seminal Time article as a sort of modest “I told you so!” about the recent U.S. election.

    I couldn’t prove it, obviously, but my gut feelings told me the Dems had cheated. Which is obviously heresy, and has now become the “third rail” in America, of which any talk of “stolen election” is sufficient to get one banned and de-platformed. Nonetheless, I think it’s safe to post this comment on your blog, because (1) I’m just a humble commenter, (2) it’s not Twitter or Facebook or monetized, and (3) you have tenure. Plus you don’t agree with me that the election was stolen from Trump, not that I care, because I despise Trump only slightly less than I despise Biden!

    In any case, one needs to read this Time piece, which is amazing for many reasons, including they have the gall to actually brag about how they stole the election from Trump. It’s like a cartoon super-villain who just can’t resist boasting how he accomplished his master-crime! Some advice: when reading, every time they write “saved the election” just substitute the phrase “stole the election”….

    Told you so!


    1. How was it done? Doctorow has a good explanation that needed no actual cheating:

      “the Democrats did everything possible, both legal and illegal, both reasonable and insane, to wreck his coming presidency by calling into question his legitimacy. This line of attack was initiated by the Hilary Clinton campaign team, who had already in the summer of 2016 put out the message that Trump was a puppet of Putin.

      Let me be perfectly clear: Trump is correct in general but dead wrong on specifics ….

      Trump is right that the election was handed to the Democrats when mail-in voting was made universal in the 2020 balloting …

      Given that registered Democrats nationally far exceed in numbers registered Republicans, the procedure of automatic dispatch of mail-in ballots to all registered voters meant necessarily a bias in favor of a Democratic victory.

      The 2020 mail-in ballots were issued without the voter having to raise a finger, meaning that voting was made easier, required less civic engagement than ever before. This could only favor the majority party, namely the Democrats. In this sense, yes, victory in the 2020 elections was virtually handed to the Democrats on a silver platter.”

      No fuss, no obvious fraud, just a skewed system that worked because a virus gave the cover to implement it. And everyone involved must have known the mail in voting is biased towards the democrats. The orangeman obviously knew…


  4. Regarding Navalny – he just showed he is a nasty piece of work in court attacking an elderly man.
    No such person should ever be in government

    . yavlinsky expelled him years ago from his party – so what he is saying about Navlny is based on his knowledge

    Volkov is a grifter -he wants to join access the big money available to the like of that woman from Belarus and Juan Guaido.

    The organisation needs to be shut down and all monies confiscated.

    There should be no room for Navalny and his gang in political life.

    //////On to the Time article

    The Time magazine article explains why they put troops in the capital. The Biden govt obviously knows they lack legitimacy

    And have gone on an arresting spree of trump supporters.

    And are conducting this farce impeachment.

    Big tech silencing a sitting President was not alright

    And it’s the democrats the so-called left who are doing all this censorship and militarisation of the capital.

    Liberals becoming fascists


  5. “Putting aside the validity of the court process …”

    Why is the validity of the court process in doubt?

    Navalny defamed a veteran, did he not, when he wrote “Look at them …” referring to those persons appearing in a public information broadcast promoting changes in the constitution, one of which people, whom he called, amongst other things, “traitors”, being a veteran?

    It is against the law to insult a veteran, is it not?

    Or are you working on the premise that all Russian trials are per se legally dubious, a common Western belief, just as they think in the West that Russian prisons are called “gulags”.


  6. re: treason.
    By a fellow Canuck:

    “Maybe Moscow is going to make an example of the latest Western favourite and charge him with treason and prove it. Maybe that’s why this video was released. It would appear to be a case of “providing financial, technical, advisory or other assistance to a foreign state or international organization . . . directed at harming Russia’s security” as the treason law puts it. A revision of the law that came into effect, as it happens, in the year the video was recorded. Collaborating with foreign intelligence structures to create a poisoning narrative would appear to fit the definition too. How about writing a letter to a foreign head of state asking him to sanction your country?”


  7. Okay, I’m going to invoke the spirits of both Nostradamus and Baba Vanga right now and predict prophesize, that Leo Volkov’s latest oppo-initiative (a flash-mob with coming to the streets and pointing flashlight skyward… just for few minutes) will be acclaimed in all Big Names Media Sources in the Democratic West (let alone among the individual clinically insane politically mainstream Russia Watchers) as a Very Kunnin’ Plan ™ and, no matter the how dismal the result, also a Great Peremoga ™.

    By now, Volkov reminds me a rabbi from the old Odessan anekdot:

    An upset Moshe comes to the synagogue:
    – Please, help me, rabbi! My chickens are dying!
    – Calm down, Moshe. What do they drink?
    – Just ordinary water, rabbi.
    – From now on, gave them only mineral water and they will stop dying!

    A week passes, yet the chickens keep dying – only half of them remain. Once again, Moshe comes to see the Rabbi.
    – Hmm, looks serious. And what kind of corn you feed them?
    – Just ordinary millet, rabbi.
    – From now on, feed them only barley and they will stop dying!

    Another week passes and only one quarter of the chickens remain – the rest are dead. Rabbi consults Talmud, thinks deeply for one hour and then asks:
    – Moshe, how do you feed your chicken? Do you just throw the corn at them?
    – Y-yes, rabbi.
    – Oy vey, just as I suspected! Now, listen carefully, Moshe. Draw on the ground before your chicken coop a square, then a circle inside that square and throw the corn for the chicken inside it. This will definitely help!

    A week passes… and all the chickens are dead.
    – Oh, what a pity, what a pity! – laments rabbi. – It so awful that all of your chickens are already dead, Moshe – for I still got so many ideas!

    I’m also disappointed that you, Professor, still do not entertain even a smidgen of suspicion, that either Navalny, or someone in his team is a modern day incarnation of another “interesting” figure from the Russian history – Georgy Gapon. Consider the following first person account by one David Saveliev (“a journalist and a graduate student at the University of Oxford’s Russia and East European studies program who specializes in protests and revolutionary politics” (c)), very handshakable “insider”:

    “A potential full-on violent protest akin to the Euromaidan in Ukraine or the Black Lives Matter protests in the United States was in the air. A twenty-seven-year-old anarchist protester, who asked to identify as Ivan out of safety concerns, told me that “there were those who wanted blood…they weren’t the majority, but there were none of them before [on earlier Moscow protests in 2017 and 2019].”

    However, Navalny organizers blew the opportunity for a real uprising and were ultimately unsuccessful in managing a peaceful protest. Navalny Telegram channels kept spreading the protest thin, calling upon the demonstrators to move around their cities, especially in Moscow, thus breaking up the huge groups of people and making them easy prey to the motorized riot police. Instead of following the example of the Euromaidan or Tahrir Square or Gezi Park, they were seemingly inspired by the constantly moving marches of Belarus. Indeed, many organizers like to draw inspiration from the western neighbor. Still, Minsk protests mobilized 10 percent of the population, while on the 23rd, Navalny adherents could only attract 0.25 percent of Muscovites, according to Artyom Shraibman, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center

    … In Moscow, the rallying point was changed at least five times during the march that didn’t help the protest’s logistics. I was in Moscow’s march that day and saw the visible confusion around me. I myself received a few blows while reporting. Just like in Belarus, the regime was unimpressed with the peaceful protests. No concessions were made, officials ignored the protests and pro-regime media cheered the repressions on. There is every indication that the Kremlin learned from Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko’s example.”

    What David is not saying explicitly is that a person behind these Telegram channels (one LEONID VOLKOV) kept issuing self contradictory directions to the herd of his loyal hamsters from the safety of the EU confines, often changing his mind 4 times in a row. What David and others are not even mentioning in the passing, is that their entire strategy of the “smart” voting now is in danger, because quite a number of “their” municipal deputies got themselves arrested and already received their sentences (e.g. Ludmila “Lucya-tripper” Shteyn of the “Shakespeare reading boy” infamy). Meaning – they shot themselves in the foot with their “smart” strategy of “crawling” from the city councils to the federal elected positions by getting their precious self a criminal record.

    As for the promise of Volkov to restart yuuuuuuuge protests in April – that’s a clear provocation aimed at only fanatical cultists and the Western grant-issuers. I swear, no Western pundit will ever draw attention to that, but, ah… Is it really a coincidence that the time for a supposed restart of the “protest wave” coincides with the start of the spring military draft in Russia?

    Like I said – father Gapon furiously approves of their methods. It is in this “historical context” that I recommend to view the recent spat with Yavlinsky and other “amazing” things delivered by the Team Nava.


  8. So, Lyosha being yesterday’s news, it seems, who’s the next designated savior going to be? We have Guaido in Venezuela, Guaidette in Belorussia, and now…Guaidov ? Send your nominations to New avatar of Russian democracy, c/o US State Department. Winner to be announced…soon


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s