[ View the story "Alexey Navalny: Russia's Anti-Corruption Hero or Pro-Nationalism Foe?" on Storify] Alexey Navalny: Russia's Anti-Corruption Hero or Pro-Nationalism Foe? Western media sources have glamourised anti-corruption blogger Alexey Navalny, but he has plenty of political skeletons in his closet. Is he promoting or obstructing Russia's path to greater transparency?
Storified by The Stream · Wed, Oct 26 2011 21:59:36
Alexey Navalny is living the blogger's dream. A lawyer by training, the 34-year-old Russian media darling is both famous and audacious. Last year he sunk the competition in a virtual election for Moscow city mayor, and the Russian and international press have since published numerous profiles about his online anti-corruption crusade.eurasia.foreignpolicy.com
Alexey Navalny, a lawyer and blogger known for his crusade against the corruption that pervades Russian business and government, sat in a radio studio in Moscow. Tall and blond, Navalny, who is thirty-four years old, cuts a striking figure, and in the past three years he has established himself as a kind of Russian Julian Assange or Lincoln Steffens.newyorker.com
Most remarkably, Navalny has undertaken all this in a country where a number of reporters and lawyers investigating such matters have been beaten or murdered.newyorker.com
Navalny provoked special ire earlier this year when he called United Russia, the dominant political party headed by the prime minister, Vladimir Putin, a "party of swindlers and cheats", a nickname that spread like wildfire through young liberals dissatisfied with the country's ruling elite.guardian.co.uk
Several journalists have speculated Navalny may pursue public office.
So should the regime be concerned? After all, the stars seem to be aligned in Navalny's favor. Annual opinion polls by the well-respected Levada Center show that corruption is one of the electorate's top concerns. And the ruling tandem's ratings have been on the decline. Meanwhile, buzz is building that the Russian internet-often billed as the country's "last free speech platform" -- just might beget a viable opposition to the soft-authoritarian system currently in place.eurasia.foreignpolicy.com
Navalny—whose fame in Russia is growing almost as quickly as that of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange—represents a new generation of political activists, one who sees the system’s vulnerabilities and targets his blows accordingly. In an unofficial Internet vote organized by the newspaper Kommersant and the electronic resource Gazeta.Ru in October, Navalny was the most popular candidate to succeed Yury Luzhkov as mayor of Moscow, garnering 45 percent of the votes.carnegie-mec.org
A former activist in a liberal political party, Yabloko, Mr. Navalny says he will eventually run for public office. He now calls himself an advocate of the rights of members of the Russian middle class — people who have invested in the stock market and who he says are losing money to corruption and mismanagement.nytimes.com
Знают, кто такой Алексей Навальный, 15% жителей Москвы и всего 9% аудитории Интернета.levada.ru
Only 15% of Moscow inhabitants and only 9% of the internet audience polled know who Alexey Navalny is.
Some users have been blogging about Navalny's political past, alluding to his strong ties to nationalism
As Navalny himself noted with a certain exhaustion, Ioffe and the New Yorker staff hounded him for weeks, following him to the corners of Russia as he worked, phoning his relatives to fact-check the minutia of the article’s text, and generally “driving him batshit crazy,” as Ioffe put it. This might be the thoroughest, most intimate study of Russia’s hottest political figure today. So what did it leave out? In a single word: nationalism.agoodtreaty.com
But as it often happens when Western media try to cover Russia, enormous amounts of important information goes unreported due (one hopes) to the objective difficulties of writing about something without a full understanding of the situation and history of the country.globalvoicesonline.org
The Good Treaty's Kevin Rothrock provides a detailed chronicle of Navalny's political history. Rothrock highlights some of Navalny's controversial political moves.
In a series of humorous videos on YouTube, he can be seen advocating the repatriation of illegals (while footage scrolls of people of Asian appearance moving swiftly through an airport) and the use of pistols against lawless undesirables. But he is adamant that he’s a pragmatist, not an ideologue.agoodtreaty.com
One of the most infamous moments in Navalny’s pre-superstar history is likely the night of October 29, 2007, when one of his debates was interrupted by hooligans, after which he brawled with and shot one of the scoundrels in the street outside Club Gogol. The case file on this incident was 137 pages. Prosecutors apparently relaunched the inquiry four times, despite repeated attempts by the police to end the investigation.agoodtreaty.com
Unrepentant about having used the weapon to shoot the hooligan, he wrote, ”I acted absolutely correctly and completely legally,” adding that the shots were “(a) outside the debate hall, (b) not to the head, and (c) from an acceptable distance.” Responding to criticism that he used excessive force, Navalny dismissed the idea that he should have been carrying a knife for self-defense instead, arguing that a blade’s “stopping action” is too weakagoodtreaty.com
Yes, Navalny was committed to challenging old liberal dissidents from the Soviet era. This certainly played a major role in his getting kicked out of Yabloko. But Navalny’s ouster was largely because he chose to attack the Old Guard by building bridges between liberals and nationalists.agoodtreaty.com
Navalny's latest internet project,
Rospil.info, amplifies knowledge of anti-corruption by publicizing suspicious government tenders.
The site would not be possible without Medvedev’s initiative, two years ago, to post online all government requests for tender—the documents whereby government entities announce their need for goods or services to potential bidders. Almost immediately, reports of strange deals started surfacing in the press.newyorker.com
Navalny’s site has been active since the moment it launched, with hundreds of recommendations and links posted on major social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and VKontakte. It has also received “recognition” from civil servants: a number of state agencies have removed the most dubious tender dates and contract timetables from their sites.carnegieendowment.org
Rospil has had its problems. The website is funded by donors. Their personal information was recently leaked to the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation (FSB)-- leading to harrassment towards Navalny supporters.
Donors had made contributions to Rospil through their personal Yandex.Money [electronic transfer system] accounts, the financial service arm of Yandex, Russia’s largest and most popular search engine.globalvoicesonline.org
In an interview with the radio station Echo Moskvy [ru], Yandex's Head Editor Elena Kolmanovskaya said that according to Russian law, Yandex was required to supply the FSB with the donors’ account information, though she stressed that she found the disclosure of such information objectionable. Private data on “about 100″ donors was released to the FSBglobalvoicesonline.org
The main version expressed by many bloggers was that the aim of the leak was to intimidate Navalny's supporters via intermediary censorship.globalvoicesonline.org
did the leak negatively influence online crowd funding? It has definitely shown the weak basis of Russian crowd funding. E-money systems are only viable as long as they can turn electronic money into real money, and cooperation with the government is of extreme importance here.globalvoicesonline.org
Did the leak intimidate the bloggers or influence their motivations? On the contrary, it had the opposite effect - as Anton Nossik has shown [ru], the number of donations has increased after the leak.globalvoicesonline.org
Donations may have increased, but Rospil's website traffic is on the decline.
Collection of simple policy prescriptions from Alexander Korovin - Bulk.Internet Stats interest in the projectimg709.imageshack.us
Most recently, Navalny has become the center of a criminal probe. Investigators allege that he committed fraud by acting as a corporate adviser.
According to the Moscow Times, the Investigative Committee has reopened a fraud case against whistle blowing blogger Alexei Navalny, for causing material damage to the interests of a timber company during his tenure as adviser to the governor of Kiron where the company is based.robertamsterdam.com
The decision to re-open the investigation into Navalny's activities, will, says this article, raise new fears about state-sponsored suppression of the Internet ahead of State Duma elections in December and the presidential vote next March. Navalny has dismissed the criminal probe as 'falsified' and 'fabricated'.robertamsterdam.com
Are you in Russia and feel that Navalny's campaign is making a change for the better?