The Dissident: Alexey Navalny; Profile of a Political Prisoner

Twelve. Oct. 2023. 304p. ISBN 9781538709450. $30. BIOG
In August of this year, Alexey Navalny, a 47-year-old Russian opposition leader, was sentenced to an additional 19 years (beyond his existing 11-year one) in a penal colony in Melekhovo, 150 miles east of Moscow. Few outside Putin’s regime see any legal basis for Navalny’s conviction for six counts related to inciting and financing extremism, creating an illegal NGO, and more. The Washington Post’s Herszenhorn writes a detailed, convincing political biography that begins in 2020 with Navalny being poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok and his dramatic recovery in a German hospital, then jumps backward in time to 2011–13, when Navalny ran for mayor of Moscow. It was also during that period that Navalny’s popularity soared when he exposed the corruption in Putin’s circle, and ensuing massive public protests challenged the notion that Russia has a politically passive population. Putin’s fraudulent 2012 presidential election occasioned a new level of popular repression and Navalny’s persecution, including horrific prison conditions and torture.
VERDICT Herszenhorn expertly portrays Navalny as a resilient figure and as a “prisoner of conscience” who evolves from a crusader to a political leader symbolizing democratic Russia.
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