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Navalny Unleashes Russia’s Hopes

April 1, 2021

The attempted murder by poisoning of Alexei Navalny, his imprisonment upon returning to Russia and now his likely death in prison may be the spark that will destroy the authoritarian regime of Vladimir Putin. As I write those words I hear the lyrics of “Don’t Cry for Me Argentina” and wonder if there is a Russian equivalent.

I’ve never visited Russia though I was aware that public attitudes of Russian citizens had changed from reports from my professional staff in the Reagan Administration as early as 1981.

I just wasn’t interested in visiting what I referred to as “that Godforsaken country” then dominated by the heirs of Josef Stalin. Even during the eight years that I made frequent visits to Prague and Warsaw immediately prior to and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, I did not give a thought to visiting Russia.

Today, however, I feel different and would like to visit St. Petersburg and Moscow because I sense that the long nightmare of the Russian people that began in 1916 is coming to an end.

We Americans have lived with protests on our streets as long as we’ve been alive and have seen massive gatherings like the first “March on Washington” led by Martin Luther King or the annual “Right to Life” protests against legalized abortion.

In totalitarian regimes such expressions do not occur and even after the collapse of the Soviet Union the history of serfdom deterred public expressions of dissent—until now.  Alexei Navalny’s willingness to give his life for his country promises to destroy Vladimir Putin’s grip on power. That will not necessarily lead to American style democracy, however. The roots of authoritarian order in Russia are so deep that, at most, the Russian people may hope that the next emperor is not a killer.

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