The Interpreter

A special project of Institute of Modern Russia
Alexei Navalny at the meeting of the Leninsky District Court of Kirov/Sergey Brovko / RIA Novosti

Before the Sentence…

Alexei Navalny's statement on the eve of his sentencing

It’s an awkward feeling when you have to write something very significant before your sentencing tomorrow.

The problem of course isn’t to make the words and letters meaningful – that I can do easily. The problem is that the perception will vary strongly depending on the sentence itself.

It’s a strange situation, for sure:

If Putin wimps out and gives a suspended sentence to an innocent person as a result of an extrajudicial decision – that means “I’m lucky.”

If Putin musters his courage and the sentence will be a real one – “I’m not lucky.”

In the second case, everyone will love and pity me. Someone will be sure to make a video of me being led away by the guards and will set it to this music. Against such a heart-rending backdrop, it will be impossible to comment on any post other than, “yes, he never spoke a truer word.”

I want to note that I would really like it if all my possible arrests and jailings had only this visual and musical accompaniment.

In the first case (“lucky”) nothing touching will happen, and it will even be just the opposite. Journalists will write: “after the delivery of the verdict, Navalny went to a café across the street and ordered himself a beer and fried potatoes, which he drank and ate, staring at the television.”

Can you trust a person who eats fried potatoes instead of suffering during dramatic moments? It’s difficult, understandably.

Nevertheless. Here’s what I want to say.

Rather, let us look at the examples of these two famous cartoons:

Is what is depicted here correct?

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It’s correct of course in the sense of the main idea that “there’s no point in endlessly whining and being afraid, you have to get organized,” but it is completely incorrect in the sense of the proportion of these very fish.

We aren’t opposing some sort of hulking big fish which we have to fear, and then depict an even more hulking one.

The current government is not a hulking big fish, but rather a blowfish or a Latin American toad which puffs itself up upon seeing danger, with the help of television, which shows lying prostitute TV anchors or the freaks from the Investigative Committee in blue uniforms muttering that they’re going to put everybody in jail. Well, how many people can they put in jail? Maybe 20–50. Alright, 100, if they really try hard.

That is their entire scary potential.

Understandably, it’s rather unpleasant to wind up as one of these 20-50-100, but all kinds of things can happen in life.

It happens that pianos even fall on people.

So, our task is simpler than the fish in this cartoon, we have to organize not against a shark, but against some Surinam pipa, who accidentally winds up on the valve of an oil pipe and puffs up from his own fright, and simultaneously from the enjoyment of how this fear is taken for menace and greatness.

But the toad will not jump off the valve on his own. For that, you have to poke him with a stick or remove him with a rolled paper.

It requires organizational work. The toad is winning for now because we are too lazy to do the work.

All these years, along with you, I learned to organize under the conditions of state propaganda, intimidation and lack of money.

We’ve learned a thing or two.

We now know how to raise money. I’m sure you’ll help collect contributions to our Foundation, in the event of a negative turn of events.

By my estimate, the annual potential for raising funds from citizens for political projects is at least 300 million rubles.

You just have to go and collect them, but now only our Foundation is doing this and a few other organizations. We’re finding only a small portion.

We know how to conduct investigations better than other organizations which are supposed to be conducting investigations [the dacha of Yakunin, president of Russian Railways].

We know how to find the real estate [Vladimir Pekhtin’s land in Florida] and assets of crooks, and their residence permits [Bastrykin’s papers in Czech Republic].

We know how to decentralize funding and put out newspapers [list of cities where Navalny’s paper is published]. The first issue of a million copies ran out, which means we could do 5-10 million every three months if we try.

We know how to run large rallies.

We know how to create parties. Parties that are so real and so frightening to the government that they don’t want to register them, despite “the liberalization and notification procedure”.

We know how to gather 100,000 real signatures to petitions [i.e. on limiting cost of cars for officials].

We know how to conduct honest elections on the Internet and we know now how to make strong electoral lists on the basis of preliminary elections for any electoral campaign.

Now we are learning how to organize thousands of volunteers and we will definitely learn how to do this. Our headquarters is now already an amazing thing, no one has done this in Russian politics. Many are ready to help us and we will fight for even greater support.

That is, we understand what must be done, we understand how to do it, and we understand how to fund it.

The main thing is to gather our courage, shrug off our malaise, and do it.

No particular leadership is needed, in fact.

Therefore, our situation is not characterized by the cartoon with the fish but rather this:

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The first one is afraid, the second one is even more afraid, but then the rest are not afraid at all, and easily guarantee results.

And now we’re coming to the main point for the sake of which I sat down to write this.

Common effort guarantees results, but common efforts are made up of the private and the personal.

This is not some kind of communicating vessels, where you can avoid work and sit on the bench, and someone will do the work for you.

You just have to understand: there is no one else except you.

No one is more concerned than you about what is happening in the country and the city.

There are no wonderful volunteers who will come and do all the work for you.

There are no great donors of 500 rubles who will pitch in some cash when you are too lazy to go on the online bank.

There aren’t people who will rise up for you as in this cartoon.

If you have already reached the point that you are reading this Live Journal entry, then you are already at the leading edge.

There is no one more conscious, there is no one more progressive.

There are no people on whom the unhappy, frightened, and duped millions of residents of Russia can rely.

They are less lucky in life than you, and you are their hope.

There isn’t a secret underground whose leaflets you will be surprised to discover tomorrow in your doorway.

There is no person who will come and silently put everything right – people are thinking of you as such a person.

No one is in a position to resist stronger than you.

It is your duty to the rest, if you realize it; it is the sort of thing that it is impossible to delegate to someone else.

There is no one else, except you.

If you are reading this, then you are in fact the resistance.