6 December 2011 12:36 ET
Anti-corruption campaigner and top blogger Alexei Navalny is one of the pivotal figures leading protests and activism to challenge the results of Russia’s 4 December parliamentary elections.
He is also arguably the only major opposition figure to emerge in Russia in the past five years. And he owes his political prominence almost exclusively to his activity as blogger.
Mr Navalny’s rise as a force in Russian politics began in 2008 when he started blogging about allegations of malpractice and corruption at some of Russia’s big state-controlled corporations, such as energy giants Gazprom, Rosneft and Transneft, and VTB bank.
Previously, he had been a relatively minor figure involved in various opposition groups. He was also involved in nationalist politics and has taken part in a number of the annual nationalist shows of strength, known as the Russian Marches.
His day job is in commercial law. He is 35 years old and is married with two children.
‘Mass complaints machine’
Mr Navalny’s switch of focus from political activism to taking on corruption quickly boosted his popularity as a blogger.
In December 2008, his blog had just over 1,500 regular readers. By May 2010, it had over 11,000 and today it has over 60,000. His Twitter account has over 117,000 followers.
The popularity of his blog allowed him to start mobilising internet users to take an active part in his anti-corruption campaigns by means of what he called his “unstoppable mass complaints machine”.
The “machine” worked by getting internet users to send hundreds of online complaints to investigative and oversight bodies demanding that they look into the case that Mr Navalny was pursuing at the time.
One of his most notable online interventions was over allegations of the misuse of $4bn (3bn euros; £2.6bn) at state-owned oil pipeline network Transneft.
His key post about this received over 9,900 comments and attracted widespread attention from Russia’s more independent mainstream media.
Mr Navalny has also run online probes into allegations of corruption and malpractice in various government departments. In 2010, he engaged his mass complaints machine to demand an investigation after German car-maker Daimler admitted that it had paid bribes to Russian officials.
In 2011, he stepped up his online anti-corruption activity with the launch of the website Rospil.info whose purpose is to expose and investigate corruption in the awarding of government contracts.
Rospil operates in a different way from his earlier projects. Instead of simply soliciting help from online volunteers, Mr Navalny asked his supporters to contribute money to the project via an online payment service, allowing him to hire legal experts to process and verify the information received from the general public.
Rospil reports on its site that it has made 73 submissions to the federal anti-monopoly service over irregularities in the awarding of state contracts and that 39 of these have been found to be justified.
The site attracted widespread media attention, both in Russia and around the world, and gave Mr Navalny’s public profile a major boost.
But his efforts to bring to book officials and top executives in state corporations have generally met a legal impasse. His most notable scalp was a health ministry official, forced to resign over a suspiciously expensive IT project.
And he also faced dirty tricks and smears from pro-Kremlin internet users, and became the subject of a criminal investigation that most observers agreed was politically motivated.
“Party of crooks and thieves”
Since February, Mr Navalny has waged a concerted online campaign against Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party, which he memorably dubbed the “party of crooks and thieves”.
He has organised online contests to find the best poster and most popular YouTube song attacking United Russia. And he has also posted a video on YouTube accusing the party of failing to keep its manifesto pledges. The video has been viewed over 1.8m times.
The central message of this video and other online polemics was that people should go to the polls on 4 December and vote for any party but United Russia.
And his phrase “party of crooks and thieves” became not only one of the big internet catchphrases during the campaign, but was also taken up by some mainstream parties, most notably the centre-left A Just Russia party.
The adoption of the slogan seems to have paid dividends, as A Just Russia’s rating climbed from around 4-5% in the polls when the campaign started to 13% in the election itself. Party leader Sergei Mironov thanked Mr Navalny for the loan of the phrase in a tweet on 5 December.
Defeat of the ‘zombie-box’
Mr Navalny himself hailed the result of the election, which saw United Russia’s support fall by nearly 15%, as a victory for social media and the defeat of the “absolute monopoly” of television, or the “zombie-box”, as he calls it.
“We have learnt how to get information to millions of people without it [TV],” he blogged.
But he was still angry about the outcome of the election in Moscow, where United Russia polled around 46%, despite being forecast less than 30% in exit polls.
Mr Navalny urged his blog readers to join an opposition demonstration in the centre of Moscow on the evening of 5 December under the banner “Return the stolen elections”.
Earlier, he had used his blog to drum up support for a nationalist rally against state subsidies for the North Caucasus and to publicise this year’s Russian March. But this was the first time that he had issued an appeal to readers to join an ostensibly anti-Kremlin demonstration.
He was joined by other notable bloggers and journalists who had previously kept aloof from opposition protests, such as Rustem Adagamov and Oleg Kashin.
The protest attracted a crowd of several thousand and was the largest demonstration of its kind in Moscow since Vladimir Putin came to power in 2000.
It ended with the arrest of some 300 people, including Mr Navalny.
According to Aleksey Venediktov, editor-in-chief of Ekho Moskvy radio and one of the most respected observers of the Russian political scene, in arresting Mr Navalny the Russian authorities have made a “political mistake”.
In a post on the Ekho Moskvy website, Mr Venediktov said that the arrest would transform Navalnyy from an “online leader into an offline one” and would help him to win the support of people who do not agree with some of his ideas and actions.
“Political mistakes like this historically cost those who make them dear. Not immediately, but inevitably. Alas,” Mr Venediktov concluded.
Alexei Navalny was born on June 4th, 1976 according to
June 4th, 1976
6 + 4 +1+9+7+6 = 33 = his life lesson = what he is here to learn = Courage. Bravery. Backbone. Taking a stand. Not backing down. Not caving in.
June 4th, 1976
6 + 4 +2+0+1+1 = 14 = his personal year (from June 4th, 2011 to June 3rd, 2012) = Tolerance.
14 year + 12 (December) = 26 = his personal month (from December 4th, 2011 to January 3rd, 2012) = Photos. Television. In the news. Making headlines.
26 month + 5 (5th of the month on Monday December 5th, 2011) = 31 = his personal day = Controversy. Stirring things up. Things get out of hand.
26 month + 6 (6th of the month on Tuesday December 6th, 2011) = 32 = his personal day = Fighting for freedom.
26 month + 7 (7th of the month on Wednesday December 7th, 2011) = 33 = his personal day = Courage. Bravery. Backbone. Taking a stand. Not backing down. Not caving in.
When his number (33 (his life lesson)) comes up, that’s when he gets to live/experience what he is here to live/experience. So Wednesday December 7th, 2011 is HIS day!!!
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