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Navalny platforms, by André Markowicz

Lyudmila Navalnaya, the mother of Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, at her son's grave in Moscow's Borisovo cemetery, on 2 March 2024, accompanied by Alla Abrossimova, mother of Navalny's widow. Photo Olga Maltseva / AFP.

In Moscow, tens of thousands of people braved the cold and the threat of arrest to attend Alexei Navalny's funeral on 1 March 2024. As we have already done in the past, we are reprinting here a column by the poet and translator André Markowicz, originally published on Facebook, which quotes a wonderful testimony by the translator Natalia Mamlévitch, and which recalls, as no one has really done before, the broad outlines of Navalny's 'programmatic' platform.

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Until the very end, they tried to prevent, to hinder, they placed obstacles. Finding a vehicle to carry the body involved turning the town upside down, because, suddenly, all the hearses in Moscow were booked, and the authorities took two hours to release the body, in the hope of delaying the ceremony, knowing that the cemetery closed at 5 p.m., and the service itself, which only a very limited number of people could attend, had been shortened, at the express request of the Patriarch, – shortened to the minimum (for those who have read it, like that of Podsekalnikov’s in  "The Suicide", and, contrary to all religious customs, as soon as the service was over, the lid was placed on the coffin, so that even the few people who were there could not pay the required tributes. – It didn't matter. People kept arriving. By the thousands, no, by the tens of thousands. – Probably more, in fact, because the queues stretched out for several kilometers , – in the snow and the cold, for hours on end.


On Fridays, I am at the Conservatoire National Supérieur d'Art Dramatique - and, therefore, I did not see it live. I came home around 6 p.m., I immediately turned on the internet, and I watched the few YouTube channels that I follow, – the Dojd channel, the opposition channels, and what I saw were these crowds , and the faces of the commentators, – all very serious and as if both upset and incredulous at the same time. Incredulous that there could be so many people, and that they kept on  coming and coming some more. And  that one could hear ringing out, by the thousands and thousands, slogans such as “No to war!” ". – Do you understand what this means? If you are arrested after voicing this slogan, it means five or even seven years in prison. And here, thousands and thousands of voices were chanting.

Or who didn't chant anything. People who were simply there, with flowers and songs. The best thing is that I give you a translation of a post from my friend Natalia Mamlevitch, a wonderful translator of French literature and a wonderful woman, of great, great, great courage. A woman of whom I can say that it is a privilege to be a friend.    She wrote the following:

“It’s very hard to collect my thoughts. Such thoughts…such images... Sometimes with sound, and we want to remember them, not to lose them. I have probably never seen so many colors in my life. It's not just that we wore them. The flowers were an extension of the hands, they stretched out, they waved, they communicated with the car drivers - a dialogue of colors and horns, they were loaded with meaning. Without them, everything would have been graphically black and white: snow and people flowing like black streams - along the boulevard, on both sides of the bridge, through the courtyards and alleys. Streams or arteries. But along these streams or these arteries floated luminous flowers.

On the bridge, someone middle-aged touched my sleeve: "Are you going to the cemetery? Please take this! I was released from work for two hours. Our group clubbed together and bought flowers, they also asked me to deposit them. But I'm not going to make it. Can you do it for me?" And I carried this double bouquet, of white roses and red carnations, tied with a black ribbon bearing the inscription “Eternal Memory”. We were all there for someone. I was walking for Vika, for Lioussya, for Anya...

People walked next to each other, and then stood side by side, talking easily to each other. It seemed like everyone was thinking the same thing, and that's why every remark was understood by everyone.

Also on the bridge – in front of me, an elderly man walking with a crutch. Suddenly he turned around – his face in tears, and he smiled. He pointed to the passing cars, honking: "There are good people! Look how many there are."

Near the church, a young man, who resembles Dobrolyubov, speaks earnestly to an older companion: "We are not worthy of him! We remained silent, and they killed him!" - “What could we do!” - asks the companion. “Now, nothing, we should have done everything in 2012!” - “How old were you in 2012?” - "Six years... Well... But now I can..." – and he stopped abruptly.

Before reaching the cemetery, the crowd stopped. Not a crowd – a snake in several rows, on the sidewalk as much as possible. The police sectioned off this snake with metal barriers – cut it into segments. In our segment – about three hundred people. Spontaneous conversations - all people like ourselves, like ourselves! It was reminiscent of August 91, the same feeling, that you are a cell of a single organism, but the mood was completely different. An indescribable mixture of sadness and hope. How can you not hope, when there are all these people around. As if the crust of ice had cracked, and one felt the living, living flesh underneath. It hurts. If it hurts, that means we're not zombies, we're alive.

Behind us, they were singing – a beautiful church choir, I turned around – I see Olya Mazurova, she is holding an icon in her hands, with her a choir of four people. A young man and a young girl look at each other tenderly, they are together, and a choir director has joined them by chance, a deep bass also. They sing “God is holy”, “Eternal Memory”, Easter troparia. Everyone around fell silent. This song is for all of us, who were unable to enter the church, a small, real service, and it didn't matter if you were a believer or not. Flowers, pure voices, pure pain. Everyone thanked them, asked them to sing more. I even joined in a little myself.

Comparing yesterday and today. »

Alexei Navalny funeral held in Moscow | BBC News


Here is what was essential about this funeral : people  were convinced that, no, they were not alone, and that in Russia, there was not only the horrors of power, only perversity and the terror of Putinism. There were people – living people. And many of them And no, the people were not a spineless mass. Or could be other than that. There was this beauty: of being alive among living people. With, as Natalia says, this mixture of immense sadness and immense hope.

This hope, who knows how, right now, it can be translated? The main thing today is that it is there. And this is also the strength of Alexei Navalny. This is his second platform. I should say his first, because it is the one which will make it possible to achieve the first, – which was a government program stated, from prison, exactly a year ago.

I recall the main points, as I described them on February 23 last year:

I) Russia is waging an unjust, and unjustifiable, war against Ukraine. It is a war waged by a dictator's regime. This war, this dictator is losing. He must lose the war because it challenges  all international treaties, and Putin's victory would be the sign of the triumph of chaos.

II) Russia is committing tens of thousands of war crimes in Ukraine. It destroys cities and civil infrastructure.

III) The Russia which could be born from the defeat of Putin, that is to say from the fall of the dictator, will have to cooperate with international justice on these investigations and, if necessary, hand over the culprits.

IV) This Russia, for its own future, must definitively recognize the existence of Ukraine within its 1991 borders, that is to say, it must recognize as an integral part of Ukraine not only the occupied regions of Lugansk and Donbass, but also Crimea.

V) The new Russia will have to pay war damages. Navalny, to this end, proposes to redirect part of the money that would result from gas and oil exports, once sanctions are lifted. These exports, once cleansed of corruption, should be sufficient to compensate Ukraine and ensure Russia's civil development.

VI) Russians are not imperialists by DNA. But Russian imperialism must end as a political doctrine: Russia is already a huge country with a declining population. It doesn't need any new territory.

VII) the imperialists must be defeated - as elsewhere in the world, by the natural game of elections.

VIII) Elections must be free and establish a parliamentary regime built on alternation, the separation of justice and executive power, federalism, economic freedom and social justice.

IX) Russia's future is in Europe, and only in Europe. Not only on the continent, but through the game of democracy.


At the time, I must admit, this platform was not taken up by anyone – the NATO governments did not even speak about it, and Putin's other opponents had not picked up on it, although it is absolutely essential. May it lay the foundations for a human future. It is, more than ever, relevant today.


One last word. I always hear the same refrains about the fact that Navalny was, in fact, a far-right man, a racist. He was, without a doubt, at the beginning of his political path. And I will respond with a reminder. Victor Hugo, at the end of his life, republished, and claimed, his “Odes and Ballads”. Because he could say he was proud of the journey that had led him from there (from a position of ultra-monarchist) to what he had become once he had written his great novels. What matters is the path. Navalny had come a long way – and that is the very reason why he was assassinated.

I do not foresee, here, now, right away, or in a month, the fall of Putin. I'm just saying this: what happened yesterday, in Moscow, in this outlying district of the capital, was a great, great light for all of us. May this light not go out. Don't let it die out. Navalny wrote last year that Putin was losing the war. He could think so. Don't let Putin win. Take on the Navalny platforms.

André Markowicz

(Translation from French reviewed by Maria Damcheva)

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