Skip to main content

Navalny: ‘Everyone Has To Make Some Kind of Sacrifice’

Facing another 20 years in prison for ‘extremism,’ Navalny’s courtroom speech urges others to fight the ‘unscrupulous evil’ of the Russian authorities

Alexei Navalny, Evgeny Feldman / Meduza

Meduza editors: The state prosecutor is seeking to sentence Alexey Navalny to 20 years in a special regime colony on charges of “extremism.” The prosecutor also requested that the second defendant in the case, Daniel Kholodny, be sentenced to 10 years in a general regime colony. The proceedings took place behind closed doors, and journalists and observers were not permitted in the courtroom. The verdict will be announced on August 4. Meduza is publishing Navalny’s full courtroom speech in English.

Alexey Navalny

Everyone in Russia knows that he who seeks justice in court is completely defenseless. Such a person should abandon all hope. After all, if their case has reached the courts, then there is no power behind that person. Because in a country ruled by a criminal, disputes are resolved by bargaining, authority, bribery, deceit, betrayal, and other real-life mechanisms, not by some kind of law.

This was brilliantly illustrated the other day when those who were declared turncoats and traitors to the Motherland killed several officers of the Russian army right before the astonished eyes of the whole of Russia in the morning, and by lunchtime agreed on something with someone and went home, dividing suitcases full of money amongst themselves. No, not metal briefcases, but actual suitcases. They even showed them on television.

Law and justice was once again reminded of its place in Russia. And this place is not honorable at all. You definitely won’t find it in court.

In general, the courts have long been transformed into a place where citizens can merely make a speech without (and this phrase is repeated hundreds of times in my indictment) “obtaining the consent of the state authorities.” However, for the especially cunning, who abuse the opportunities for court debate and speech, they first invented a closed trial, and then a closed trial on the prison grounds.

Nevertheless, I must take every opportunity to speak out, and speaking now before an audience of 18 people, seven of which are wearing black masks on their heads that cover their face, I wish not only to explain why I continue to fight the unscrupulous evil, that calls itself “the state authorities of the Russian Federation,” but also to urge you to do so along with me.

I mean, why not? Maybe you put on these masks because you are afraid of something human, something you have inside you that might reflect on your face if it’s not covered by a balaclava? For example, the prison guard standing behind me right now should by virtue of his position know what kind of trials I have ahead of me. So I tell him about another criminal case against me and the upcoming trial, about the new term that I am facing. Every time he nods his head, closes his eyes, and says, “I don’t understand you, and I never will,” I have to at least try to explain it to him.

If you like this article, please sign up for Snapshot, Portside's daily summary.

(One summary e-mail a day, you can change anytime, and Portside is always free.)

The question of how to act is the central question of humanity. After all, everything around us is so complicated and incomprehensible. People have searched high and low for the formula of doing the right thing, for something to base the right decisions on.

I really like the wording of our compatriot, Doctor of Philological Sciences, Professor Yuri Lotman. Speaking to students, he once said: “A man always finds himself in an unforeseeable situation. And then he has two legs to rest on: conscience and intellect.”

This is a very wise thought, as it seems to me. Any person should rest on both of these legs.

To rely only on one’s conscience is intuitively correct. But an abstract morality that does not take into account human nature and the real world will degenerate either into stupidity or atrocity, as it has happened more than once before.

But the reliance on intellect without conscience is precisely what now lies at the core of the Russian state. Initially, this idea seemed logical to the elites. Using oil, gas and other resources, we will build an unscrupulous, but cunning, modern, rational, ruthless state. We will become richer than the tsars of the past. We have so much oil that even the common folk will get something from it. By exploiting this world of contradictions and the vulnerability of democracy, we will become leaders, and everyone will respect us. And if not respect, then at least fear.

And yet the same thing happens as everywhere else. The intellect, unconstrained by conscience, whispers: snatch, steal. If you are stronger, your interests are always more important than the rights of others.

Unwilling to rest on the foot of conscience, my Russia took a few big leaps, pushing everyone around, but then slipped and collapsed with a crash, destroying everything around it. And now it is floundering in a pool of either mud or blood, with broken bones and the poor, robbed population, surrounded by the tens of thousands of victims of the most stupid and senseless war of the XXI century.

Of course, sooner or later, it will rise again. And it is up to us to determine what it will rest on in the future.

In my opinion, I am acting in a consistent manner, without any drama.

I love Russia. My intellect tells me that living in a free and prosperous country is better than living in a corrupt and destitute one. And as I stand here looking at this court, my conscience tells me that there will be no justice in such a court for me or anyone else. A country without fair courts will never be prosperous. So my intellect raises its voice again and says it would be wise and right for me to fight for an independent court, for fair elections, and against corruption, because then I would reach my goal and be able to live in my free, prosperous Russia.

It may seem to you now that I am crazy, but you are all normal — after all, one cannot swim against the current. But in my opinion, it’s you who are crazy. You have one, God-given life, and this is what you choose to spend it on? Putting robes on your shoulders and black masks on your heads to protect those who rob you? To help someone who already has ten palaces to build an eleventh?

In order for a new person to come into the world, two people must agree in advance that they will make some sacrifices. This new person will have to be born in agony, and then they will have to spend sleepless nights with him. Then they will have to get a dog for that new person. Then walk that dog.

Likewise, in order for a new, free, rich country to be born, it has to have parents. Those who want it. Those who expect it and are willing to make some sacrifices for its birth, knowing that it will be worth it. This doesn’t mean that everyone has to go to prison. It’s more of a lottery, and that ticket was drawn by me. But everyone has to make some kind of sacrifice, make some kind of effort.

I am accused of inciting hatred against representatives of the government and security services, judges, and members of the United Russia party. But no, I am not inciting hatred. I merely remember that every person has two legs: conscience and intellect. And when you’re tired of slipping under this regime, splitting your forehead and your future, when you finally realize that the rejection of conscience will eventually lead to the disappearance of intellect, then maybe you will stand on both of the legs on which every man should stand, and we will be able to bring the beautiful Russia of the future closer together.