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Yulia Navalnaya, widow of Alexei Navalny, steps forward to lead the Russian opposition – 3 points to understand

Farida Jalalzai, Virginia Tech, The Conversation on

Published in News & Features

Sirimavo Bandaranaike, for example, was the widow of Sri Lanka’s Prime Minister Solomon Bandaranaike, who was assassinated in 1959. Sirimavo Bandaranaike began to lead her husband’s political party, and following elections in 1960, she became the first female prime minister in the world.

Similarly, in Nicaragua, Violeta de Chamorro, became the widow of the prominent news editor and publisher Pedro Joaquin Chamorro in 1978. Unknown gunmen killed her husband following years of his reporting work that challenged the country’s repressive government.

Violeta de Chamorro then became involved in Nicaragua’s tumultuous politics and was elected Nicaragua’s president in 1990. She served in that role until 1997.

Then there is the example of Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister of Pakistan who served in the 1980s and ‘90s. Bhutto was the daughter of former Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, who was deposed in a military coup in 1978 and then executed in 1979.

Today, women still sometimes take this route to power, often in Asia and Latin America.

Far closer to Russia, Belarus offers another recent example of how wives have assumed their husbands’ political posts when they are no longer able to continue their work. When Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko arrested leading critic Sergei Tikhanovsky and barred him from running in the 2020 presidential election, Tikhanovsky’s wife, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, ran in his place.


She lost her bid in 2020, during an election that featured rampant voting irregularities.

It is widely known that Tikhanovskaya, who initially said that she was not interested in politics, was allowed to run because Lukashenko thought she posed no real threat since she was a woman.

Navalnaya, an economist and a former banker, focused on raising children and supporting her husband as he gained a political following within the last decade.

Navalnaya said in 2013, “I imagine myself as his wife, no matter what he is.” When asked about her own political ambition in another interview in 2021, she stated that it was “much more interesting to be a politician’s wife.”


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