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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

Being a wife and mother are identities that can translate well to being considered a mother of a nation or a movement during inflection points.

Navalnaya and other women in a similar position are considered accidental leaders, only called into action under extreme circumstances. Though Navalnaya went with her husband to protests and rallies, her political activity was very limited until recently.

She was a key player in getting Putin’s permission to take her husband to Germany to receive treatment when he was poisoned with the nerve agent Novichok in 2020. She increased her political role around that time, but to only highlight her husband’s plight and persecution.

While Navalnaya has received much international interest and praise for stepping in to fill her husband’s shoes, she is living in exile.

If she returned to Russia and continued to oppose Putin’s regime, she would likely face imprisonment or even death, the fate of Putin’s other prominent critics.

But Navalnaya might not be able to gain real political headway if she does not return to Russia. Moreover, leading a movement from abroad could be used by her enemies as evidence that she is merely a puppet of foreign governments.


A grieving widow is now arguably Putin’s biggest critic, and her foray into the political limelight is not wholly unexpected. What remains unclear is whether Navalnaya can move beyond being a symbol and proxy of her husband and unite Russia’s opposition movement to face Putin.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world. It was written by: Farida Jalalzai, Virginia Tech

Read more:
Navalny dies in prison − but his blueprint for anti-Putin activism will live on

A year after Navalny’s return, Putin remains atop a changed Russia

Navalny returns to Russia and brings anti-Putin politics with him

Farida Jalalzai does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


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