The Navalny-Sharansky letters revealed: “You give hope”

Last week, the world was shocked by the news coming out of Russia: Alexei Navalny, one of the leaders of the opposition and the most prominent voice against Vladimir Putin, died in a detention camp in the north of the country, near the Arctic Circle. Putin has ruled Russia since 2000, while slowly destroying its semi-democratic institutions and increasing political control and repression in the country to a level reminiscent of the late days of the Soviet Union. The lack of checks and balances leads to poor decision-making and risks to the country and the world, as proved by the war in Ukraine that Putin began two years ago. Political repression has only increased since the outbreak of the war, and it takes special courage to speak out against Putin.

But Navalny was such a brave man, and at no point was he afraid to criticize Putin’s policies and actions, and demand rights and democracy. Navalny was already through a number of arrests, survived an assassination attempt by secret government agents, went into exile – and yet dared to return to Russia, even though he knew he would be arrested and possibly killed. Indeed, Navalny was arrested and placed for years in an isolated camp in the frozen areas of russia. The cause of his death is unknown, and may have been due to the harsh physical conditions or deliberate murder. The Russian regime does not allow an autopsy – and in any case, it is clear that it bears responsibility.

Yesterday (Monday), American journalist Barry Weiss revealed an exchange of letters between Navalny and Natan Sharansky, who was a prisoner of Zion in Russia for almost a decade in the 70s and 80s, and later immigrated to Israel and became a public figure and a minister in the government. Sharansky has become a global symbol of the struggle against tyranny, and in Russia in particular, and his story is still inspiring today. Navalny was also influenced by Sharansky after reading his book (which echoes his condition), and began an exchange with him by letters. The letters are full of humor and hope – that one day the situation in Russia will change, and that the two will be able to meet as mutual fans. Navalny signed his last letter by writing “Next Year in Jerusalem” with letters of critical handwriting.

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