Non-Russians At Home And Abroad Haven’t Forgotten Navalny’s Earlier Xenophobic Positions – OpEd


While non-Russians inside the Russian Federation and in the post-Soviet states have been horrified by the Kremlin’s murder of Aleksey Navalny, they have been in most cases restrained in the expression of their feelings because they have not forgotten the Russian opposition leader’s earlier xenophobic positions, Amirzhan Kosanov says.

The member of the Social Chamber of Kazakhstan’s Majilis, he observes that “while giving one’s due to Navalny’s personality, positions, and actions, one cannot fail to take note of the restrained attitude of part of the Kazakhstan society and not only it to his person” (безумство-храброго).

That is because “at one time, Navalny was distinguished by certain quite tendentious expresses which were rated by Amnesty International as ‘racist and xenophobic.’” He participated in actions which were “openly neo-imperialist and chauvinist,” and he even called for struggling against migrants from Central Asia and the Caucasus.

To observe this, Kosanov says, is not to join the choir of Kremlin agents who seek to discredit Navalny, especially since after the opposition leader was poisoned, he admitted that many of his earlier positions were mistaken. But it is a simple recognition that many will never forget what he said and did earlier.

“Navalny understood the domestic electoral value of nationalism and tried to saddle this recalcitrant horse,” the Kazakh politician says; “but as a politician he should have understood that such expressions which offended the national feelings of citizens of neighboring states could not fail to elicit anger and influence his image in these countries.”

Kosanov adds that reaction to Navalny’s murder also highlights two other unfortunate developments: the divisions within opposition movements everywhere caused by personal ambitions or worse and the failure of the international community to come up with better ways to help the political prisoners across the former Soviet space.

If the former problem is one that these countries have had for a long time, he concludes, the latter is especially tragic because the West used to do far more for political prisoners than it is doing now, preferring instead to focus on economic and geopolitical issues instead of human rights.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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