Russian opposition politician Alexei Navalny wrote an autobiography before he died which will be published later this year, his widow Yulia Navalnaya said on Thursday, revealing the existence of a text his inner circle had kept secret for years.
Navalny, who died aged 47 in an Arctic prison in February, had wanted to become president of Russia and was Vladimir Putin’s fiercest domestic critic.
His allies, branded extremists by the authorities, accused Putin of having him murdered and have said they will provide proof to back that allegation.
The Kremlin has denied any state involvement in his death and, when he was alive, dismissed Navalny, a former lawyer who oversaw corruption investigations into Russia’s political elite, as a marginal US-backed troublemaker out to destabilise Russia.
Navalnaya, his widow, said in a post on X from outside Russia that her late husband had started to write the memoir – titled Patriot – in 2020 after he had been poisoned by what Western doctors said was a nerve agent and had been flown to Germany for medical treatment.
She said the book would be released simultaneously in at least 11 different languages on October 22 and appear in Navalny’s native Russian.
“This is not at all how I imagined Alexei would write his biography. I thought that we would be in our 80s, and that he would be sitting at his computer by the open window and be typing away,” Navalnaya said.
“But things turned out the way they did. Horribly and very, very unfairly,” she said. “Nevertheless, Alexei started writing a book at that time (in 2020) and was unexpectedly quickly drawn into the process.”
“He liked to recall the events of his life in connection with events in the country. For example, he enjoyed describing his childhood,” Navalnaya said.
Kira Yarmysh, Navalny’s spokesperson, described how Navalny had begun to dictate parts of the book to her while he was convalescing in Germany two months after his poisoning and that he had finished the book when in prison after returning to Russia in 2021.
“Alexei had a rare talent of being instantly able to pronounce written text. My job was to keep up with him and occasionally interject: “You just used that same word!” Yarmysh wrote on the Telegram messenger service.
“I heard people talking about his (social media) posts from prison: ‘Alexei writes so well, I wish he’d write a book!’ And I wanted to clap my hands and shout, ‘He is writing one! He is writing one!’ But we agreed to keep everything a secret. Now the secrets are over,” she said.
Penguin Books UK in a statement on X described the book as the “full story of Navalny’s life and a rousing call to continue the work for which he sacrificed his life”.
In the United States the autobiography is being published by Alfred A Knopf, which published a separate statement from his widow.
“It is the full story of his life: his youth, his call to activism, his marriage and family, and his commitment to the cause of Russian democracy and freedom in the face of a world super-power determined to silence him,” Knopf said. “It expresses Navalny’s total conviction that change cannot be resisted and will come.”
“Sharing his story will not only honour his memory but also inspire other to stand up for what is right and to never lose sight of the values that truly matter,” Knopf cited Navalnaya as saying.
The book is unlikely to be readily available in Navalny’s native Russia, where the authorities outlawed his movement as extremist and cast his supporters as US-backed troublemakers.
Navalny’s death has robbed Russians opposed to Putin of their most charismatic figurehead at a time when authorities have crushed the last remnants of dissent.
The crackdown has intensified since the Kremlin launched its full-scale hostilities against Ukraine in 2022.
Putin, a former KGB officer, secured a new six-year term in power in the face of no genuine challenger at elections in March.
Putin for years refused to utter Navalny’s name in public, but last month broke that pattern when he alleged he had approved an initiative to swap “Mr Navalny” for unnamed Russians in Western jails days before his death.
Navalny’s team says Putin ordered his killing on the eve of a prisoner swap.
Navalnaya called the 71-year-old leader a “coward” for only uttering her husband’s name after his death.
EU countries agreed to impose sanctions on 30 Russian officials over the death of Navalny.
However, Navalny’s allies said the limited targeting of a small number of prison officials was purely symbolic and would have no impact on the Kremlin.
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