cover image The Dissident: Alexey Navalny: Profile of a Political Prisoner

The Dissident: Alexey Navalny: Profile of a Political Prisoner

David M. Herszenhorn. Twelve, $30 (304p) ISBN 978-1-538-70945-0

In this propulsive debut biography, Washington Post editor Herszenhorn portrays 47-year-old Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny as a “deeply patriotic, even nationalist Russian” with a “keen sense of justice and outrage that often morphs into vigilantism.” Herszenhorn describes how Navalny—who grew up as a “military brat” (his father was a Soviet officer)—channeled his angst over “the lies and hypocrisy of the Soviet state” into becoming an outspoken critic of President Vladimir Putin. Among other tactics, Navalny created videos and blogs accusing high-level officials of corruption, including a “tongue-in-cheek” 2007 video depicting Putin as the Devil. Navalny also set up an antigraft website, RosPil, and organized the Anti-corruption Foundation. Herszenhorn notes that some of Navalny’s investigations lacked compelling evidence, such as his attempt to prove the Kremlin meddled in the 2020 U.S. elections. Nevertheless, his watchdogging prompted a series of reprisal investigations into his business ventures, and in 2020 FSB agents poisoned Navalny with a deadly nerve agent (which had been applied to his underwear), but he survived the attack. In 2021 he was arrested on fabricated charges and is now serving a nearly 12–year prison sentence. Herszenhorn shies away from delivering a conclusive political analysis of this complex figure, instead aiming for a balanced and informative “news driven” recap of Navalny’s career. The result is an immersive look at the cutthroat world of Russian politics. (Oct.)