Thousands at Navalny's funeral: what does this show?

Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny was buried in Moscow on Friday. Despite a large police presence, thousands of Russians joined the funeral procession and laid flowers at his grave. Some even shouted anti-Putin and anti-war slogans, and dozens were arrested. Commentators are also moved. According to the civil rights portal OVD-Info, hundreds of people were arrested across the country. Europe's press looks to the future.

Open/close all quotes
Neatkarīgā (LV) /

Martyrdom with explosive potential

Neatkarīgā examines whether Putin's authority is at risk:

“Probably not in the short term, because the regime has tightened the screws to such an extent that thousands of people showing up at the Borisovskoye Cemetery is already an unexpectedly large demonstration of civil courage. ... On the one hand, Putin is clearly showing that he knows no moral boundaries and is prepared to do anything to cling on to power. ... He will clamp down on anyone who dares to even make a peep. On the other hand, the story of Navalny's martyrdom has already taken on an almost biblical plot. And at a critical moment that can never be predicted in advance, Navalny as a symbol could play a decisive role in bringing down the regime.”

Expresso (PT) /

He sought to crack the dictatorship's facade

Journalist Ian Buruma explains in Expresso why it made sense for Navalny to leave exile to risk his life in Russia:

“There is no universally correct answer to the dilemma a dissident faces: there are as many good reasons to leave as there are to stay, and they often depend on personal circumstances. So why did Navalny decide to risk his life for a cause he knew he could not win, at least in the short term? Neither his likely assassination nor the alternative of remaining in Western Europe would lead to Russian President Vladimir Putin's downfall. ... There was a reason: open disobedience destroys a dictatorship's façade of total control.”

Népszava (HU) /

History will be the judge

MPs from the ruling Fidesz party ignored an opposition politician's request to stand for a minute of silence in the Hungarian parliament in honour of Navalny. Népszava is incensed:

“Neither in Budapest nor in the European Parliament did the Fidesz members have the courage to pay a simple tribute to the martyr, while in Moscow thousands of courageous Russians risked prison to pay their last respects at his funeral. The time will come when monuments will be erected to Navalny, who made mistakes in his youth [regarding Georgia and Ukraine]. Streets will be named after him and pupils will be taught about his life and death in Russian schools.”

Echo (RU) /

He set an example

Writing in Echo, opposition politician and video blogger Maxim Katz praises the courage of the Moscow residents who attended the funeral:

“A sea of people stretching to the horizon, an endless queue from the church to the cemetery. Everything that the state had feared and tried to avoid materialised. Decent Russia was finally able to show itself and was seen live by the whole world. The whole world watched as the endless crowd chanted 'No to war' - and that under an authoritarian regime, in the third year of the war. ... Putin’s entire power rests on the fact that one person is publicly beaten and a hundred thousand are afraid. But Navalny was not afraid, and that was contagious.”

Nikolai Mitrochin (RU) /

Just the tip of the iceberg

Political scientist Nikolai Mitrokhin writes on Facebook that the opposition in Russia is far greater than was visible at the funeral:

“Navalny's funeral showed that despite war, harsh persecution, the mass emigration of hundreds of thousands of his supporters and sympathisers, the winter weekday, the secluded corner of Moscow and the obvious fact that attending the funeral of 'a certain person' will be recorded and 'have an impact' (which - perhaps fortunately - precluded the attendance of all VIPs), there are far more supporters of the anti-Putin opposition in the Russian capital and its suburbs than the ten thousand brave people who attended the funeral. Because in view of the above factors, they are just the tip of the iceberg. ... Today was a sad but bright day. One with prospects.”

Le Temps (CH) /

Putin's fear of a dead man

The Kremlin's reaction to the funeral is an expression of Putin's fearful side, Le Temps comments:

“There is also the Putin who pushes the police to block the mobile phone network and install surveillance cameras along the funeral procession route. Measured against the fear inspired by Alexei Navalny, the superpower that Putin and his regime have been projecting since the end of 1999 seems quite ridiculous. ... The quasi-dictatorial regime that Putin has imposed on Russia, especially since the invasion of Ukraine, is an admission of weakness. The Russian president is afraid of what Navalny represents: a Russian who is certainly nationalistic, but who is courageous and who strives to defend a different Russia where freedom of expression is guaranteed and endemic corruption is eradicated.”

Telegraf (UA) /

Kyiv's silent allies

Ukraine should look to the Russian opposition, Telegraf writes:

“There are many mocking comments on the Internet about the vegetative state of the Russian people. Because even at the funeral of their leader these former 'non-conformists' behaved as quietly as possible. ... But despite all the contradictions, we will inevitably have to look for points of contact. ... There are courageous and decent people in Russia, some of them very young. Only a few are known to the public. They are being destroyed. We shouldn't ask too much of them. Sabotage, information - that also helps.”

Observador (PT) /

An eternal symbol of resistance

From his exile in Portugal, Russian civil rights activist Pavel Elizarov writes in Observador that Navalny's spirit lives on:

“His name stands for millions of Russians who share the European values of peace, democracy and freedom, and who must not be ignored. ... Now, with Navalny's death at the hands of agents of the regime, in the inhumane conditions of solitary confinement in a remote prison in Siberia, Putin wanted to extinguish the symbol of hope, but instead he has made it eternal. This hope lies in the youthful energy and vitality against which a regime of old Soviet functionaries can only use brute force.”