Russia’s opposition has turned into a hero cult. What was a protest movement has morphed into a one-man show called Alexei Navalny.
The man who first fought Russian corruption with crowdsourcing is now running for mayor of Moscow. But for his 10,000 volunteers, mostly kids in their early 20s with no Soviet memories, he is already president.
His campaign “feedback sessions” resemble a rock star meeting the fans. When Navalny shows up, the volunteers chant his name. When he speaks they rush up, trying to get his signature or shake his hand.
Navalny’s charisma matters more than his politics. His volunteer army is vague on his policies — some are banal, like a paid parking system, some worrying, like hiring a “private security firm for the city.” But the volunteers are not vague when talking about his greatness.
Why Navalny? This triggers a flood of adjectives. He’s strong, his supporters say, honest, beautiful, charismatic and powerful. It triggers moralistic outburst — “Russia must live without lies.” But it always comes down to this: “Only Navalny is tough enough to take down Putin.”