Wednesday, Apr. 18, 2012

Alexei Navalny

In repressive regimes like that of Vladimir Putin, there is a constant struggle between the dictatorship and those who oppose it to restrict — or liberate — vital information. Alexei Navalny is at the vanguard of these "data dissidents." He built a network to reveal the corruption of the Putin regime, relentlessly documenting the kleptocracy case by case, with popular outrage as the result.

Navalny's rise to prominence in the Russian opposition movement was no accident. He has worked hard for many years as an organizer and activist. Apart from his persistence, courage and skill, Navalny, 35, possesses the more subtle requirements for leadership in the modern age. His personal charisma is complemented by a sardonic sense of humor that is ideal for puncturing the propaganda of the gray and humorless Kremlin. His knack for phrasing has branded Putin's United Russia as the "Party of Crooks and Thieves" for all time.

Navalny has mastered the blogging and social networks that the opposition depends on since we are banned from the mainstream media. Our not-so-secret weapon is the rapidly rising number of Russians on the Internet. There were an estimated 3 million in 2000 when Putin took power and 35 million in 2008 when his second term ended, and today there are more than 60 million, or 44% of the population. Navalny's growing audience of truth seekers is largely but not entirely young, and he has given a voice to millions of Russians whose calls for fair elections refute the Western pundits who often declare our people unsuited for democracy.

Kasparov is a Russian chess champion, author and activist