The Anti-Putin Movement: An Interview with the Blogger in Chief

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Aleshkovsky Mitya / ITAR-TASS Photo / Corbis

Russian protest blogger Alexei Navalny, a key figure in the rallies after Russia's disputed parliamentary elections, outside a court on Dec. 25, 2011

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Some pundits, supporters and even random people on the street have started calling you Russia's next President. How do you react to this kind of excitement around you? Is it justified?
When the opposition parties were voted out of the State Duma [Russia's lower house of parliament] in the 2003 elections, it created a situation where it was impossible to judge who is popular. This process of comparing pricks at the ballot box is usually done, in a healthy society, through elections. But we haven't had competitive elections in Russia in years. Since 2003 I've watched various attempts to choose some opposition leader who can pose a challenge to Putin. But they couldn't choose one, because there is no mechanism. They use subjective criteria. They say, 'Well, I used to be a minister. I used to be a Prime Minister. I'm loved by the intellectuals.' But this is pointless. I've long said that we need to hold some kind of primaries, where the opposition leaders can decide who among them really has the mandate of the people. At the same time, a lot of [other opposition leaders] don't like the Navalny cult of personality. There's a lot of buzz around me right now, mostly because the political playing field has been stomped flat over the past 10 years. I don't like that myself, because it's impossible to always be this Internet hero. Everyone loving you can change quickly into everyone demanding that you make miracles, and when you don't, their love quickly turns to hate.

Your oratory style has not done a lot to ease the concerns of many in the liberal opposition that you are a right-wing fanatic. Why do you continue to speak that way every time you take the stage?
I don't know if I even have an oratory style. It's more like loud screaming into a microphone. I never studied it, and that's the only way I know how to do it. But it's true, suddenly [the pundit] Maxim Sokolov goes writing that this is how Hitler addressed the crowd. Well, what can I say? I know some people got scared. Sure, I screamed loud. I got too emotional, but what can I say? I really hate the people in power. I hate them with every fiber of my being. That's what drives me in almost everything I do. And I don't see any need to hide that. So I scream.

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