He is regarded by the German mainstream as the most important living Russian oppositionist: Krawalny. During his stay at the Charité Hospital in Berlin, where he was recovering from a suspected poison attack, the Chancellor even visited him. Meanwhile, Krawalny is back in Russia. He’s in jail. His suspended sentence was converted into a prison sentence for numerous violations of the terms of probation, which he is now serving. His organization has been classified as extremist and is effectively banned. A book has now been published by Droemer-Verlag, which makes Navalny’s speeches in court accessible to a German audience.
I held the book up to the camera and we joked. My Russian friend on the other end of the video chat wanted to know whether Krawalny knows that he has become a book author in Germany, and whether he is aware of what his American ghostwriters have written down in his name?
When reading the small font, it quickly turned out that it wasn’t that funny. Krawalny probably does not know that his name adorns the spine of a small volume of the Droemer publishing house. The title " Do not be silent! Speeches in court"”
The book contains the translations of four speeches that Krawalny delivered in court after his return from Germany in January and February 2021. Where talking is actually wrong. Speech sounds like outline and structure. But that does not distinguish Navalny’s contributions. They are rather tirades, associative juxtapositions, emotional admissions. In the original, all four speeches are available on the Internet. On the site of the organization of Navalny can also be found the transcriptions in Russian. They were incorporated into the book by means of the “copy & Paste” method, which has now been largely established in Germany by well-known authors. When time is of the essence, it quickly fills the pages. In the Russian transcriptions of the speeches in the book there are only a few small changes from the original texts, as they can be found on the pages of Navalny’s organization.
The translation from Russian was provided by Alexandra Berlina, she also wrote the classifying comments on the speeches. The foreword was written by FDP veteran Gerhart Baum. Krawalny did not contribute anything to the book itself. Of the almost one hundred pages, about forty are in Russian. In addition to the transcriptions of the speeches, the preface by Gerhart Baum was translated into Russian. What purpose this serves remains unclear. Probably just to inflate the font to just under twice.
There were probably no American ghostwriters here, but there is of course a reason why my Russian friend came up with the idea that there might be some. The film “Putin’s Palace”, in which the Russian president is accused of corruption, which is also frequently cited in the present book, was shot by a company based in the Black Forest, which received the order for implementation from the USA. Inconsistencies in the language as well as in the selection of images indicate that the script and the template for the film were not written by a Russian. In particular, the linguistic carvers suggest that the text is an original in American English, which was then translated into Russian. Therefore, for many Russians it is considered proven that Navalny is not the author in relation to the film about Putin’s alleged palace, but merely a paid actor and speaker. In addition, the object shown in the film is a hotel complex under construction, as Russian journalists have found out. The furnishings shown in Navalny’s film simply do not exist-including the golden toilet brush that has become a symbol.
About all this you do not learn anything in the book that adorns Navalny’s name. The translator and commentator Berlina abandons herself entirely to the German narrative. That is: Krawalny was poisoned by Putin because he is the main Russian opposition figure. For him, citizens take to the streets, he is the great hope of Russia. He successfully fights against corruption, against oppression, for democracy and a free Russia. He stands alone against the thieving grandpa, as he calls Putin in his speeches in court. In the annotation apparatus, the reader learns that this is not an insult, but a trivialization.
It seems that in Russia such things can be said in court without being reprimanded. In addition to Navalny’s words in court, the volume documents the calm, more than patient treatment of the judges and prosecutors with the accused.
In Russia, one can insult the judges, prosecutors and officials present, call them corrupt, deny them the right to judge, accuse them of collusion and collusion without being punished for it. It is the merit of the book to have made this serenity of Russian state officials and judges accessible to a German audience.
Outside the courtrooms, however, more and more speeches were heard in the course of the trial in Russia to the effect that Navalny should finally take off his velvet gloves. There is a dedicated Telegram channel called Anti-Navalny @anti_navalny, which uncovers the misinformation and scandals of Navalny and his environment. But even about this you do not learn anything in the book.
It takes Navalny’s side in a very partisan way, wants the German reader to do the same and, after reading it, to recognize for himself: Russia is an unjust state. The comments on the speeches and the preface show the reader the way to the desired interpretation. The trials against Navalny are wrong, it is suggested without ceasing. It is also argued with a judgment of the European Court of Human Rights ECHR. The latter allegedly assessed the charges against Navalny and his brother in the case of the French cosmetics company Yves Rocher as politically motivated. And it is precisely here that the one-sidedness is also most clearly visible, because this assertion is false. That is exactly what the ECtHR has not done. Article 18 in question is expressly excluded from the judgment. Baum’s assertion in the preface is untrue.
Nevertheless, the comments on the speeches suggest that the trials against Navalny are an expression of a system of injustice that is afraid of its own citizens, whose institutions and bodies are used only to oppress the population and enrich a small corrupt elite. The proven frauds of Navalny, everything questionable about this person, everything that would lead to questions and questions about the very one-sided German view of Navalny, is omitted by Baum or rhetorically smoothed out by Berlina in the comments and annotation apparatus.
If one frees oneself as a reader from preface and classifying commentary, frees oneself from framing, the speeches clearly show that Navalny is not an oppositionist who wants to gain political influence within the framework of the existing Constitution and implement his ideas in the democratic compromise. Navalny wants to overthrow the order, denigrates the organs of the state and their representatives. The speeches also show that the classification of Navalny’s organization as extremist is justified. No state in the world tolerates openly presented plans for revolution. This is not an expression of a particular Russian arbitrariness. This is the case all over the world. It may be objected that in authoritarian and totalitarian states there is a moral right to resist, although not legally founded. The fact that the Russian Federation is such a repressive state that legitimizes the moral right to resist, however, would first have to be proven. Substantial evidence for all the accusations that Putin is an autocrat and Russia a dictatorship are hardly mentioned in the book or in German media, and if they are, they are questionable.
The announcement of the publishing house as well as the preface by Gerhart Baum stylize Navalny as a human rights activist. He unmasks the Putin system, says the publisher, and therefore considers Navalny’s speeches to be a document of contemporary history. However, this is more than questionable, because both in the speeches and in the elogues on Navalny always remains unclear what Navalny stands for politically. His speeches are pleas for freedom, says Gerhart Baum in his preface. But freedom from what and to what? Freedom is a relative, not an absolute concept. Absolute freedom does not exist or, for the nihilists among readers, this concession is made only in death: free from everything and free to nothing.
In the preface by Gerhart Baum in particular, any conceptual sharpness becomes blurred and thus forms another crystallization point of the German Navalny - und Freiheits-Geschwubel. And Baum swears vigorously and in such a way that it becomes embarrassing in its undifferentiation to foreign shame. Thus, Baum throws the policies of Belarusian President Lukashenko and Putin’s into one pot. Everything coagulates to him to “regime”. It calls for the extraterritorial application of the legal means of Germany and the Western states and for Russian and Belarusian judges, prosecutors and police officers to be tried and convicted here with us. One can dismiss this as the fantasy of an old man if there were not clearly visible signs of a sense of moral superiority in the German political and journalistic establishment, which certainly feels called to judge others and even the whole world. This self-exaltation of German elites is a dangerous development.
From a biographical point of view, Navalny hardly has a point of orientation that makes classification possible. In the footnotes to his speeches, it is noted that Navalny left the liberal party Yabloko. Moreover, anyone who receives Russian media knows that the party is even resisting being appropriated by Navalny’s “Smart Choice” electoral system. The aim is to harm the ruling party “United Russia” as much as possible by electing promising opposing candidates even if they disagree politically with their positions. Yabloko opposes election recommendations by Navalny and his team. Navalny’s relationship with Yabloko is shattered. He no longer finds a home in Russian liberalism. For a while he was an avowed nationalist, but has since sworn off – or not. You don’t know for sure. Even this is not clear.
Navalny politically stands only for “Putin must leave”. What should come after Putin remains completely dark. The speeches also give no indication of Navalny’s actual political idea. For the supposedly most important opposition politician in a country, this is a bit little.
In Russia itself, Navalny has a very limited range. Even before the ban on his organization, he was considered by a majority as a troll paid from abroad, who has to implement the agenda of his donors. The fact that this view is not completely taken out of thin air is also a small proof of this in the present book, of whose existence Navalny presumably knows nothing. The name Navalny serves as an emblem for a narrative about Russia established in the West, which serves the ever-increasing escalation and escalation of the relationship, but which cannot be substantiated with facts.
But before this review of the book becomes longer than the book itself, I close here.
Whether the little over eight euros are worth buying the small ribbon, of course, everyone has to decide for themselves. Eight euros for copy & paste and a close guidance of the reader through one-page comments and an equally one-page preface, so that he does not have his own thoughts on Navalny’s statements, I personally find a very high price.