Alexey Navalny, a liberal member of the Yabloko Party, became what was to be one of the most recognizable of a new liberal-friendly brand of opposition nationalists. Following the events in Kondopoga he created a movement known as Narod (‘People’), and began attending nationalist rallies: ‘My liberal friends were in shock, they tore their shirts, “It’s fascism”, they said.’ But he, a solid member of the Moscow intelligentsia with impeccable liberal credentials, persisted with the experimental overtures to the lumpen street brigades: ‘It was clear to me that what is said at the Russian March, if you abstract from the people shouting “Sieg Heil!” reflects the real agenda and concerns of the majority,’ he told his biographer, Konstantin Voronkov.

Navalny was to be the pretty face of Russian nationalism, who made it acceptable to a liberal audience: he modelled himself as a European-style right-winger, opposed to immigration and multiculturalism, speaking in recognizable ‘dog whistles’ (like ‘ethnic crime’) but never once saying the wrong thing out loud. Nationalism, unlike appeals to liberal democracy, was capable of drawing huge crowds, but Navalny also campaigned against corruption in the regime, trying to exercise minority shareholder rights at leading state companies like Gazprom and Rosneft, and publicizing investigations into the corrupt dealings of management. It was a heady opposition cocktail, and Navalny was increasingly a force to be reckoned with.

—Charles Clover, Black Wind, White Snow, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), 286.

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