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Russian Opposition in Exile Contemplates a Future Without Navalny

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The unexpected death of Russian opposition leader, Aleksei A. Navalny, has left the Russian dissidents in a state of shock and disbelief. It has also raised hopes that the opposition to President Vladimir V. Putin will be able to unite like never before during this desperate moment.

However, Mr. Navalny’s movement has often been perceived as aloof, and the other leading figures of the Russian opposition, who are mostly in exile, do not carry the same broad appeal as Navalny did. Among them is Mikhail Khodorkovsky, a former oligarch, Maxim Katz, a YouTube influencer and former poker champion based in Israel, and Ilya Yashin, a liberal politician serving an eight-year sentence for exposing Russian atrocities in Ukraine.

The main challenge facing the opposition is to regroup and restructure without the influential leadership of Mr. Navalny. His decades-long political career and unmatched network of activists and international allies made him the face of the opposition to Mr. Putin. His untimely death has left his organization in a struggle to chart a new course forward.

Despite the loss, some of Mr. Navalny’s lieutenants, including Leonid Volkov and Kira Yarmysh, now have an opportunity to shape the future of the late leader’s movement. There is also speculation around Mr. Navalny’s wife, Yulia Navalnaya, as a potential political figure after her powerful speech to Western leaders in Munich following her husband’s death.

The death of Mr. Navalny has forced his organization to consider restructuring to adapt to the new reality. While the organization has vowed to carry on Mr. Navalny’s mission, it is evident that they will need to find a new direction without their charismatic leader.

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The death of Mr. Navalny has highlighted the importance of YouTube as a platform for the Russian opposition. The use of social media to reach millions of viewers in Russia despite the government’s control of information has been instrumental in keeping the conversation alive.

Moving forward, Mr. Navalny’s allies and the wider Russian dissident movement are looking to create a more inclusive alliance against Mr. Putin to carry on Mr. Navalny’s legacy. The initial reaction to Mr. Navalny’s death has shown signs of greater unity among the opposition. A voting initiative endorsed by Mr. Navalny before his death has gained widespread support from prominent opposition figures.

The death of Mr. Navalny has left the Russian opposition at a crossroads, but it has also presented an opportunity for them to come together in a more cohesive manner. The hope for a better future without Mr. Navalny is driving the opposition to seek a new strategy to oppose Mr. Putin.

The death of Mr. Navalny has left a void in the Russian opposition, but it has also opened new avenues for collaboration and unity. The challenge now is to find a way to carry on Mr. Navalny’s mission and to oppose Mr. Putin with a renewed sense of purpose and determination.

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Chats and reflections on the present moment.

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Lydia Polgreen

Credit…Will Heath/NBC, via Getty Images

It is a rare thing in our rapidly secularizing country to be confronted with piety and devotion in popular culture. So it was a surprise, and a balm, to watch a man who prays daily and talks openly about his devout faith storm a bastion of earthly godlessness: “Saturday Night Live.”

I am referring, of course, to the comedian Ramy Youssef, who hosted the show on what he described in his opening monologue as “an incredibly spiritual weekend,” noting Ramadan, Easter and the arrival of a new Beyoncé album.

“I’m doing the Ramadan one,” he quipped, to peals of laughter, unspooling a very funny bit about how loving Muslims are. Youssef has mined his experience as a believer among the profane in gentle standup specials and a namesake sitcom. His entire monologue glowed with a welcoming warmth — Muslims, he seemed to say: We’re just like you.

In a country that is supposedly obsessed with diversity and inclusion, it is remarkable how rare it is to hear from a practicing Muslim in America.

Surveys by the Institute for Policy and Understanding, a nonpartisan research organization focused on Muslim Americans, have consistently found that Muslims are the most likely group to report religious discrimination in the United States. According to a Pew survey conducted in 2021, 78 percent of Americans said that there was either a lot or some discrimination against Muslims in our society. Muslims are no more likely to commit crimes than members of any other group, but crimes in which Muslims are suspects get outsized media coverage, research has shown.

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It is no surprise, then, that Islamophobia is perhaps the most tolerated form of religious prejudice. Right now, Senate Republicans appear to have persuaded several Senate Democrats to vote against a Muslim judicial nominee after smearing him, with no evidence at all, as an antisemite.

Many of the skits that toyed with religion on “S.N.L.” on Saturday were funny — Ozempic for Ramadan! Genius. But part of me winced through them as well, because I saw in Youssef something that other members of minority groups have had to do to “earn” their place in the safety of the mainstream: the performance of normalcy, of being nonthreatening and sweet, the requirement to prove that your community belongs in America just like everyone else’s.

I loved Youssef’s monologue, in which he bravely pleaded, “Please, free the people of Palestine. And please, free the hostages. All of the hostages.”

“I am out of ideas,” Youssef declared toward the end of his monologue. “All I have is prayers.”

To which this nonbeliever can only say: Same, Ramy. Same.

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