Profile: Russian blogger Alexei Navalny

Alexei Navalny speaks at a rally in Moscow on 5 December 2011 Alexei Navalny has nicknamed his blog the "mass complaints machine"

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Anti-corruption campaigner and top blogger Alexei Navalny has emerged as one of the key figures in the Russian opposition movement that grew out of the disputed parliamentary election in December 2011.

His rise as a force in Russian politics began in 2008 when he started blogging about allegations of malpractice and corruption at some of Russia's big state-controlled corporations.

He followed this by launching a website,, which aims to expose malpractice and wrongdoing in the awarding of government contracts.

Previously, he had been a fringe political figure involved in various opposition groups, including some espousing extreme nationalist views.

Mr Navalny's anti-corruption activism established him as one of the leading lights of Russia's vibrant blogosphere.

He says that it has saved Russian taxpayers millions of dollars but it has not resulted in the prosecution of any senior executives or government officials.

'Crooks and thieves'
Alexei Navalny (middle of picture) attends the Russian march in Moscow, 4 November Mr Navalny spreads his message through social media because state outlets largely shun him

Mr Navalny returned to direct political activism when he orchestrated a powerful online offensive against pro-Kremlin party United Russia ahead of the 2011 parliamentary election.

He urged his blog readers to vote for any party except United Russia, which he memorably dubbed the "party of crooks and thieves".

United Russia won the election, but with a much reduced majority, and its victory was tarnished by widespread allegations of vote-rigging that prompted mass protests in Moscow and some other major cities.

Mr Navalny was widely seen as one of the main architects of United Russia's difficulties, and he quickly put himself in the forefront of the post-election protests.

He was arrested and imprisoned for 15 days following the first protest on 5 December but he was one of the platform speakers at the biggest of the post-election rallies in Moscow on 24 December.

He was also active in the campaign to recruit observers for March's presidential election. His online recruitment project RosVybory signed up more than 15,000 volunteers.

'Good machine of truth'

Vladimir Putin's emphatic victory in the presidential election was a major setback for Mr Navalny and his fellow opposition activists.

The protest movement appeared to die away in the election's immediate aftermath but it revived on 6 May, when tens of thousands took to the streets of Moscow to demonstrate on the eve of Mr Putin's inauguration as president for a third term.

The protest ended in violent clashes between demonstrators and riot police.

Mr Navalny played a prominent part in the events of 6 May and the early Occupy-style protests that followed.

But he was soon imprisoned for another 15 days as part of what many observers saw as a post-election crackdown.

Mr Navalny also responded to Mr Putin's election victory by launching the Good Machine of Truth (GMT), a project aimed at spreading his anti-establishment message to the vast majority of Russians who get their news from state-controlled television.

Russia has some 70 million internet users - around half the population- but only eight million or so are estimated to use the internet as a source of news.

The GMT provides activists with ideas and materials - posters, stickers, T-shirts - that they can use to campaign among the general population. Its recent targets have included Krasnodar Territory Governor Alexander Tkachev and Investigations Committee head Alexander Bastrykin. It has also attacked United Russia over recent hikes in household utility bills.

The GMT is part of the Fight Corruption Fund, a non-commercial organisation that co-ordinates Mr Navalny's various activist projects and is run by Vladimir Ashurkov, formerly a manager with Russian investment conglomerate Alfa Group.

It also has some wealthy backers, including banker and newspaper owner Alexander Lebedev.

Mr Lebedev was instrumental in Mr Navalny's election to the non-executive board of Russia's main airline, Aeroflot.


Mr Navalny has come under increased attack from the authorities since the presidential election, culminating in the embezzlement charges brought against him on 31 July, which he denies.

He has also been criticised by some in the opposition camp. Several anti-Putin politicians, including Democratic Choice leader Vladimir Milov, have taken issue with his failure to stand for election or set up his own political party.

Opinion polls suggest that Mr Navalny is gaining in public recognition but has only limited support among the mass of Russians.

A poll in March by the independent Levada Centre found that 25% of respondents had heard of Mr Navalny, up from 6% the previous April. The same poll found that just 19% of those who knew about him would be prepared to support him in a presidential election, as against 63% who said they would not vote for him.

Mr Navalny was born in 1976 and his married with two children. He has previously worked as a commercial lawyer but now appears to be a full-time political activist.

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