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Before He Died in Prison, Aleksei Navalny Wrote a Memoir. It’s Coming This Fall.

During the years leading up to his death in a Russian prison, Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader, was writing a memoir about his life and work as a pro-democracy activist.

Titled “Patriot,” the memoir will be published in the United States by Knopf on Oct. 22, with a first printing of half a million copies, and a simultaneous release in multiple countries.

Navalny, who rose to global prominence as a fierce critic of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, resisted the Kremlin’s repeated attempts to silence him through physical harm, arrests and imprisonment in a remote Arctic penal colony, where he died in February, at age 47.

The book, telling his story in his own words, comes as a final show of defiance, his widow, Yulia Navalnaya, said in a statement, and could have a galvanizing effect on his followers.

“This book is a testament not only to Aleksei’s life, but to his unwavering commitment to the fight against dictatorship — a fight he gave everything for, including his life,” Navalnaya said. “Through its pages, readers will come to know the man I loved deeply — a man of profound integrity and unyielding courage. Sharing his story will not only honor his memory but also inspire others to stand up for what is right and to never lose sight of the values that truly matter.”

In a news release, Knopf said that the memoir “expresses Navalny’s total conviction that change cannot be resisted and will come.”

Navalny wrote the entire memoir himself, dictating some parts, and Yulia Navalnaya is working with the publisher to edit and finalize the manuscript, according to a Knopf representative. A Russian-language edition of the book will be available, the representative said.

The project is a more sensitive endeavor than most memoirs by high profile political figures. Navalny’s supporters and his team, which has carried on his work, continue to draw the scrutiny of Russian authorities as they direct criticism at the Kremlin against the backdrop of the war in Ukraine.

Navalny began working on his memoir in 2020, after surviving a near-fatal poisoning with a nerve agent, an attack that Western intelligence officials believed was a state-sponsored assassination attempt. The book covers his youth, his rise as a political activist, his marriage and family, his political career as an opposition leader, and the attempts on his life and attacks on those close to him, according to the publisher.

Navalny had political aspirations, but was barred from a presidential run following a conviction on fraud charges by a Russian court, widely seen as politically motivated. He exerted his political influence in other ways: organizing protests against Putin and building offices and investigative teams across the country to uncover corruption.

Navalny wrote much of the memoir while he was in Germany and recovering from poisoning. In February 2021, he returned to Russia, knowing that he would likely be detained or attacked again. He was arrested at the airport, and was later charged with embezzlement and fraud in a trial that international observers concluded was also politically motivated. In August 2023, he was charged with “extremism” and given a 19-year sentence. His harsh treatment in Russia’s severe penal colonies included lack of medical care and many stints in solitary confinement.

Addressing why he chose to go back to Russia to face almost certain imprisonment and possible death, Navalny said remaining in exile felt like a betrayal of his cause.

“I don’t want to give up either my country or my beliefs,” Navalny wrote in a Facebook post in January, shortly before his death. “I cannot betray either the first or the second. If your beliefs are worth something, you must be willing to stand up for them. And if necessary, make some sacrifices.”

Navalny’s return to Russia led to weeks of protests around the country, but they were eventually quashed in a fierce crackdown by the Kremlin. Even as Russia has shut down or driven away independent news media outlets and silenced many of its internal critics in an effort to smother political opposition, Navalny remained a vocal and influential figure who came to embody the country’s beleaguered pro-democracy movement.

Navalny maintained a presence on social media even behind bars, and remained a ferocious critic of Putin. His team, which was living and working in exile, continued to release exposés on corruption in Russia. He also kept working on the book, which includes never-before-seen correspondence from prison, according to the publisher.

Within Russia, thousands of his followers gathered for his funeral, despite the risk of being arrested by Russian authorities. Outside the church on the outskirts of Moscow where the service was held, people in the crowd chanted phrases like “Love is stronger than fear” and “Thank you, Aleksei.”

Even after his death, those who seek to carry on Navalny’s work and extend his legacy face threats and attacks. Last month, Leonid Volkov, who served as one of Navalny’s top organizers, was attacked with a hammer and tear gas outside his home in Lithuania’s capital.

Navalny was well aware that his activism put him at risk, but remained cheerfully defiant, with a wry, prankster-like persona that helped drive some of his viral online activism.

“I’m trying not to think about it a lot,” he said in an interview with CBS News in 2017. “If you start to think about what kind of risks I have, you cannot do anything.”

Read More:Before He Died in Prison, Aleksei Navalny Wrote a Memoir. It’s Coming This Fall.