Yulia Navalnaya, Seen in a New Light

Yulia Navalnaya, the widow of Aleksei A. Navalny, the Russian opposition leader who died this month in an Arctic prison, has vowed to continue her husband’s work.

Ms. Navalnaya, 47, has been less public than Mr. Navalny, seen at his side and in his documentary, but mostly steering clear of the spotlight. She was, though, an important half of a global power couple: A telegenic duo who expressed unfaltering passion for each other and for their vision of a free and democratic future for Russia. “Everyone wanted a love like theirs,” wrote Julia Ioffe in a 2021 Vanity Fair profile.

Mr. Navalny galvanized millions with his combination of intellect, good looks and a breezy, ironic wit that, even in the grimmest of circumstances, offered a primer in resisting fear and intimidation. Although terrible things happened to him, Mr. Navalny somehow managed to survive, which lent him an aura of indestructibility.

Mr. Navalny and Ms. Navalnaya after a rally in Moscow in 2013.Credit…Evgeny Feldman/Associated Press

Ms. Navalnaya’s presence enhanced that aura, providing a humanizing and protective context for her husband, even when his imprisonment separated them by thousands of miles. Mr. Navalny’s public affection and frequent photo postings of his wife on Instagram were highly unusual for a politician in Russia, where wives and children have traditionally been relegated to near-invisible status. (Few ever saw the former Mrs. Putin, for example.)

By contrast, Yulia was Mr. Navalny’s obvious home base, anchoring him and embodying his hope for the future — his own personal future, and that of his native Russia. “If those in power see families as a weakness, they are mistaken,” Ms. Navalnaya once declared in a speech. “Family is the strength of any normal person — especially any real politician.”

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