How Natan Sharansky Encouraged and Inspired Alexei Navalny

February 20, 2024 | Natan Sharansky and Alexei Navalny
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On Friday, Russian authorities announced that the dissident leader Alexei Navalny died in a Siberian prison camp at the age of forty-seven. While in solitary confinement, Navalny read Natan Sharansky’s memoir Fear No Evil, which recounts the years he spent in prison for the crime of wanting to leave the USSR for Israel. The two men then carried out a brief correspondence in April 2023, which has been published in English translation in the Free Press.

Navalny’s first letter concludes with the phrase, l’Shanah ha-ba’ah bi-Yrushalayim (Next year in Jerusalem) which, he says, he “copied for myself from the book.” Sharansky wrote in his response:

By the way, I write to you the day before Passover—the celebration of the liberation of the Jews from Egyptian slavery 3,500 years ago. That is the start of our freedom and our history as a people. On this evening, Jews from around the world sit at the holiday table and read the words: “Today we are slaves—tomorrow, free people. Today we are here—next year, in Jerusalem.”

On this day I am sitting at the celebratory meal wearing a kippah, which was made 40 years ago, out of my footcloth, by my cellmate—a Ukrainian inmate in the Chistopol prison. That’s how twisted everything in this world is! I wish to you, Alexei, and to all of Russia, an Exodus as soon as possible.


Natan Sharansky

To this, Navalny wrote, “And after all, where else to spend Holy Week, if not in SHIZO,” referring to the “punishment cell” with which both men were all too familiar.

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