Russians have witnessed a multitude of personas embodied by Alexei Navalny — a fierce protest leader armed with a bullhorn. A vocal critic of the government who braved an attack resulting in his face being drenched in green dye, humorously likening himself to the Hulk. A defiant political prisoner, captured in a poignant moment of solidarity with his wife, flashing a smile while forming a heart with his hands from the confines of a defendant’s cage in court.

The Final Farewell

On Friday, a poignant image of the opposition leader surfaced one last time: Navalny, lying in an open casket amidst red and white blooms, a "venchik" adorning his forehead, symbolizing a life lived with righteousness. His emaciated body, bearing witness to the toll of months spent incarcerated prior to his untimely and mysterious passing, served as the definitive confirmation that his final goodbye had arrived.

A Nation in Mourning

For the followers of Navalny's vision for a more liberated and tranquil Russia, the moment was permeated with profound sorrow and a sense of loss. Mourners gathered outside the church hosting his funeral service, grappling with the enormity of their grief.

“What has transpired is incredibly challenging to come to terms with,” expressed Nadezhda Ivanova, one of the grieving crowd. “Today, we bid farewell to an undeniably exceptional individual, accompanying him on his ultimate journey."

A Restricted Farewell

Within the solemn confines of the Church of the Icon of the Mother of God Soothe My Sorrows, a privileged few were permitted to honor Navalny's memory in silent vigil. Yet, the streets thronged with thousands paying their respects, escorting Navalny's remains as he was laid to rest in the nearby graveyard. The atmosphere crackled with emotion as flower tributes rained down on the passing hearse, encased by barriers and a vigilant police presence.

The Echoes of Mourning

A Farewell to Navalny: Defiance in the Face of Despair

"Despite the intimidatory police presence, the increasing thuggery of the state, all the new CCTV cameras to record their faces, thousands of Muscovites come out to say their farewells to Navalny in the largest grassroots demonstration for years," he posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Farewell at the Cemetery

Crowds continued to gather at the cemetery’s gates, chanting: “Let us in to say goodbye!” Navalny’s mother and father stroked and kissed his head before the casket was finally closed and lowered into the earth.

A Display of Mourning and Defiance

When the gates finally opened, the mourners streamed in — a continuous line of people laying flowers and throwing small handfuls of dirt on top of the grave. The police stood close by, hurrying individuals along.

But with despair was also defiance. As dusk fell, the waiting crowds continued to chant: "Love is stronger than fear," and "Putin is a killer."

A Final Contribution to Russia’s Pro-Democracy Movement

Navalny had often urged Russians never to give up. Now, many hope his death will become his final contribution to Russia’s pro-democracy movement, inspiring new strength.

Echoes from June 2021: U.S. Reacts to Banning of Navalny Groups

From the archives (June 2021): U.S. says banning of Navalny groups by Russian court criminalizes ‘one of the country’s few remaining independent political movements’

Remembering Alexei Navalny

"Today, they are burying a man who had a beautiful dream: to create the Beautiful Russia of the Future. A person can be killed. Anything that’s alive can be killed. Even a dream," he said.

"Everything that Alexei could do for the Beautiful Russia of the Future, he did. Whether that was all for nothing will now depend on you and me. Eternal memory to Alexei and eternal shame to us if it was all in vain."

Read on: Navalny death laid at Putin’s feet by Western leaders learning of it at Munich gathering

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