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Alexei Navalny’s Death: Between Grief and Indifference

Russians' Attitudes
Feb 26, 2024
20 min

Executive Summary


Using the OpenMinds analytical platform and conducting an online survey among Russian respondents, we found that there is no coherence in the views of Navalny and the cause of his death.

  • A third of the respondents hold a negative attitude towards Navalny, and almost half report a neutral stance. Yet, opinions on his activities remain divided, with narratives ranging from being a traitor to a fighter against corruption in equal measure;

  • 59% of respondents trust official sources regarding Navalny's death, attributing his death to health issues, while a notable 41% express distrust, with some accusing the Russian authorities of deliberate murder;

  • Despite the relatively high trust in official sources, only 25% believe the official narrative that Navalny was jailed for legitimate crimes, indicating an awareness of the political motivations behind his imprisonment;

  • Younger respondents, who tend to be more supportive of Navalny, felt the most negative emotions following his death and are more likely to believe that the Russian authorities killed him.




On the 16th of February, it was reported that Alexei Navalny, an opposition politician seen in Russia and the world as President Vladimir Putin's main rival, had died in prison in Russia's far north. Navalny is known for his anti-corruption investigations and for organising numerous opposition rallies that have caused much trouble for Russia's government.

On the day Navalny's death was announced, the OMI team conducted an online survey of Russians' attitudes towards Navalny and the alleged reasons for his death.

Additionally, the OMI team parsed and analysed a sample of 8,500 social media posts from 223 Russian social media platforms and local forums that mentioned Navalny on February 16th and 7 days prior, using the OpenMinds analytical platform.





Respondents were recruited online. ‍The data was collected on February 16th. ‍

The original sample consisted of 1326 respondents. Of these, 1099 (82.9%) had heard about the death of A. Navalny. After excluding respondents who did not answer all questions, there were 1017 respondents left in the sample, 76.7% of the original number and 92.5% of those who had heard about Navalny's death. The mean age of the respondents is 37.8, and the standard deviation is 10.56. The sample included residents of all federal districts of Russia.


Study Design

We used OpenMinds analytical platform to parse data from 223 channels across popular Russian social networks such as, telegram, and, along with platforms like,, and, covering the period from February 12 to February 18, 2024, and including a keyword “Навальный” (Navalny).

This process yielded approximately 8,500 documents, including posts, comments, and articles. To identify key discussions and trends, we used GPT 3.5-Turbo to categorise clusters of topics surrounding Navalny's death and write a summary of each discourse.


Key Findings


83% of Russians knew about Navalny's death the day it happened

The death of Navalny was mentioned on state TV and state-controlled online media. In this context, it is not surprising that on the evening of February 16th, a couple of hours after the death of Navalnyy was reported, 83% of Russians already heard about it.

Specifically, while only a small fraction of younger adults aged 18-34 found the news on television (9%), this figure rose among those aged 35-49 (14%) and was even higher for individuals over 50 (24%). Nevertheless, even among the older demographic, a significant number learned of Navalny’s death on social networks (31%) and online media (27%).


Navalny is known, he is approved, and he is mourned, but not by everyone

Only 19% report a positive attitude towards Navalnyy’s actions, 33% report a negative attitude, and almost half of Russians are neutral or did not really think about him (48%).

This split in responses suggests that at the emotional level, the regime has successfully fostered a negative attitude towards Navalny. However, regarding the portrayal of his activities, opinions diverge, equally representing regime narratives (traitor, puppet of the West) and oppositional narratives (corruption fighter, human rights activist).

Navalny was perceived as a fairly strong personality and politician. Key qualities attributed to him include decisiveness (52%), courage (51%), and intelligence (51%), with loyalty (19%) seen as the least important. Interestingly, even among respondents who hold rather or completely negative attitudes toward Navalny, around 30% believe he was intelligent, decisive, brave, and charismatic.

A significant portion of respondents didn’t report any intense negative emotions in response to Navalny’s death. However, 44% of participants indicated they felt varying degrees of surprise, and 40% reported feeling sadness, ranging from slight to strong.

Respondents do not expect any rapid changes in Russia as a result of Navalny's death: neither political instability in Russia (only 10%) nor the unification of the opposition (10%), nor its defeat by the Kremlin (8%).


Alleged causes of Navalny's death

We have established that while 59% of respondents believe it’s worth trusting the official sources about Navalny’s death, a large proportion (41%) don’t trust it. There is, thus, no coherence in the views on the cause of Navalny’s death.

The vast majority (79%) of those who trust the official version believe that Navalny died because of health problems, whether or not related to his time in prison. Among those who do not trust the official version, only 39% believe his death was due to different health problems, while 26% directly accuse the Russian authorities of killing the politician. The spread of opinions among those who do not trust the official position of the Russian authorities is predictably higher than among those who do.

While only 12% of all respondents think that the Kremlin ordered the direct murder, it is possible that some of those 33% who selected “health problems due to prison conditions” (i.e. being in “Shizo”) also think it is the Russian authorities to blame for Navalny’s slow death.


Agreement with the various popular narratives that surround Navalny

We also surveyed respondents on their level of agreement with various prevalent narratives about Navalny, encompassing both those propagated by official channels and those advocated by the opposition.

Respondents are inconsistent and report contradictory opinions. While, as we reported above, 59% trust official information about Navalny, only 25% agree with the official narrative that Navalny was jailed for actual crimes.

Notably, 46% believe Navalny’s imprisonment is solely due to his political activism. This is an important finding because Navalny was initially imprisoned based on an allegedly fabricated case, which has been used as a narrative to justify his imprisonment. This recognition that the regime deals with opponents with violence might play a role in the future.


Young Russians are more angry by Navalny’s death

The younger respondents are, the more negative emotions they feel about Navalny's death. In particular, 31% of respondents aged under 34, 28% of those aged 35-50, and only 20% of those aged 50 and over experienced anger to some degree. The differences in feeling fear are also striking. In age groups over 34, its intensity decreases much faster than the intensity of anger and sadness.

Younger respondents were also more likely than older respondents to say that Navalny's death was a planned murder carried out by the Russian authorities.

The older Russians are, the more they tend to support the authorities and all their initiatives, to be conservative, and to reject the opposition. Attitudes towards Navalny's activities and his death reflected in detail the differences between young and older Russians and that are known from many other observations.


Anti-war Russians mourned Navalny's death

Attitudes towards Navalny are closely associated with attitudes towards Russia's war against Ukraine. Anti-war respondents experience significantly more negative emotions in connection with Navalny's death than pro-war and neutral respondents.

56% of anti-war respondents have a favorable attitude to Navalny's activities, while only 8% of neutral respondents and 4% of supporters of the war against Ukraine have a favorable attitude.

Additionally, respondents who oppose the war are more likely to believe that the Russian authorities intentionally killed Navalny.


Machine Learning Social Media Analysis


We used OpenMinds Analytical Platform to parse data from 223 channels across popular Russian social networks such as, telegram, and, along with platforms like,, and, covering the period from February 12 to February 18, 2024. This process yielded approximately 8,500 documents, including posts, comments, and articles. To identify key discussions and trends, we used GPT 3.5-Turbo to categorise clusters of topics surrounding Navalny's death.

Our system detected an unsurprising 4,400% spike in mentions of Navalny on the day of his death compared to the previous 30-day average.

While the analysis of social media is not fully representative—focusing primarily on the most vocal voices in the space, compared to the general population's attitudes reported in the survey —it does help us understand the prevailing discourse. We found that, in line with survey results, there was no strict coherence in the views regarding the reason for Navalny's death. Importantly, we did not find the official narrative of "death due to health problems" to be predominant in social media discussions. Instead, the conversation was more about whether or not it was a murder.

Specifically, among the 8500 documents we analysed:

  • 25% are comments discussing how he died: Navalny's supporters blame Putin, while his opponents argued that the current President had nothing to do with it, stating “it wouldn't be beneficial for Putin right now.” As the latter has become one of the narratives of propaganda and state-controlled online media, it is difficult to say whether these were genuine users;
  • 9% talk about the reaction of Western political leaders;
  • 9% represent the official perspective on his death, as reported by Russian officials and media;
  • 8% discuss Zelensky's reaction, with his claims that Navalny was killed by the personal order of Vladimir Putin;
  • Another 8% mention “breaking” conspiracy theories about how the “collective West” organised his death to destabilise Russia before the country's elections;
  • A small portion of the discussion, around 4%, focuses on protests, acts of commemoration, and arrests of individuals in Russia.

Additionally, we noticed that the general sentiment in Russian social media space towards the current government became more negative on February 16th. However, we cannot be sure it was solely due to Navalny’s death.




The news of Navalny's death deeply resonated across Russia, with a significant majority of the population becoming aware of the event shortly after it occurred. Public reactions were mixed; many expressed surprise and sadness, but a large proportion remained emotionally detached. The cause of Navalny's death is a subject of speculation and division among the population, highlighting a fragmented perception that ranges from health-related issues due to the conditions in prison, to deliberate murder, and even to conspiracy theories involving both domestic and international actors. Social media discussions also indicate that there is no single prevailing discourse.

Despite mixed opinions about Navalny's actions, a significant number associate him with anti-corruption efforts and human rights advocacy. In contrast, others view him negatively as a Western puppet or traitor. The findings further reveal a dichotomy between trust in official narratives and belief in Navalny's political martyrdom, particularly among younger and anti-war respondents. This suggests a generational and ideological divide in perceptions of his legacy and the circumstances of his death.

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Russians' Attitudes
Feb 26, 2024
20 min
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