The People Who Look Into The Table

I rarely write about Russian politics, if ever. But today I read Alexey Navalny’s speech he gave in court and I was at awe. So, as usual, he’s being convicted on some fabricated charges, but the speech he gave is for history books. He keeps talking about people who “look into the table”, using this metaphor to describe people who are either too scared, or too lazy or too indifferent to what’s going on in Russia right now. It’s too powerful and I wanted to translate it into English. So I spent an afternoon translating it and here it is. Read and weep.


“How many times during his life, a man, who doesn’t do anything criminal or illegal, can deliver his last word? Zero, zilch. Or, perhaps, if he’s unlucky, it happens once. For the last year and a half, 2 years if one considers appeal – this is my sixth, seventh, maybe even tenth last word.

This phrase – “Defendant Navalny, you have your last word” – I have heard many times. It seems that we all have our last word – me, somebody else, all of us are having our last days. They all want us to say our last word.

I said it before, but I see that the last days are not coming. And more importantly, what makes me convinced in that is if I could photograph all of you here, like this, the three of you or all of you, with the representatives of the so-called victims. These are the people with whom I interact recently.

These are the people who look into the table, you see. You all are constantly looking into the table. I’m talking to you and you constantly look into the table, all of you. You have nothing to say. The most popular phrase – surely, you know this – which is addressed to me. Detective, prosecutors, FSIN employees, anybody, civil judges, criminal judges, say this phrase more often than anything: “Alexey Anatolyevich, you understand.”

Yes, I understand. There’s one thing I don’t understand though – why do you always look into the table? I’m under no illusions. I understand perfectly, that none of you will now spring from your seat, turn over this table and say: “I can’t take this anymore! I’m leaving now!” And the representatives of “Yves Roche” won’t stand up and say: “Navalny has convinced us with his eloquence!”

A man is not made this way. A man’s conscience compensates his sense of guilt. Otherwise people would throw themselves on the beach like dolphins. It’s impossible to come home and be overwhelmed. It’s impossible to come home and tell you children, you spouse: “You know, today I participated in jailing an innocent man. Now I am suffering and will always be suffering.”

People don’t do this, they are not built this way. They will either say: “Well, Alexey Anatolyevich, you understand”, or they will say: “There’s no smoke without fire,” or they will say: “You shouldn’t have gone after Putin,” like some representative of an Investigative committee did. “If only he didn’t draw attention to himself, didn’t wave his hands and didn’t interfere with pedestrian traffic, then, perhaps, none of this would have happened.”

But, nonetheless, it is very important for me to address exactly this part of the audience or those who will see or read my last word. Perhaps it’s useless. But, nonetheless, those people who look into the table – they represent a battlefield and a battle that is going on between those thieves that seized the power and normal people who want change.

We battle for people who look into the table. For those who shrug their shoulders and do nothing. For those who, where it is possible not to show malice, show it. There’s a famous saying – today everyone likes famous quotes, like a well-known book, “To Kill a Dragon” – we were all taught bad things, but why did you have to become the best pupil?

The amount of people who look into the table, who are either forced to do evil, or – even more often when no one forces them – they turn away and try to ignore what’s going on. And our battle is for the people who look into the table, to explain to you not to look there but to admit to yourselves: everything, alas, in our wonderful country, everything that’s happening is founded on interminable lies.

So I’m standing here and I’m prepared to stand here for as long as it takes to show all of you that I can not tolerate these lies and will not tolerate it. Literal lies in everything, from the first and to the last word, do you understand?

I am being told that there are no Russian interests in Turkmenistan, but there are Russian interests in Ukraine and thus the war must be started. I am being told that Russians are not being aggrieved in Chechnya. I am being told that nothing of this sort exists. I am being told that no one steals at Gazprom. I bring a document that shows the executives’ unregistered assets, companies. And I’m being told that none of this exists.

I’m saying that we’re ready to run in the election and win. We register the party, we do many things. I am being told: “This is all nonsense. We win elections, and you don’t participate not because we don’t allow you, but because you didn’t fill the paperwork correctly.”

Everything is built on lies. On constantly streaming lies, do you understand? And the more convincing the evidence that any of us brings, the more lies we are confronted with. And these lies now simply have become a mechanism that the government uses. It has become the essence of the state power.

We watch the speeches of the government officials – there are lies from the first to the last word. Yesterday Putin said: “We have no palaces.” We make photos of these palaces three times a month, put it out there for all to see. “We have no palaces. We have no oligarchs that feed at the state’s trough.” But here, look at the documents, look at how the head of Russian Railways transfers half of the state company’s assets into Cyprus and Panama’s offshores.

Why tolerate these lies? Why look into the table? Forgive me for drawing you into some kind of philosophy, but the life is too short to spend it looking into the table. What’s there left? I’m almost forty. I’ll blink and there will be grandchildren. And then we won’t even notice and we’re laying on our deathbed, surrounded by relatives who think: “I wish he would kick the bucket soon and vacate the living quarters.”

And at some moment we will understand that nothing in what we did and for what we looked into the table, mattered.

The only moments that matter in our lives are those when we do something that is right, when we don’t have to look into the table, when we can simply look each other in the eyes. That’s what matters, everything else doesn’t.

So for me, I won’t deny, this is a painful situation. And the shrewd, sick format that the Kremlin chose to fight me, when in addition to putting me away, they also drag a bunch of innocent people with me. (Petr) Ofitzerov with 5 children, etc. And I have to look his wife in the eyes. Many people of Bolotny case were sent to jail for nothing, just for the sake of intimidating me. And now my brother, and he has wife and two children and I somehow have to face the parents. They understand everything, offer support and I’m very grateful to them.

Let them know: yes, it gets under my skin. The fact that they drag innocent people together with me. But – perhaps I’m going to say a bad thing – even this hostage-taking won’t stop me. Because nothing in life has meaning if we have to bear endless lies, be agreeable to all.

I will never agree with the system that is currently built in the country, because this system is directed towards robbing all of those who are in this room.

Everything is built the way that makes junta exist. There are 20 people who became billionaires who seized everything – from state contracts to oil exports. Then there’s a thousand people who are near that junta’s trough. Not more than a thousand. Then there’s a few percent of active citizens who don’t like it. And then there are millions of those who look into the table. And I won’t stop my fight with this junta. I will continue to agitate and disturb those very people who look into the table, including you.

You know, I don’t regret that I called people for an unsanctioned action. That action on Lubyanka, the one that started it all, frankly, failed. I don’t regret not for a second that I have done it. I don’t regret not for a second that I directed my actions towards fighting corruption, investigating and so on.

Attorney Kobzev a few years ago, when we worked on Gazprom and VTB cases, told me a thing that I remembered: “Alexey, they’ll put you away for sure. Sooner or later they will put you away.”

Naturally, a human conscience compensates for it, it’s impossible to constantly live with the thought “They will put me away.” This thought is being purged from the head, but still, I understand what is going on. I can say that I don’t regret not a single action. And I will further call on people to participate in collective actions, including exercising their right for freedom of congregation. I believe that people have a legal right to rebel against unjust and corrupt power, against a junta that grabbed everything, that siphoned trillions of dollars from our country in the form of oil and gas sales. And what did we get from that? Nothing.

Here I often repeat what I told in my last word during “Kirovles.” We have allowed them – yes we, while looking into the table – to rob us; we have allowed them to transfer stolen money to Europe; we have allowed them to turn us into cattle.

And what have we got? What did they pay us in return? Yes, us – looking into the table? Nothing! Do we have good healthcare? We don’t have healthcare! Do we have education? We don’t have education! Do you have good roads? You don’t have roads.

What is the average salary of a court’s secretary? Or court’s clerk, he may be getting 35 thousand rubles at most. You see! It’s a paradox when a handful of thieves robs us – you – every day. And we take it. I won’t take it anymore.

Secondly, as long as it is needed to stand here, aside from this cage, inside of it – I will stand. I would like, one more time, in conclusion to say that the trick worked there with my family, with my loved ones. But, nonetheless, they support me in everything, although none of them planned to become a political activist. Therefore there’s no need to jail my brother for 8 years or at all. He was never going to be a political activist.

Our family has already endured enough pain and suffering because of this. There’s no need to make it worse. I have already said that “hostage taking” will not stop me. But still I don’t see why the power needs to finish off those hostages.

I call on everyone – and you know, perhaps, it sounds naïve, and it’s customary to laugh and smirk at these words – I call on everyone to not live on lies.

I want to thank everyone for support. I want to call everyone to stop living on lies. I want to say that I’m confident that I will be isolated and put away and so on. But, as they say, his place will be filled with another. There’s nothing unique and complicated in what I did. Anyone can do what I do. I’m confident that in our Foundation and somewhere else there will be people who will continue doing the same thing, regardless of the decision of all these courts, whose only goal is creating the illusion of justice. Thank you.”


2 thoughts on “The People Who Look Into The Table

  1. Anonymous says:

    Hi, very nice translation, but you would want to correct one thing in the paragraph where he refers to “officers with 5 children”. He is talking about a guy named [Petr] Ofitserov, his co-defendant on the Kirovles case, not some military officers. It is a natural mistake to make.

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