Jewish Savvy Gives Challenger Boost in Moscow Mayor Race

Underdog Alexei Navalny Takes on Putin Favorite

Moscow Mayoral: Candidate Alexei Navalny, shown hugging his wife, is denying making anti-Semitic comments.
getty images
Moscow Mayoral: Candidate Alexei Navalny, shown hugging his wife, is denying making anti-Semitic comments.

By Cnaan Liphshiz

Published September 03, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(JTA) — On the rooftop of a Soviet-era apartment block, a young man straps into climbing gear and rappels down the side as a small gathering of city workers and police officers watch from below.

On the way down, the climber stops at a balcony and tears loose one of the thousands of banners hung across Moscow bearing the name of Alexei Navalny, a nationalist anti-corruption crusader and the leading challenger in Moscow’s Sept. 8 mayoral elections.

The banners, which authorities are removing from private residences on the grounds that they violate advertising regulations, are part of a campaign strategy developed for Navalny by Leonid Volkov and Maksim Kats, two tech-savvy Jews who are providing Navalny with outside-the-box strategies designed to offset his disadvantage against the incumbent, Sergey Sobyanin, who is backed by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Authorities have intimidated ad agencies out of working with us, so we crowd-sourced,” said Volkov, 32, a venture capitalist turned opposition politician. “Now they move to sabotage that, too.”

Navalny’s candidacy has divided Russian Jews, who are torn between the candidate of an establishment that has been generally good for the Jews and an opposition leader with nationalist associations some find troubling who nevertheless promises to restore democracy and good governance.

A firebrand whose critics accuse him of populism, Navalny apologized for calling Georgians “rodents” in 2008. But he has defended his appearance at nationalist marches and his calls for deporting illegal migrants.

Last week, several Jewish media outlets reported that Navalny had raised a toast to the Holocaust at a reception in Moscow last year – a story that reportedly was placed by an Israeli public relations firm. Navalny categorically denied the story, as did several Jews who were in attendance.

Navalny also has had legal troubles. In July, he was convicted of embezzlement, a ruling that may land him in jail for five years if he loses his appeal. Navalny is being investigated as well in connection with two other corruption probes that he says are fabricated. Many of his supporters have been detained by police.

“What I hear of Navalny does not sound good,” said Boruch Gorin, a top Chabad rabbi and editor in chief of L’chaim, a Russian Jewish monthly. “When I look at Putin’s party, I can say they have been good not only to the Jews but for multicultural Russia. And I am sure many Moscow Jews and non-Jews will remember this when voting.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Is pot kosher for Passover. The rabbis say no, especially for Ashkenazi Jews. And it doesn't matter if its the unofficial Pot Day of April 20.
  • A Ukrainian rabbi says he thinks the leaflets ordering Jews in restive Donetsk to 'register' were a hoax. But the disturbing story still won't die.
  • Some snacks to help you get through the second half of Passover.
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love. http://jd.fo/f3JiS
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:http://jd.fo/g3IyM
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.