Alexei Navalny has been awarded the European Union’s top human rights award – the Sakharov Prize for the Freedom of Thought.
Andrei Sakharov is the most famous Soviet dissident and a nuclear scientist who invented the H-bomb but later become a very powerful critic of the Soviet regime, advanced the cause of human rights around the world and eventually received well-deserved recognition not only abroad but in Russia as well.
The first recipients of this prize, in 1988, were Nelson Mandela and Anatoly Marchenko.
Mandela spent almost 30 years in prison but went on to become the President of South Africa. He needs no introduction.
Anatoly Marchenko was a soviet dissident and human rights campaigner; he spent 20 years in prison and died at age 48 in hospital, as a result of a three-month-long hunger strike whose goal was the release of all Soviet prisoners of conscience. The widespread international outcry over his death was a major factor in finally pushing Mikhail Gorbachev to authorize the large-scale amnesty of political prisoners in 1987.
We truly hope that Alexei Navalny does not spend nearly as much time in prison as either Mandela or Marchenko and that he is able to affect major positive change in Russia without dying.