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February 3, 2021

Classroom Resource: Calls for mass protests in Russia after opposition leader is sentenced to prison

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Directions: Watch the short video clip, read the summary below and then answer the discussion questions.  To read a transcript of the video, click here

Summary: A court on Tuesday sentenced Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny to more than two years in prison. Since his return from Germany last month after an assassination attempt in Russia, tens of thousands have taking to the street to protest his detention.

  • Opposition leader Alexei Navalny was arrested for violating the terms of parole stemming from a conviction in 2013 for embezzlement, or stealing money from his own organization. The original conviction is believed by many to have been politically motivated. In Russia, Navalny has been the best known opposition leader to President Vladimir Putin. Putin has maintained power in the country as president or prime minister since 1999.
  • Though Russia elects presidents, opposition leaders are often disqualified from running or arrested, thus helping Putin and his party maintain power for over two decades.
  • Almost 10,000 protesters have been detained by authorities since the beginning of protests around Navalny’s arrest and other demands for reforms.

Discussion:

Warm up questions: 

  1. Who is Alexei Navalny, and what role does he have in Russian politics?
  2. What was the official reason that Navalny was arrested?
  3. Why did Navalny return to Russia recently?
  4. When did Vladimir Putin first come to power in Russia?
  5. How has the government of Russia responded to protests over Navalny’s imprisonment?

Focus questions:

  1. Supporters of Alexei Navalny have asked democratic governments to pressure Russia to release Navalny. Why do you think they believe outside pressure is important? Do you think such pressure will be helpful? Why or why not?
  2. What makes a country a democracy? Do you think Russia is a democracy? Why or why not?

Media literacy: What extra background about Russia would you like to have to better understand what’s happening in that country?

Dig Deeper: Have students compare contemporary threats to democracy around the world.

  • First, use the resource above to explore what’s going on in Russia.
  • Then use this resource to explore the current military coup in Myanmar after years of  push toward democratic reform.
  • Finally, use this resource to discuss the Capitol insurrection that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington, DC.

Ask your students:

  • What protections does the United States have to prevent a military coup or a totalitarian regime from taking over? How could you find out if you’re not sure?
  • What are some threats to those protections for democracy in the United States?

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