Peter Rigaud—Laif/Redux

In a world increasingly focused on self-interest and self-preservation, Russian opposition activist Alexei Navalny did the unimaginable this year: he was selfless and brave. In January, after recovering in Germany from a nearly fatal poisoning, Navalny returned to Russia. Despite—or potentially because of—the considerable domestic and global attention on his attempted assassination and return, he was arrested upon landing. The subsequent protests supporting him were brutally suppressed, and this summer a Russian court banned his political and anticorruption organizations, calling them extremist. Many of his allies have been detained or forced to flee the country.

Navalny now sits in one of Russia’s worst prisons, his life in the hands of a dictator who all evidence says already tried to kill him once for exposing the grotesque corruption of his regime. Navalny saw no alternative to risking everything to make a difference in his country. Even the all-powerful Vladimir Putin recognizes the power of a single man without fear.

Kasparov is the chairman of the Human Rights Foundation

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