Open Access Journal

ISSN: 2183-2439

Article | Open Access

‘Four Populisms’ of Alexey Navalny: An Analysis of Russian Non-Systemic Opposition Discourse on YouTube

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Abstract:  The rise of populist movements across the globe has instigated considerable research interest into populism, predominantly in Western democracies. Non-democratic Russia, however, is not exempt from this populist trend, and distinguishable populist rhetoric can be observed both inside and outside the establishment. Alexey Navalny, who regularly organises mass protests in Russia, is considered to be an outsider of systemic politics. Despite several unsuccessful attempts to be elected, his popularity continues to grow, largely due to digital instruments such as YouTube. In light of limited press freedom, YouTube has become one of the most trustworthy platforms for Navalny to publish his investigative documentaries about Russian corruption. In his videos, Navalny adopts a populist communication style to oppose himself to Putin’s ‘corrupt’ elite. Different investigative journalism practices help Navalny to discredit the establishment, whereas his activist appeals may motivate his supporters to engage in political action. In this article, I explore how Navalny combines the practices of investigative journalism and civic activism in his populist communication on YouTube. Using the method of content analysis, I explore a case study of Navalny’s YouTube communication and reveal four types of populism which play a special role in his narration. These are ‘superficial,’ ‘investigative,’ ‘radical,’ and ‘advocacy’ populisms. Advocacy populism, for instance, provides evidence of corruption elite crimes through journalism practices and in calling people to political action. The most visible concentration of these parts of narration was observed in YouTube videos released by the activist before and during anti-corruption protests of 2017.

Keywords:  corruption; digital activism; investigative journalism; opposition; populism; press freedom; YouTube



© Sofya Glazunova. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (, which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.