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memri
December 2, 2019 No.
1491

Contemporary Russian Thinkers Series – Russian Anti-Liberal Philosopher Alexander Dugin Articulates Russia's Unofficial Ideology: Eurasianism

By: Michael Millerman*


Alexander Dugin (Source: Izborsk-club.ru)

Russia Is America's Major Ideological Competitor

There are great powers on the world stage. But not all of them are ideological powers. The U.S., as the heart of the contemporary West, forms the ideological core of Western liberalism. Liberalism had pretensions to global hegemony after the collapse of the Soviet Union, when there were no other ideological competitors left standing. Today, however, there is a growing consensus that the unipolar moment has ended.[1]

The opposition to the liberal ideology is no longer marginal. It is important under these circumstances to examine not only powers that are growing in relevance geopolitically, but also those acting as influential sources of anti-liberal ideology, exporting ideological resources to meet a growing demand in the West.

The West usually does not treat Russia as a serious ideological force. It typically reduces Putinism to cronyism or fascism, viewing Russia from the perspective of unquestioned liberal supremacy. And yet Russia is arguably America's major ideological competitor, despite the fact that it officially lacks a state ideology. Although de jure the Constitution of the Russian Federation protects ideological diversity and prohibits the establishment of a state ideology,[2] de facto Russia views the political world through the lens of a distinct ideological orientation.

For instance, Russia opposes to claims of the universality of liberal values a defense of civilizational multipolarity.[3] It positions itself as a defender of traditional morality against the West's postmodern opposition to Christian values.[4] And it declaims the excesses of Western political correctness in such areas as gender politics, concluding that liberalism is "obsolete."[5] This ideological orientation reflects a conservative, traditionalist stance, as distinct from postmodern, progressive liberal individualism. Implemented and promoted with varying degrees of intensity and consistency during Putin's rule, it is Russia's unofficial state ideology.

Russian Anti-Liberal Philosopher Dugin Provides Russia With An Ideological Basis To Oppose Western Liberalism

The most detailed theoretical version of Russia's unofficial ideology is Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin's Eurasianism (or, better, neo-Eurasianism). Dugin, an anti-liberal ideologue, a defender of Russia's civilizational uniqueness, and a theorist of civilizational multipolarity, is the founder of the International Eurasian Movement and the author of over 50 books.

In recent years, there has been lively debate about the extent of his direct influence on Putin and the Kremlin, ranging from claims that he is Putin's close advisor to denials that he has ever met Putin at all.[6] More important than the question of direct influence, however, is the question of whether Dugin is articulating a set of ideas that help us understand Russia's conduct on the world stage in its ideological dimension.

There is little doubt that Dugin has had a major influence on anti-liberal ideological discourse in Russia.[7] Dugin has argued that the impression of his direct influence on Putin is simply a result of the veracity of his analyses of Russia's geopolitics and ideological trajectories. In any event, he need not be Putin's whisperer in order to have provided the conceptual resources for Russia to oppose Western liberalism systematically.

Eurasianism Rejects Global Unipolarity; It Is A Multipolar Theory Of Civilizations

The Eurasianists were a group of Russian émigrés who developed theories that called into question the universalism of Western culture, asserting instead that there are many cultures and civilizations with their own internal values.[8]

Scholars have doubted the extent to which Dugin's Eurasianism is a continuation of the classical Eurasian tradition.[9] Dugin's own view is that he has "supplemented" the main theses of Eurasianism "with attention to traditionalism, geopolitics… sociology, and anthropology."[10]

Dugin's main view is that Eurasianism rejects unipolarity. But unlike other movements that oppose unipolarity in the name of the nation-state, Eurasianism opposes unipolarity in the name of regional integration, in order to develop a multipolar world.[11]

Dugin has broadly conceived an order of these regional great spaces, as "four vertical geographical belts": 1) the Anglo-American zone; 2) "Euro-Africa, with the European Union at its centre"; 3) "the Russian-Central Asian zone" or "Pan-Eurasian" zone; and 4) "the Pacific-Far East zone."[12] At times, Dugin expands his model of civilizational multipolarity to include more civilizations; at other times he simplifies the schema to the basic opposition of Land Power and Sea Power.[13] But whether in its minimalist or maximalist version, Eurasianism is a multipolar theory of civilizations and great spaces.

Dugin writes: "Eurasianism is the philosophy of multipolar globalization, appealing to all societies and peoples of the Earth to build an original an authentic world, every component of which organically derives from historical traditions and local cultures."

He then adds: "In the same way as the concept of 'Americanism' today may be applied to geographical regions found outside the borders of the American continent... Eurasianism denotes a distinct civilizational, cultural, philosophical, and strategic choice, which can be made by any individual, regardless of where on the planet he lives or to whichever national and spiritual culture he belongs."[14]

Eurasianism's Principles

Dugin developed five main pillars of Eurasianism:

  1. "differentialism: a plurality of value systems versus the conventional and obligatory domination of a single ideology";
  2. "tradition versus the suppression of cultures, their dogmas, and the wisdom of traditional society";
  3. "the rights of nations versus the 'golden billion' [in the Russian-speaking world, this term refers to the developed nations/the West] and the neocolonial hegemony of the 'rich North'";
  4. "ethnicities as the primary value and the subjects of history versus the homogenization of peoples, which are to be imprisoned within artificial social constructions"; and
  5. "social fairness and human solidarity versus exploitation and the humiliation of man by man."[15]

These pillars are the foundation to build a multipolar world. Multipolarity, Dugin assesses, can grant the right and the freedom to develop a country's potential, to organize a country's domestic reality in accordance with the specific identity of its culture and people. "Multipolarity should be based on the principle of equity among the various kinds of political, social, economic organizations of these nations and states," Dugin writes.[16]

Eurasianism And The "Fourth Political Theory"

The concepts standing behind Eurasianism were detailed by Dugin in his "Fourth Political Theory," which lays the foundations for his political ideology.[17] The basic idea of the Fourth Political Theory is that opposition to liberalism (the first political theory) should be based neither on communism and its variants (the second political theory) nor on fascism and its variants (the third political theory). All three political theories are to be rejected.

The Fourth Political Theory is a theoretical structure encompassing geopolitics, ethnosociology, theology, and existential philosophy, and sometimes also exploring other approaches to the critical analysis of contemporary global politics. The Fourth Political Theory's premises are based on the rejection of post-modernity, the post-industrial society, liberal thought realized in practice, and globalism. Hence, one of the first steps towards a Fourth Political Theory is the "global rehabilitation of tradition."

Concerning Russia, Dugin explains that the only way to ensure Russia's survival is to embrace the fourth theory that rejects Western liberalism, since there is no room for Russia in the "brave new world of world globalism, post-modernity and post-liberalism."

Dugin asserts: "The problem is that all of Russian history is a dialectical argument with the West and Western culture, a battle for the assertion (sometimes grasped only intuitively) of its own Russian truth, its messianic idea... The best Russian minds saw clearly that the West is moving to an abyss, and today, looking at where neoliberal economics and the culture of post-modernity have brought the world, we can be entirely sure that that intuition, pushing a generation of Russian people into a search for alternatives, was absolutely well-founded."

Hence, according to Dugin, "it is clear that Russia has to go another way. Its own way... In order for Russia to be able to save itself and others, it is not enough to think up some technical means... In such a situation, the future of Russia depends directly on our efforts at working out the Fourth Political Theory."[18]

Russia's Eurasian Identity

For Dugin, Russia's identity is Eurasian. Russian culture "belongs to both East and West, and at the same time cannot be reduced either to the former or the latter."[19] Russia is a Eurasian civilization, not a European country.[20] The Russian-Eurasian world is broader than the Russian Federation, which is just one state form. Indeed, as Dugin sees it, contemporary Russia is full of "contradictions" with its own Eurasian identity, since it has sought to copy certain Western models and has been influenced by the liberal pro-Western elite, especially under Dmitry Medvedev's presidency.[21] Putin "defused the situation" and moved Russia back towards its proper Eurasian identity.[22]

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in his article "Russia's Foreign Policy: Historical Background," reiterates that Russia's history, culture, and geography make it a natural bridge between Europe and Asia. It will never be wholly European because of its Mongolian past and its natural expansion eastwards, he says, but its natural Eurasian identity will lead it to expand its political influence across both Europe and Asia.[23]

Eurasianism is the ideology of this expansion. According to Dugin, it is an "imperial ideology" for Russia's "empire built in accordance with a civilization character."[24] "The Eurasian civilization is common to Belarussians, Kazakhs, Yakuts, Chechens, Great Russians, Moldovans, Ossetians, and Abkhazians" – many peoples, but mixing and "enriching each other," but with a constant Russian core.[25]

Whereas, Dugin explains, the Russian Federation is "a kind of empire," it is "an unnatural one, based not on the real cultural habitats of a common civilization but on artificial administrative lines." However, the Eurasian path for Russia is a civilizational empire, based on "history, culture, the Russian language, a common fate... and a similar ethical and religious structure" that unites the Eurasian great space.[26]

Just as Western analysts saw Russia's 2008 war with Georgia as throwing down the gauntlet to NATO and the West, so does Eurasian analysis see that as "a new phase of building an empire." Before Georgia, "Russia's imperial project was virtual."[27] After Georgia, the path was open to establish a civilizational empire for real.

In 2008, Dugin visited South Ossetia and stated: "Our troops will occupy the Georgian capital Tbilisi, the entire country, and perhaps even Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula, which is historically part of Russia, anyway."[28]

The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) Project

There is evidence that the Eurasian idea resonated with both domestic and international actors. In the mid-90s, "direct and indirect references to Eurasianism appear" in the programs of Russian political parties "on the Left, Right, and centre."[29]

Another major development occurred in 1994, when Kazakhstan president Nursultan Nazarbayev "[announced] the idea of the 'Eurasian Union,'" marketing "the first time in the history of Eurasianism" that "a high-ranking politician voices support for its vision and offers concrete measures for its practical implementation."[30]

In 2015, the Kremlin's pet Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) project was established.[31] At the 2016 St. Petersburg International Economic Forum, Putin stressed that the EAEU partners can become one of the centres of a greater emergent integration area. "Now we propose considering the prospects for more extensive Eurasian partnership involving the EAEU and countries with which we already have close partnership – China, India, Pakistan and Iran – and certainly our CIS partners, and other interested countries and associations," Putin stressed.

This is in accordance with Eurasian doctrine, for which Russia's integration of post-Soviet territories in the Eurasian Union is a geopolitical imperative.

In 2011, as Russian prime minister, Putin wrote an article titled "A New Integration Project For Eurasia: The Future In The Making," which outlined the project of the Eurasian Union, and in which he described that only a large space (larger than a single country) integrated along non-Western civilization lines – "based on new values and a new political and economic foundation"[32] – can oppose Western hegemony.

In the article, Putin  stated that such a project does not entail a "revival of the Soviet Union," because "it would be naïve to try to revive or emulate something that has been consigned to history." Proposing instead "a powerful supranational association capable of becoming one of the poles in the modern world and serving as an efficient bridge between Europe and the dynamic Asia-Pacific region."[33]

Putin specified that the Eurasian Union "will be based on universal integration principles."[34] The talk of supranational regional integration and multipolarity, as well as the idea that civilizational-Russia should not be a return to the Soviet model, is straightforward Eurasian ideology at work.

Dugin's International Eurasian Movement's "central objective" is "the creation of the Eurasian Union," which is not a solely about economic union but a "multidimensional" process aimed at "a new political and strategic formation," "the elaboration and realization of integration projects" meant to establish Russia-Eurasia as a full-fledged civilizational alternative to the West, including, just as Putin said, not only the "economy" but "values" and "politics."[35]

 

*Dr. Michael Millerman holds a Ph.D in Political Science from the University of Toronto. He is the leading translator from Russian into English of Russian political philosopher Alexander Dugin.

 

 

[1] Fareed Zakaria, "The Self-Destruction of American Power," Foreign Affairs July/August 2019, oreignaffairs.com/articles/2019-06-11/self-destruction-american-power. Charles Krauthammer himself did not think the unipolar moment would last forever. As he wrote in 1999, "History has not ended; it only looks that way. The great struggle of the 21st century – to dethrone America – has already begun." Charles Krauthammer, "A Second American Century?" December 20, 1999, Edition.cnn.com/ALLPOLITICS/time/1999/12/20/american.century.html.

[2] See Constitution.ru/en/10003000-02.htm.

[4] At the meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club in 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated: "We can see how many of the Euro-Atlantic countries are actually rejecting their roots, including the Christian values that constitute the basis of Western civilization. They are denying moral principles and all traditional identities: national, cultural, religious and even sexual. They are implementing policies that equate large families with same-sex partnerships, belief in God with the belief in Satan." (Kremlin.ru, September 19, 2013; read the full transcript).

[5] Vladimir Putin says liberalism has 'become obsolete', Ft.com, June 27, 2019. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8309, "Russian President Putin: The Liberal Model Has 'Lost All Flavor – Even Where It Still Works'", October 8, 2019. MEMRI Inquiry and Analysis No. 1473, "A Common Europe Stretching From Lisbon to Vladivostok No Longer Appeals To Putin; Europe Must First Preserve Its Own Civilization", September 19, 2019.

[6] See for instance Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn, "Putin's Brain," Foreign Affair, March 31, 2014; John Mitchinson, "Is Alexander Dugin Putin's Brain?" Byline Times, April 15, 2019; Amos Barshad, "Putin's Rasputin," Longreads, July 11, 2019; Claude Forthomme, "The Deadly Ideology Driving Putin: Eurasianism," March 14, 2019; George Barros, "The West Overestimates Aleksandr Dugin's Influence in Russia," Providence, July 8, 2019.

[7] See for instance Charles Clover, Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia's New Nationalism (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2016), Part III.

[8] Alexander Dugin, Eurasian Mission (London: Arktos, 2014), 9, 17-22.

[9] Andreas Umland, "Why Aleksandr Dugin's 'Neo-Eurasianism' Is Not Eurasianist," New Eastern Europe, June 8, 2018, Neweasterneurope.eu/2018/06/08/aleksandr-dugins-neo-eurasianism-not-eurasianist.

[10] Dugin, The Fourth Political Theory, 100. Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 11.

[11] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 42-43. Alexander Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory (London: Arktos, 2017), Chapter 4.

[12] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 47.

[13] Dugin, The Fourth Political Theory, 117-120; Dugin, "Theory of a Multipolar World," (London: Arktos), forthcoming. Alexander Dugin, Last War of the World-Island: The Geopolitics of Contemporary Russia (London: Arktos, 2015).

[14] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 69.

[15] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 54.

[16] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 93.

[19] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 17.

[20] Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 199.

[21]Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 161-165.

[22] Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 165.

[24] Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 108.

[25] Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 111.

[26] Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 111.

[27] Dugin, The Rise of the Fourth Political Theory, 108.

[28] Spiegel.de, August 25, 2008.

[29] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 25.

[30] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 26.

[31] Eaeunion.org

[32] Izvestia, October 3, 2011; Russianmission.eu, October 3, 2011.

[33] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series No.1239, Understanding Russian Political Ideology And Vision: A Call For Eurasia, From Lisbon To Vladivostok, March 23, 2016; Izvestia, October 3, 2011; Russianmission.eu, October 3, 2011.

[34] Izvestia, October 3, 2011; Russianmission.eu, October 3, 2011.

[35] Dugin, Eurasian Mission, 78-80.