The West was forewarned. It has been no secret that a grand imperialist vision of a vast new Eurasian empire drives Vladimir Putin and the cadre of Russian ultra-nationalists who surround him. Central to this vision are the heartland states of Russia and Ukraine, which is why the latter must be subordinated to the Kremlin as the first step in this grand strategy.
Tragically, the globalist elites who dominate Western politics have refused to even recognize the existence of this vision, much less acknowledge its ideological and psychological power. These elites have displayed only weakness and lack of direction and resolve, confirming Putin’s conviction that the West is in sharp decline and that the time for a new autocratic world order has arrived.
Neo-Eurasianism. At the centre of this vision is the political religion of Neo-Eurasianism, exemplified by the work of its high priest, Aleksandr Dugin (above), whose spiritualized neo-fascist imperialism is based on an all-encompassing rage against liberalism, globalization, modernity, and the West in general – what he and his followers call the ‘Atlanticist World Order’, exemplified by NATO, the EU, and a terminally weakened US.
Dugin & the Radical Right. Only recently have commentators been able to foreground the importance of Dugin in the development of an elaborate anti-liberal ideology and establish links between it and major ideological movements on the Radical Right in the West. For example, Benjamin R. Teitelbaum’s War for Eternity: The Return of Traditionalism and the Rise of the Populist Right (2020) explores the close ideological association between Dugin and Steve Bannon, a one-time key aid to Donald Trump. Dugin also has a chapter devoted to him in Key Thinkers of the Radical Right: Behind the New Threat to Liberal Democracy, edited by Mark Sedgwick (2019), a key scholar in this field and author of Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (2004). Central to these analyses is the political use being made by Dugin of the esoteric new religious movement of Traditionalism, which we will discuss later.
Holy Mission. Dugin was a professor of sociology at Moscow State University, a prolific author, prominent media commentator and political activist. He exercises a “quasi-monopoly” over nationalist thought in Russia, according to Marlène Laruelle in Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire (2008). He operates on “the assumption that Russian society and Russia’s political establishment are in search of a new ideology” of imperialism, which it is his (literally) holy mission to provide. As he makes clear in The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia (1997):
Eurasia and our space, the heartland Russia, remain the staging area of a new anti-bourgeois, anti-American revolution … The new Eurasian empire will be constructed on the fundamental principle of the common enemy: the rejection of Atlanticism, This common civilizational impulse will be the basis of a political and strategic union.
Ukraine’s Role. Within this grandiose geopolitical scheme Ukraine plays an essential role and Dugin has been an outspoken advocate of the Russian insurgents operating there, seeking to bind the country close to Russia. Along with other ultranationalists he championed their cause, raising funds, recruiting volunteers, and using their influence within Russia’s security establishment to provide more direct support for the insurgency. This support has been extreme. For example, after the MH17 atrocity, Dugin failed to express any regrets and instead complained on his Facebook page that the insurgents’ task would be made more difficult by the act of mass murder. At the same time, he demanded that Ukrainians must be “killed, killed, killed”, and promoted the horrific allegation, featured on Russian television that Ukrainians “took a child, three years old, a little boy … wearing little briefs and a T-shirt and … nailed him, like Jesus, to the bulletin board”.
‘Putin’s Brain’. Dugin is “Putin’s Brain”, according to Anton Barbashin and Hannah Thoburn in a Foreign Affairs article, while Robert Zubrin concluded in National Review Online that “Dugin is the mad philosopher who is redesigning the brains of much of the Russian government and public, filling their minds with a new hate-ridden totalitarian ideology whose consequences can only be catastrophic in the extreme, not only for Russia, but for the entire human race”. According to Zubrin, “Eurasianism is a Satanic cult”
The Fourth Political Theory. Zubrin relies for this extreme assessment on a 2012 study by James Heiser, “The American Empire Should Be Destroyed”, which emphasizes the religious and apocalyptic dimensions of Dugin’s version of Neo-Eurasianism: “Dugin’s intended goal, his telos, is the End of the World and … that end is dependent … on the implementation of his ideology”. And as Dugin himself has declared in his book, The Fourth Political Theory (2012), this objective demands a form of spiritualized mass militancy:
The end times and the eschatological meaning of politics will not realize themselves on their own … The end will never come if we wait for it … If the Fourth Political Practice is not able to realize the end of times, then it would be invalid. The End of Days should come, but it will not come by itself. This is a task, it is not a certainty. It is an active metaphysics. It is a practice.
Good vs Evil. Like previous forms of apocalypticism, Dugin’s view is dualistic, depicting the world as a battleground within which the forces of good and evil, light and darkness, spirit and matter, contend for the fate of the planet. In Dugin’s version of apocalypticism, it is the ‘Atlanticist New World Order’ based on liberalism, modernity, and materialism, that represents the forces of evil, while the peoples of Eurasia with their stronger spirituality constitute (or will soon constitute) the ‘New Eurasian Order’ and form the vanguard for the forces for good.
Death Wish. Dugin’s national death wish is emphasized by Stephen Shenfield in Russian Fascism (2001), who cited Dugin’s insistence in The End of the World (1997) that:
The meaning of Russia is that through the Russian people will be realized the last thought of God, the thought of the End of the World … Death is the way to immortality. Love will begin when the world ends. We must long for it, like true Christians … We are uprooting the accursed Tree of Knowledge. With it will perish the Universe.
Shenfield also observed that, when a critic pointed out Dugin’s “real dream is of death, first of all the death of Russia”, Dugin responded that this betrays the critic’s failure “to appreciate the positive significance of death”.
How to React? As Heiser concluded about Dugin:
it is hard to know how to react to someone who claims to want to bring about the end of the world … It is a claim which evokes a snicker – until one realizes that the man who thinks that the ‘meaning of Russia’ is ‘the End of the World’ is the man whose geopolitical doctrine is being implemented by the ruler of Russia.
Ideological Context. In another assessment, Ingo Mannteufel, in Deutsche Welle, outlined the broader ideological context of Dugin’s work:
Eurasianism was developed in 1920 by Russian emigrants who combined in their ideology elements of anti-liberalism, nationalism and anti-Semitism … Until a few years ago they were marginal views, held by political crackpots and conspiracy theorists”, but in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union they found their way into mainstream political discourse and now, “in Putin’s remarks and policies since 2011/2012, echoes of Eurasianism have become increasingly apparent.
The Far Right. This aligned Russia with the far-right in Europe where the “increasingly strong right-wing populist movements with their anti-liberal, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-American views correspond exactly to the Eurasian ideology being propagated in Russia”. Unsurprisingly, “Putin speaks … positively about right-wing populist politicians and parties like Marine Le Pen’s National Front”, and consequently
Eurasianism and its individual ideological components will … shape the European political debate over the coming decades. Eurasianism is not a Russian rejection of Europe, as is often erroneously thought. It’s the concept of another Europe – namely, an anti-liberal and anti-American one.
Fear of Atlanticism. Fear that the ‘Atlantic Alliance’ will continue to remake the world to suit its own interests has long consumed the Russia defence establishment, according to Theodore Karasik and Heinrich Matthee in “Russia’s Emerging Defence and Security Doctrine” (Eurasia Review 11 June, 2014). “Russian military strategists see a new world order emerging where an alternative and anti-thesis to the West is necessary”. Speeches by the Russian Defence Minister and the Military Chief of Staff revealed that “the Russian security elites appear to be formulating a new Russian security and foreign policy doctrine”, based on “the necessity for the Russian/Eurasian civilization to counteract aggression from the Atlantic civilization led by the US”, which “intends to disassemble Russian statehood and gain global hegemony”.
Holy Mission. In response to this scenario, the Kremlin has adopted a “holy mission” – to preserve Russian culture and combat the moral decay promoted by their Atlanticist enemies. Much of the battle must be fought at the ideological level, and to combat liberalism, Russia must promote an alternative post-liberal, statist form of conservatism, “which defends tradition, conservative values, and true liberty” within a new Eurasian civilization.
Confusion. Commentators have struggled to find a term to accurately describe this ideological position. As Aaron Rhodes pointed out in the Washington Times, “it has been called, among other things, ’19th-century Russian imperialism,’ ‘neo-czarism,’ ‘nationalism,’ ‘national socialism,’ ‘neo-totalitarianism,’ ‘neo-Sovietism,’ ‘fascism’ and ‘neo-fascism’. The simplest approach is to recognize that it has elements of all these positions but to accept the name it gives itself, Neo-Eurasianism, and then explore in detail what Dugin means by it.
Background. Dugin comes from a prominent military family with strong connections with the security and intelligence services. He claims to possess several doctorates and has been Director of the Center for Conservative Studies and was Head of the Department of Sociology of International Relations at Moscow State University. He also served as an adviser to the Speaker of the Russian State Duma, who was a leading member of the ruling United Russia Party. Dugin has also worked as a journalist and as political commentator, appearing on prime-time political talk shows and publishing articles in the mainstream media. He also has a prominent Internet presence, both in his own right and via front organizations, and is obviously a very prolific author.
The Foundations of Geopolitics. Dugin’s most important book is The Foundations of Geopolitics. Written in conjunction with leading military figures, it is used as a textbook in the General Staff Academy and other educational institutions, and is very influential amongst the Russian political, military, security, defence, and foreign policy elites. Taking its departure from Dugin’s unyielding rejection of liberal, democratic, and capitalist ‘Atlanticism’ it depicts Russia as “the staging area of a new anti-bourgeois, anti-American revolution” in a battle for global domination.
New Forms of Warfare. Crucially for understanding the Ukraine crisis, it is remarkable for the extent to which it describes the new forms of warfare that have increasingly prominent since the 9/11 attacks and the War on Terror. Conventional types of combat are to play a relatively minor role in favour of a coordinated program of disinformation, demoralization, destabilization, subversion, and insurgency, with elite Russian special forces, sponsored militias, and other covert services (e.g., cyberwarfare) in the vanguard. It describes in detail how Russia should use its oil, gas, and other natural resources to intimidate other countries, with the ultimate goal being the ‘Finlandization’ of Europe. Within this system of dependency Germany would be allowed to exercise hegemony over Central and Eastern Europe and encouraged to form a ‘Franco-German bloc’ as a bulwark against America. Great Britain would be driven out of any alliance with Europe and isolated, while most other countries would be either absorbed into the new Eurasian empire or given subordinate ‘special statuses’ alongside it.
Ukraine as Special Case. In his grand Eurasianist strategy, Dugin sees Ukraine as a special case and its annexation as essential. In his view, its independence “represents an enormous danger for all of Eurasia and, without resolving the Ukrainian problem, it is in general senseless to speak about continental politics”. Consequently, he welcomed Putin’s claim a decade ago that the Ukrainian state no longer existed and was therefore not protected by treaties or law. This allegedly legitimized any military action that the Russian Parliament authorized Putin to carry out.
Russian-Islamic Alliance. Further afield, the book insists that a “continental Russian-Islamic alliance [must lie] at the foundation of anti-Atlanticist strategy”, and is to be based on the shared “traditional character of Russian and Islamic civilizations”. Central to this alliance is Iran, and the creation of a “Moscow-Tehran Axis” is essential. China is to be encouraged to expand eastwards and southwards, dominating Indochina and Oceania, including Australia.
Subversion. As far as America is concerned, Russia must not hesitate to use all forms of subversion to create social disharmony and instability. This would involve the provocation of “Afro-American racists” and the encouragement of “all kinds of separatism and ethnic, social and racial conflicts, actively supporting all dissident movements – extremist, racist, and sectarian groups, thus destabilizing internal political processes [and supporting] isolationist tendencies in American politics”.
The Fourth Political Theory. As part of this strategy of ideological subversion Dugin published The Fourth Political Theory (2012), accompanied by its website, 4pt. A synthesis of anti-liberal political ideologies, including elements of communism and fascism, augmented with ideas from radical environmentalism and Integral Traditionalism, Dugin’s theory is designed to have the widest possible appeal. He condemns the cosmopolitan Atlanticism of Western Europe and America as a homogenizing force that annihilates the diversity of traditional cultures, only to replace them the spiritual and cultural vacuity of liberalism, materialism, capitalism, secularism, and consumerism. Dugin believes these are literally the forces of the anti-Christ and to combat them he calls for the mobilization of the peoples of Eurasia led by Russia, and including the former Soviet republics, Germany, Central and Eastern Europe, Turkey, and Iran, thus forging a ‘natural’ alliance with Islam while also ensuring Russian access to warm water ports.
The Evil of Liberalism. According to Dugin, “liberalism is an absolute evil [and] only a global crusade against the U.S., the West, [and] globalization [is] an adequate response”. “The American empire should be destroyed” because it is the “Kingdom of the Anti-Christ”, and to accomplish this Russia needs to embrace a “genuine, true, radically revolutionary and consistent, fascist fascism”, as proposed in The Fourth Political Theory. As Zubrin observes, aside from its anti-industrial and anti-technology declarations adopted to appeal to environmentalists, and its Traditionalist veneer of spirituality, most of the book “is straight out of Nazism, ranging from legal theories justifying unlimited state power and the elimination of individual rights, to the need for populations ‘rooted’ in the soil, to weird Gnostic ideas about the secret origin of the Aryan race in the North Pole”.
Websites. Aside from 4pt, Dugin also promoted his views on other websites, including Arctogaia (which features a summary of Foundations), Open Revolt, and New Resistance. The latter presents itself as
a loose network of American and Canadian fourth political theorists, national revolutionaries, Eurasianists, National Bolsheviks, left-nationalists, right-wing anti-capitalists and non-dogmatic left-wing radicals who advocate a wide-ranging and multi-leveled resistance to neo-liberal economic policies, Anglo-US imperialism and Zionist influence in the media and government.
This ideological ‘rainbow coalition’ epitomizes the radicalized mass constituency that Dugin believes exists to implement his political programme.
Ideological Sources. In developing this complex ideological and political programme, Dugin has followed a strange intellectual trajectory, as he makes clear in “The Long Path”, an interview published on the Open Revolt website in May 2014. There he identifies the principle influences on his syncretic Weltanschauung, which will now be reviewed.
Traditionalism. We begin with the esoteric form of spiritual philosophy called Traditionalism, which forms the intellectual foundation of Dugin’s thought:
In my early youth I was deeply inspired by Traditionalism of René Guénon and Julius Evola. That was my definitive choice of camp – on the side of sacred Tradition against the modern (and post-modern) world. This choice and all consequences are still there in the present. I firmly stand for spiritual and religious values against actual decadent materialist and perverted culture.
“Traditionalism [is] the philosophic focus of all my later developments”, he declared emphatically, and he explored the field and its relevance to the Russian situation in works like The Ways of the Absolute (1989), Templars of the Proletariat (1997), and The Philosophy of Traditionalism (2002).
Anti-Modernism.Traditionalism (aka Perennialism) refers to the anti-modernist worldview of a loose community of esotericists who believe that the world’s major religious traditions share a transcendent unity and are all founded on the one primordial Truth. They believe also that these traditions have all diverged from this primal metaphysical revelation over the millennia, and that its full nature has become lost or occluded, so that the exoteric dogmas, doctrines, and teachings of any tradition now offer only a pale shadow of the original revelation upon which it was based. This has led to the progressive decline of civilization from a sacralized, hierarchical order to the vapid materialistic consumer society that surrounds us, along with various other pathologies that Traditionalists insist infect the contemporary world, which they see as irredeemably decadent. However, the opportunity still exists for determined scholars and initiates like themselves to penetrate beyond the corrupted superficial exoteric shell to the pristine esoteric core of the tradition to which they adhere, which in practice has usually been Sufism, Hindu Vedanta, or certain forms of Christianity, and to then perhaps serve as a spiritual elite able to guide society back towards the Truth. The major Traditionalists include René Guénon, Frithjof Schuon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Julius Evola, Titus Burckhardt, Martin Lings, Marco Pallis, and Seyyed Hossein Nasr.
Modern Phenomenon. Like the various forms of religious fundamentalism, Traditionalism is a twentieth-century phenomenon that is best seen as an extreme reaction to the desacralizing effects of liberalism and modernity, as Dugin makes clear in the interview: “Liberalism [is] the main enemy and the final incarnation of the spirit of Modernity that was always considered by me as the absolute evil (in the sense of Guénon and Evola)”. And as he says elsewhere:
I share the vision of René Guénon and Julius Evola, who considered modernity and its ideological basis (individualism, liberal democracy, capitalism, consumerism, and so on) to be the cause of the future catastrophe of humanity, and the global domination of the Western lifestyle as the reason for the degradation of the Earth.
Hatred. Dugin’s hatred of the West was accentuated in the early 1990s after its victory in the Cold War and the collapse of Communism. This caused him to shift “from more classical right Traditionalism”, which directed its rage against the Soviet state, to what he calls left Traditionalism or National Bolshevism, which directs its rage against the West and the modern world, embracing “a total refusal of liberalism identified as the ideology that … has proved to be more consistently modern and identical with the very nature, [the] very essence of Modernity”.
The European New Right. A second influence cited by Dugin is the European New Right, which is a synthesis of the inter-war ‘conservative revolutionary’ thought of Oswald Spengler, Otto Strasser, Ernst Jünger, and Martin Heidegger, the post-war neo-fascism of Francis Parker Yockey, elements of the New Left, and recent neo-fascists, including Jean-François Thiriart, who moved from the extreme left to the extreme right, serving in the Waffen SS but later advising the Black Panthers and Fatah, before ending up as a National Bolshevik and ally of Dugin. Key organizations with close links to Dugin (and Putin) include the National Front in France, the British National Party, German National Democratic Party, Freedom Party of Austria, Golden Dawn in Greece, Platform for Catalonia in Spain, and Jobbik in Hungary. These generally insist they transcend the Left-Right distinction and are engaged in a form of metapolitics, with a focus on national identity and culture, and the battle to preserve traditional European civilization, as they see it.
Marriage of Convenience. This alignment represents “the Kremlin’s [ideological] marriage of convenience with the European far right”, according to Anton Shekhovtsov in Open Democracy in April 2014. He argues that Russia is using the extreme right to discredit and undermine European political institutions: “Since Russia is unable to win over the West by fair-and-square competition, i.e. by advancing economy, technology, culture, human capital, etc., it can only become the superpower by weakening other actors”. “Consolidated democracy and good governance” in the West are therefore primary targets.
Geopolitics. A third influence on Dugin is geopolitics. In his interview he recalls “discovering the classical works of Mackinder, Weltpolitik, Spickman and Haushoffer”, and he notes their similarity to the work of the original Eurasianists who constituted a major political movement amongst the Russian émigré community in the 1920s. Like the earlier Slavophiles, they argued that the civilization of Russia has its own unique origins, institutions, traditions, religion, and character, and must be kept distinct from that of Europe. The movement was destroyed by a Soviet counterintelligence operation but, in Dugin’s view, it tried “to create an original ideology combining tradition, conservatism, [and] Slavophile concepts with some contemporary notions in the field of geopolitics”. These insights became “the starting point of Neo-Eurasianism, developed by me from the middle 80′s when the main features of a new world vision [became] clear to me”, and remain central to his vision is a Eurasian heartland based on Russia.
The Geographical Pivot of History. The famous ‘Heartland Theory’ was articulated by Halford J. Mackinder in “The Geographical Pivot of History” (1904), and he later developed it into an influential theory of the evolution of civilization across the globe. According to this, the ‘World-Island’, comprising the contiguous continental zones of Europe, Asia, and Africa, was the determinative entity in human history. At its core was the Eurasian Heartland, ruled principally at the time by Russia and later the Soviet Union, and possessing a vast share of the world’s natural resources. Beyond this were the ‘Offshore Islands’, including the United Kingdom and Japan, and further away still were the ‘Outlying Islands’, including North America, South America, and Oceania, whose entry into world history has been comparatively recent and whose societies are derivative of the civilizations of the World-Island. In a later book, Democratic Ideals and Reality (1919), Mackinder sought to influence the Paris Peace Conference by emphasizing the central role of the Heartland, insisting that:
Who rules East Europe commands the Heartland; Who rules the Heartland commands the World Island; Who rules the World Island commands the World.
At the time, it appears only the Nazis and the original Eurasianists were paying attention to these insights, until Dugin and his followers resurrected the idea of the world-dominating Eurasian Heartland as a key component of their ideological rationale for the next stage in the centuries-long history of Russian imperialism.
The Nazi Precedent. That Dugin’s ideological mélange could gain political traction might seem barely credible. However, Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany are grim examples of how this can occur under the right circumstances, and much of what Dugin is proposing is a reformulation of ideology and strategy from the fascist era. Indeed, Alfred Rosenberg played a role as primary ideologue within the Nazi regime analogous to that presently played by Dugin in Russia. Rosenberg’s tome, The Myth of the Twentieth Century (1930), also raged against ‘liberal imperialism’, and promoted similar geopolitical ideas including the establishment of a vast Eurasian Heartland to be dominated, in his version, by Germany.
‘The greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century’ Ultimately, the key to Dugin’s influence is that he has achieved a synthesis of concepts derived from various sources to construct a comprehensive system of ultra-nationalism at a critical time in Russian history. The prominence of Neo-Eurasianism reflects the failure of Russia to seize the opportunities that opened up with the disintegration of the Soviet Union nearly a quarter of a century ago. There had been a hope that some form of liberal democratic regime would emerge, but that didn’t eventuate, and the collapse of the Soviet Union left Russia without a national identity or a sense of destiny, just a growing conviction that the once superpower colossus had been cheated by the West and betrayed by history. As Putin lamented in 2005: the collapse of the Soviet empire was “the greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the century”, and it was his destiny to reverse this disaster.
Despotism & Imperialism. This prompted a resurgence of statist imperialism, as Marcel Van Herpen makes clear in Putin’s Wars: The Rise of Russia’s New Imperialism (2014): “in Russia empire building and despotism have always tended to go hand in hand”, and after a period of ‘empire fatigue’ in post-Soviet Russia, the ascension of Putin marked the resumption of this historic tendency. Putin was “convinced that in order the empire he needed to rule for at least twenty years [and] put a system in place that guaranteed this”, essentially terminating the democratic experiment and transforming the ruling ‘United Russia’ party “from a centrist party into a revanchist and ultra-nationalist party”. It appears that we are now entering the later stages of this long-term Eurasianist strategy and that the people of Ukraine are to be its first mass victims.