Aleksandr Dugin (b. 1962) is perhaps best known as the leading exponent in contemporary Russia of Eurasianism, an increasingly fashionable political doctrine, referred to by scholars such as Marlène Laruelle as “neo-Eurasianism.” He is also, however, one of Russia’s leading exponents of Traditionalism, a school of thought of early twentieth-century French origin which might be classed as a philosophy, but has occult roots and is usually seen by scholars as a form of esotericism. A form of Traditionalism that is both distinctively Soviet and distinctively Russian, this article will argue, lies at the heart of Dugin’s politics. This form of Traditionalism is, in important ways, a continuation into the post-Soviet era of one aspect of Soviet civilization, occult dissident culture. Dugin and his activities are generally regarded with alarm in some circles in Russia and the West, where he is regarded as a dangerous “neo-fascist.” Whether or not the Dugin phenomenon is dangerous, and if so to whom, are questions this article will not address. Neither will it address the relationship between the Dugin phenomenon and neo-fascism.
The Dugin phenomenon
Since 1967, Aleksandr Dugin has been involved in what is at first sight a bewildering array of groups and positions, starting at the margins of Russian political and intellectual life, and becoming ever more prominent. The “Dugin phenomenon,” however, becomes comprehensible if analyzed on three levels: the public, the political, and the intellectual.(1)
Dugin is at present most widely known in Russia at the public level, as a frequent commentator on foreign (and sometimes domestic) affairs in the Russian media. The fall of the Berlin wall was “a shameful event” for Russia, Dugin tells km.ru.(2) The West is using “new ways of trying to impose their vision of a unipolar world on all humanity,” he tells ITAR-TASS.(3) Protest rallies in Moldova have been organized by the U.S.A., he explains in Komsomol’skaia pravda.(4) At this public level, Dugin’s views and comments are plentiful, but not especially remarkable. They might be described as Great Russian nationalist, anti-American, or Soviet-imperial nostalgic, positions that have become increasingly common in recent years. There is much more to Dugin’s views than this, however.
At the political level, Dugin is at present the leader of the Eurasian Movement, and thus the leading spokesman for Eurasianism, a political philosophy which promotes Eurasian solidarity against the Atlantic world, and which thus fits well with currently fashionable nationalist and anti-American positions. Its declared objective is “to draw people together to work for prosperity and peace throughout the [Eurasian] continent, to build and care for our common Eurasian home.”(5)
The Eurasian Movement, established in 2001, is the successor, as Dugin’s main organizational vehicle, of the National Bolshevik Party (NBP), which he established in 1993 with the novelist Ėduard Limonov (b. 1943) and the musi- cian Egor Letov (1964–2008),(6) but left in 1998 as a result of various disappointments, and a split with Limonov (Letov was never particularly active).(7) The central political positions of the Eurasian Movement and the NBP organi- zations are quite different, as is their status. In other ways, however, they are quite similar.
The NBP was defined more by what it stood against—President Yeltsin’s Russia and the liberalism that was then popular—than by what it stood for. It was colourful, but marginal.(8) The Eurasian Movement is defined by what it stands for, and is loyal to today’s Kremlin, with which it seems to enjoy good relations.(9) It includes such establishment figures as the television journalist Mikhail Leont’ev and Mufti Talgat Taj al-Din.(10) It also differs from the NBP in having branches (some more important than others) in the West. The Eurasian Movement resembles the NBP, however, in attracting activist youth, though to the Eurasian Youth Union rather than the Eurasian Movement proper, in Russia and in the former Soviet space.(11) Members of the Eurasian Youth Union have engaged in a variety of “direct actions” outside Russia, ranging from destruction of a Ukrainian national symbol (12) to paramilitary activities on Russia’s fringes, such as Transnistria and South Ossetia.(13) The Eurasian Youth Union, then, continues the activist traditions of the old NBP, and despite differences in central political positions, the Eurasian Movement stands, as the NBP stood, against American-style liberalism.
At the intellectual level, Dugin is at present a professor of sociology at Moscow State University, where he is director of the Centre for the Study of Conservatism and editor of the Centre’s journal, Russian Time (Russkoe vremia, since 2009).(14) The Center is in a sense an organizational vehicle, but is more a forum for the promulgation of Dugin’s intellectual positions, and in this sense is the immediate successor to a lecture series called the “New University,” to individual lectures given to members of the NBP before that, and ultimately to lectures given by Dugin to members of Pamiat’ in 1987, (15) discussed below The journal is the successor of Dear Angel (Milyi Angel), Dugin’s first journal, established in 1991, and to Elements (Ėlementy), established in 1993.(16) These journals were and are supplemented by a number of major websites, well designed and with copious archives, that carry many of Dugin’s articles as well as videos of his more recent lectures.(17) The topics treated and authors referred to in all these lectures, journals, and websites have developed over the years but have not changed fundamentally, and contain significant esoteric content. The intellectual level of the Dugin phenomenon, then, shows the greatest continuity over the years.
Dugin has published 28 books between 1990 and 2010, some of which are collections of his lectures. These can be allocated to both the political and the intellectual levels, but not to the public level, as none are aimed at a mass readership. The book which first brought him to serious public attention in 1997, Geopolitical Foundations: The Geopolitical Future of Russia (Osnovy geopolitiki: geopoliticheskoe budushchee Rossii), for example, belongs to the political level, and contains little that is properly esoteric. Other books, however, belong to the intellectual level, for example The Metaphysics of the Gospel (Metafizika blagoi vesti, 1996) and The Philosophy of Traditionalism (Filosofiia traditsional- izma, 2002), and contain much that is esoteric.
The relationship between these three levels of the Dugin phenomenon might in theory be that the public creates the political, and that the political creates the intellectual. However, given that the intellectual has remained consistent over the years while the political has changed somewhat and the public has changed even more (from slight visibility at the margins to definite visibility in the mainstream), it makes more sense to understand the intellectual as giving rise to the political, and the political to the public.
This is Dugin’s own understanding of the relationship. After a period of “ultimate despair” in the 1980s, he has written, events (evidently those attending the collapse of the Soviet Union) led him to the conclusion that political and public action was necessary for the sake of the intellectual or, as he put it, that “it was necessary to strengthen the Traditionalist spirit, to clarify meta- physical positions, to consolidate the forces that could—intentionally or not— defend the sacred.”(18) The “Traditionalist spirit” (which will be explained below) and metaphysical positions relate to the intellectual level, and are where the esoteric is to be found. The consolidation of forces relates to the politicaland public levels, where the esoteric is not so central, and where others may serve Dugin’s intellectually defined objectives “intentionally or not.”
This article, therefore, understands the intellectual—including the esoteric—as the basis of the political and the public, and so will focus on the intellectual. It will now examine the origins of Dugin’s former despair, and then the Traditionalist metaphysics from which his conception of the sacred derives.
1 My thanks to Mischa Gabowitsch for suggesting this approach to the analysis of Dugin.
2 Sergei Makarov, “Krushenie Berlinskoi steny kak tragediia Rossii,” Km.ru November 9, 2009, news.km.ru/krushenie_berlinskoj_steny_kak_t.
3 “Lider mezhdunarodnogo Evraziiskogo dvizhenia Aleksandr Dugin v Ekaterinburge,” ITAR- TASS February 11, 2010, www.tass-ural.ru/presscentre/94884.html.
4 Ol’ga Vandysheva, “Aleksandr Dugin, politolog: Kishinev podzheg Obama,” Komsomol’skaia pravda April 7, 2009, www.kp.ru/daily/24273/469785.
5 “Manifest Mezhdunarodnogo Evraziiskogo Dvizheniia,” Evrazia.org, www.evrazia.org/mod ules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1571 (accessed March 7, 2010).
6 Of Grazhdanskaia Oborona (Civil Defense).
7 The NBP under Limonov has since taken very different directions.
8 Mark Sedgwick, Against the Modern World: Traditionalism and the Secret Intellectual History of the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2004), 230–232.
9 Many rumors circulate concerning these. The central point, however, is that Dugin could hardly enjoy his current public prominence without some significant support in the Kremlin.
10 “Vysshii Sovet Mezhdunarodnogo Evraziiskogo Dvizheniia,” Evraziia.info, evrazia.info/ modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=1908 (accessed February 23, 2010).
11 Nataliia Ludanova argues that Eurasianism has in effect become the official Kazakh state ideology, and has close links with Dugin (Kasachische Mission: Das eurasische Konzept in der Konstruktion der nationalen Idee in Nursultan Nazarbaevs Kasachstan, unpublished thesis, University of Mainz, 2009/10). There seems, however, to be no significant esoteric content in Kazakh Eurasianism. An interesting form of Chechen Eurasianism, in contrast, does seem to have esoteric content, even though the author of an excellent recent study, Eduard ten Houten, argues against this (Blood, Power, Islam: The Life and Opinions of the Exemplary Chechen Khozh-Akhmed Noukhaev, unpublished thesis, University of Amsterdam, 2009). For my re- sponse to Ten Houten, see Mark Sedgwick, “Is Hanifi Traditionalism Traditionalist?” Tradi- tionalists, February 16, 2010, traditionalistblog.blogspot.com/2010/02/is-hanifi-traditionalism- traditionalist.html.
12 Mark Sedgwick, “Dugin Accused of Terrorism,” Traditionalists, November 7, 2007, tradition- alistblog.blogspot.com/2007/11/dugin-accused-of-terrorism.html.
13 “Associates of Dugin filed a lawsuit against Grigol Vashadze,” Expert Club, January 29, 2010, eng.expertclub.ge/portal/cnid__3311/alias__Expertclub/lang__en/tabid__2546/default.aspx.
14 Russkoe vremia 1 (August 2009), 1, haxe.d2.gfns.net/videos/pavel_ak/russkoe_vremya_Layout 1.pdf.
15 For these lectures, Dugin, interview, Moscow, August 1999.
16 For these journals, see Sedgwick, Against the Modern World, 233.
17 At present, the most important are Arktogeia (arcto.ru), Informatsionno-analiticheskii portal Evraziia (evrazia.org) and the MSU site (konservatizm.org).
18 Aleksandr Dugin, Filosofiia traditsionalizma (Moscow: Arktogeia, 2002), 547–548.