Alexander Dugin and Eurasianism
Philosopher and political scientist Alexander Dugin, born in 1962 in Moscow, is a controversial figure in the Russian political landscape. His political biography encompasses different allegiances and ideologies – he has been described as a fascist, an anti-Semite and a radical anti-Westerner. Dugin was one of the founders of the National Bolshevik Party, a nationalist outfit. The Party was declared an "extremist" organisation by a court decision in 2007 and has been banned ever since. Dugin is currently the leader of the "International Eurasian Movement", which aims to promote Russo-centric integration in Eurasia. The movement's ultimate objective is the creation of a common political and ethnocultural space in Eurasia under Russian leadership.
In an interview with the Ekho Moskvy radio station on the occasion of the August 2008 war with Georgia, Dugin expressed his full support for Russia's military intervention in Georgia. He argued that international law and post-WWII borders were no longer binding:
"In this case, when the old [international] legal system has collapsed due to the change in the balance of powers, the law of the strongest, again, triumphs over rights … I actually think that we should not stop at liberating South Ossetia but should move further."
"It's very simple: there are friends and foes, and nothing else is important. And we have to do something similar in Ukraine."
Dugin has been successful in attaining recognition in Russia. The Eurasianist ideology has allied itself to Russia's official foreign policy orientation in the 2000s. Dugin, in fact, was an advisor to Gennadiy Seleznev, former Speaker of the State Duma. In 2008 Dugin became a professor at Russia's highly prestigious Moscow State University, where he heads the Centre for Conservative Research at the Department of Sociology. Dugin's Eurasianist movement has its own website, www.evrazia.org, containing Dugin's publications, public lectures, and so forth.
An article in Open democracy from September 2008 sees Dugin's ideas gaining ground in Russia:
"Dugin presents himself today as a 'radical centrist' and ardent supporter of Russia's authoritarian domestic and anti-Western foreign policies. Both his impassioned articles in defence of Putin and his especially rabid anti-Americanism are, apparently, popular in the Kremlin and in Moscow's 'White House' (the seat of the federal government). No other explanation is possible for Dugin's frequent appearances on popular evening shows on Russia's government-controlled TV channels."
"Mikhail Leont'ev, one of Russia's most well known TV commentators and, according to some information, Putin's favourite journalist. In 2001 Leont'ev took part in the foundation of Dugin's Eurasian movement; subsequently, he was, for some time, a member of that organisation's Political Council. In February this year, Ivan Demidov, a popular TV presenter, was promoted to Head of the Ideology Directorate in Putin's United Russia party. This happened in spite of the fact that only a few months earlier Demidov had professed to be a pupil of Dugin and announced that he would use his talents as PR manager to disseminate Dugin's ideas."
Dugin was very outspoken during the Georgian conflict:
"Alexander Dugin, a famous proponent of neo-Eurasianism in Russia, is heavily involved in the crisis between Russia and Georgia. On August 26, he visited South Ossetia to celebrate the recognition by the Russian Duma of the independence of the small republic and to welcome the 'long-awaited renaissance of the Russian empire'. The Ossetian issue is indeed steeped in history. From the nineteenth century wars in the Caucasus, the Ossetians positioned themselves as allies of Moscow in its conquest of the region … Dugin has taken a position clearly in favour of the intensification of conflict with Georgia, arguing that the Caucasus is at the heart of American strategies to 'destroy Russia'. His stance is therefore simultaneously based on geopolitical arguments (avoiding the encirclement of Russia by states defending U.S. interests), cultural arguments (preventing what he called 'genocide' of the Ossetian people by Georgians), and territorial arguments (the rest of the Ossetian people, in North Ossetia, are already integrated into Russia)."
"To influence public opinion, Dugin in 2005 formed the Union of Eurasianist Youth. This group is notable for its forceful actions, organizing the first 'Russian March' on November 4, 2005, following with numerous forays into Ukraine and Estonia to destroy symbols of independence and protect symbols of the Soviet Union, particularly those related to the Second World War. In autumn 2007, it attacked the Ukrainian cultural center in Moscow, which then hosted an exhibition devoted to the famine of 1930. This year, like many other nationalist associations, the Union of Eurasianist Youth invited young people to participate in the resistance in South Ossetia. In August, the movement organized an 'Eurasianist camp' in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali just after the departure of Georgian troops."
"Dugin appears to have a new ally in the Kremlin, Ivan Demidov. A former journalist who became one of the new engineers of patriotism through his 'Russian Project', Demidov took the lead of the pro-presidential youth group, the Young Guard (Molodaia Gvardiia). In May 2008, he was promoted to lead the ideological arm of the presidential party. Dugin and Demidov have known each other for several years since they worked together on the Orthodox-oriented television channel Spas and on television programs like 'Russian View'. Demidov promotes ethnocentric and Orthodox nationalism, inviting the country's elites to free themselves of the taboo associated with the russification of Russia. He supports the ideas of Vladislav Surkov on modernization without Westernization."
Alexander Dugin's vision for the Caucasus also highlights the potential for Russian-Turkish rapprochement. Some of his most important Turkish contacts are currently on trial in Turkey, however, as part of the so-called Ergenekon investigation:
"The Caucasus region represents a stress point for Eurasian integration since the heterogeneity of its cultures and ethnic groups easily turns it into a high tension zone. This characteristic is usually exploited by the forces which aim to thwart integration processes in Eurasia. The Caucasian enclave is populated by peoples belonging to different states or to different civilisational spheres. This region is meant to become a laboratory for integration, since an adequate Eurasian federated model for the Caucasus would showcase the advantages of the adequate restructuring of the entire Russian-Central Asian zone. According to the Eurasianist vision, the Caucasus question is solved not through the creation of mono-national (mono-ethnic) states, nor through the inclusion of certain peoples into regional states, but through the creation of a flexible federation on an ethno-cultural and confessional basis.
This integration project would thus feature a system of semi-axes between Moscow and Caucasus centres, such as Moscow-Baku, Moscow-Yerevan, Moscow-Tbilisi, Moscow-Makhachkala, Moscow-Grozny, etc., on the one hand, and between Caucasus centres and Russia's allies in the Eurasian project on the other (Baku-Ankara, Yerevan-Ankara, Yerevan-Tehran, etc)."