Aimar Ventsel: Dugin again

Aimar Ventsel.
Aimar Ventsel. Source: Ken Mürk/ERR

The fact that Vladimir Putin and Aleksandr Dugin's views sometimes overlap does not necessarily suggest the Russian president is influenced by Dugin and might simply mean both see Russia as an empire and the world as a battlefield of its imperial aspirations, Aimar Ventsel writes.

Aleksandr Dugin keeps popping into the consciousness of Europeans at regular intervals of a few years. For some inexplicable reason, he is suddenly sought for interviews and his ideas are published even by self-respecting publications, such as the Financial Times. A longer stretch of silence then follows.

Now, Dugin has once again become the subject of newspaper articles, also in Estonia. But this time, the reason is extraordinary. Blowing people up in their cars used to be a thing in Russia in the 1990s. However, that is just what happened to Dugin's daughter in front of a host of witnesses in Moscow recently.

Darya Dugina was not well-known outside of Russia. Many (myself included) did not know she existed at all. In Russia, however, Dugina was almost a bigger deal than her father lately, often appearing on television talk shows. The latter were not in the habit of inviting Dugin in recent years. The explosion [that killed Dugina] released another wave of Duginology and inspired people to write about her father again.

Looking at relevant articles, Dugin is painted as a larger-than-life puppet master in Russia's corridors of power. Whereas people who have regularly kept an eye on the "philosopher's" activities seem to number few.

In this, Dugin is turned almost into a mythical creature, which I'm sure he doesn't mind. Because if he does stand out in anything, it's conscious and aggressive public relations activity aimed abroad and aided by his late daughter.

However, people would do well do curb their Dugin enthusiasm at this point. Whatever the case, Aleksandr Dugin is not the foundation on which Russia stands. Dugin's neo-Eurasianist ideas have been described by Jaanus Piirsalu and Vladimir Sazonov in Postimees and do not need to be retold here. Dugin's books are available online and in print at some Estonian libraries. Those with an interest and a command of Russian can get up to speed.

In short, Dugin regards Russia a separate civilization that's in perpetual conflict with Europe/the West on the level of values. Dugin forecasts no conciliation but a continued struggle that will culminate in a Russian victory.

One epithet new-age Duginologists have bestowed on him is "Putin's Rasputin." In other words, Dugin is held to be nothing less than the gray eminence of Russia.

First of all, Dugin has denied such claims himself. Secondly, we have no real reason to believe Putin listens to or asks him for advice. People who have kept an eye on and analyzed Dugin's actions say that Dugin and Putin have had little if any contact. Putin loves and loves to quote another Russian philosopher, Ivan Ilyin – a radical Russian Slavophile some refer to as the father of Russian fascism.

The fact Vladimir Putin and Aleksandr Dugin's views sometimes overlap does not necessarily suggest the Russian president is influenced by Dugin and might simply mean both see Russia as an empire and the world as a battlefield of its imperial aspirations.

Those writing about Dugin tend to claim that his books, especially the "Foundations of Geopolitics," serve as study aids in the Russian military. There is no real proof of this claim either. While we can believe Dugin's view on geopolitics is extremely popular in military circles and that many have read his works, nothing beyond that has been proven. Aleksandr Dugin's fame and popularity in Russia seem to be greatly exaggerated.

With a measure of irony, we could even claim that he is better known in the Western world, not least thanks to Charles Clover's book "Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia's New Nationalism." Dugin is among the main characters in what has turned out to be a very popular book. Those who cannot be bothered to read Dugin himself could tackle Clover's work as it does a good job of explaining and placing in context the formation of modern neo-Eurasianism and Dugin's niche therein.

Dugin's popularity in Russia and beyond is held back by the fact his ideas are very Russian-centered. Eurasianism is a theory of civilization that is widespread in Russian-speaking areas and promotes an alliance between Slavic and Turkic peoples. Dugin sees non-Russians as second class people, which is doing his wider popularity no favors.

Lev Gumilyov is a far better-known Eurasianist philosopher (especially among Turkic peoples of Russia and Central Asia). His crowning work "Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere of Earth" has also been translated into Estonian.

Aleksandr Dugin's contribution to neo-Eurasianist ideas is adding thoughts of the radical right in Europe and USA to his theories. Russian neo-Eurasianism has been influenced especially by Italian fascist Julius Evola, whose writings, alongside those of Dugin, have been published in the Vikerkaar magazine.

By adding the ideas of the Western radical right and fascists, Dugin has rendered Russian neo-Eurasianism palatable for neo-Nazi, alt-right and radical right circles in the West.

If there is something in which Dugin's significance manifests, it is his functioning as a bridgehead and link between the radical nationalists of Russia and the West. While he was a frequent guest at European and American radical right events until recently, most countries have now handed him a visa ban. It is also interesting that works in Duginology seldom mention Dugin as the importer of Western radical nationalism and a spokesperson of its Russian counterpart in the West.

Aleksandr Dugin is also regarded the chief ideologist of the Russkiy Mir. This is another claim rooted in very little. Firstly, there is no single and coherent Russkiy Mir (Russian World) ideology but dozens of philosophers and thinkers with a measure of influence with the imperialist and chauvinist audience. Secondly, and as mentioned above, Dugin is far less-known in Russia than we think.


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Editor: Marcus Turovski

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