Russian Nationalism Today: The Views of Alexander Dugin

By Shlapentokh, Dmitry | Contemporary Review, July 2001 | Go to article overview

Russian Nationalism Today: The Views of Alexander Dugin


Shlapentokh, Dmitry, Contemporary Review


AT a recent meeting of specialists in Slavic Studies, some of the participants began discussing the views of Alexander Dugin, the popular Russian nationalist philosopher. Most of the Russian participants, mostly Westernized liberals, were unaware of Dugin. This was not the case with the American participants. Not only were they aware of his political stance but even the most minute details of his personality were under their endless scrutiny. For example, a lively debate ensued about whether Dugin sported a beard or had recently shaved it.

The interest in Dugin is justified, for he is one of the few contemporary Russian philosophers who fascinate Westerners. And it is not only academics who are interested in him (an article and a book chapter have recently been devoted to him in scholarly publications). The authoritative American journal Foreign Affairs also published an article on Dugin. Their profile asserted that his views were actually those of the Russian elite. The article has its merit for Dugin's works (and he is a prolific author) are used as textbooks in the Russian military academy, and he is also an adviser to Seleznev, the Speaker of the Russian Duma (parliament). In spite of the amicable meeting between President Putin and President Bush in June there are still underlying tensions between Russia and the United States. The views of this Russian nationalist philosopher therefore deserve exploring.

Dugin belongs to the school of what is called Eurasianism, a philosophical and quasi-political movement that began with Russian emigres who had fled the Bolshevik regime in the 1920s. Eurasianists were in many ways similar to traditional Russian nationalists. For example, they believed in the corporate/collectivist nature of Russia/Eurasia and asserted that Western-style democracy was foreign to the country's political culture. They also berated the West for its absence of a grand goal and a sense of spiritual messianism. For them, the West was crass, materialistic and, of course, morally rotten. What made the various brands of Eurasianists different from traditional Russian nationalists was their assumption that Russia's spiritual tone was not so much Slavic as Asian in origin. The leftist branch of the movement soon forgot about its anti-Bolshevik stand and began to identify with the communists. In their view the Marxist coating of the regime was merely a thin veneer, and beneath it one could easily discer n that the Bolsheviks were traditional Russian nationalists/Eurasiansists because they had made Russia strong again and had established an empire.

Since the collapse of the Soviet regime, there has been a growing dissatisfaction with the West, and the Eurasianists' views are becoming increasingly popular among various groups of the Russian nationalistic elite. Dugin is the most prominent spokesman for this group of intellectuals, and thus while planning my trip to Russia recently I thought it might be a good idea to interview him. I was anxious to meet this prophet of the coming nationalistic revolution which would lead Russia/Eurasia to a final Armageddon with the West.

The location of Dugin's headquarters in itself is interesting because of what it says about the new Russia. His office is located close to the Novodevechy Monastery, a burial place for important people. It was built in the sixteenth -- seventeenth centuries, and is in comparatively good shape. White walls and the golden cupolas of the churches can be seen clearly against the screen of the blue sky. A big oval pond is near the wall, and children swim there despite the dubious cleanliness of the water.

Library 27

Library 27, where Dugin lives and works, is placed in a typical Moscow apartment building and residents of the building are seemingly unaware of its existence. However, I found the perennial Russian babushkas, old ladies who usually chat on the benches, and they pointed out the library, which is small and unimposing.

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