Entgrenzter Rechtsextremismus?

12.3.2015

Anton Shekhovtsov: "Aleksandr Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism"

Positionspapier zum Vertiefungsangebot "Grenzübergreifende Konzepte der radikalen Rechten" im Rahmen der Fachtagung "Entgrenzter Rechtsextremismus? Internationale Perspektiven und Gegenstrategien" der Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung in München, 09.-10.02.2015.

Before the dramatic events in Ukraine, Aleksandr Dugin and his Neo-Eurasianism remained largely confined to academic explorations of Russian nationalism, and these have always been accompanied by the question of whether Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism was significant enough to warrant so much effort. As early as 2001, Stephen Shenfield wrote in his Russian Fascism that “Dugin’s influence on the Russian elite [remained] limited and highly uneven”. This evaluation seemed fair for the year 2001, but since then the situation has clearly changed. How exactly it has changed and how Dugin’s background has shaped the role he plays in today’s Russian politics are the questions that will be discussed in this paper.

Discussing the West European roots of Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism, the paper argues that, despite the name, Neo-Eurasianism has a limited relation to Eurasianism, the interwar Russian émigré movement that could be placed in the Slavophile tradition. Rather, Neo-Eurasianism is a mixture of the ideas of René Guénon, Julius Evola, National Bolshevism, the European New Right and classical geopolitics.

Dugin founded the International Eurasian Movement in 2003 and was appointed professor at the Moscow State University in 2008. From 2005 onwards, he also became a popular political commentator who frequently appeared on prime time talk shows and published in influential newspapers. These positions allowed him to bring his Neo-Eurasianist ideas directly to the academic world, whilst using his academic title as a prestigious cover-up for his irrational ideas.

Dugin became especially famous in Russia for the Neo-Eurasianist version of classical geopolitics. His book The Foundations of Geopolitics outlined his political and ideological vision of Russia’s place in the world, as well as revisionist and expansionist foreign policy. Dugin was a staunch opponent of former Russian president Boris Yeltsin, but hailed the ascent of Vladimir Putin. In its turn, the Kremlin clearly perceives Dugin’s ideas as useful. By being regularly present in the public sphere, Dugin and other Russian right-wing extremists extending the boundaries of a legitimate space for illiberal narratives make Russian society more susceptible to Putin’s authoritarianism.

There are obvious similarities between Dugin’s and Putin’s narratives: anti-Westernism, expansionism, rejection of liberal democracy, etc. However, it would be wrong to suggest that any of these or similar ideological elements are exclusive to either Putin or Dugin, as they have been embedded in Russian politics for more than a century. Furthermore, there are currently more differences than similarities between the political projects of Putin and Dugin. Putin’s project is authoritarian and restorationist, while that of Dugin is fascist and revolutionary.

The paper arrives at the following conclusions: Firstly, Dugin’s organisational and intellectual initiatives are integral elements of Putin’s authoritarian system. In this role, Dugin joins dozens of other agents of right-wing cultural production who, in one manner or another, contribute to the public legitimisation of Putin’s regime. Secondly, Dugin has worked his way up from the eccentric fringes to the Russian socio-cultural mainstream, but his ideology has not changed since the 1990s. What has radically changed is the Russian mainstream political discourse.

Thirdly, the increasing anti-Westernism and anti-liberalism of Putin’s system, its drive to consolidate influence in Eurasia and the country’s growing social conservatism are indicative of the fact that today Dugin and other far right intellectuals are winning their struggle for cultural hegemony in Russia.

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