21 January 2004, Volume 6, Number 2
THE NEO-EURASIAN TEMPTATION: RELIGION AND POLITICS
By Boris Gubman
Part 2: Religious Fundamentalism Versus 'Global Conspiracy'
The Neo-Eurasian vision of world history looks like a battlefield of Manichean struggle between the forces of Good and the forces of Evil. Within this mythology, the forces of Evil are represented by the United States and its Atlantic allies, who allegedly seek to extend their rule over the entire planet. "I understand mondialism," Sergei Baburin wrote, "as an attempt to unify humanity in spite of the national and state traditions of the people. In this sense, it is the enemy of all existing peoples and states" (Baburin, 1992, p. 27). Despite Aleksandr Dugin's latter-day openness to cooperation with the authorities in his recent theoretical publications, he is no less hostile than Baburin to any Western-mondialist political strategy or to Russian leaders willing to accept it:
"Mondialism denies the destiny and eschatological meaning of geopolitical dualism (as well as that dualism itself), whereas the geopolitics affirms it and denies, on the contrary, the idea of a 'unified mankind' and, therefore, of the 'unifying progress'" (Dugin, 1999, p. 710).
Revealing the real essence of his "radical transformation," Dugin concluded his anti-mondialist reflections by condemning to severe punishment intentional and unintentional "traitors" who believe in universal human values because they have fallen under Western influence (Dugin, 1999, p. 719). Dugin, Natalya Melentieva, Leonid Ohotin, Aleksandr Prokhanov, Vadim Stepa, and other Neo-Eurasians paint a picture of a sinister Atlanticist conspiracy against the peoples of the world undertaken by freemasonry. Democratic modernization in Russia, they believe, is the direct outcome of the implementation of the strategy of the Atlanticists, aimed at ruining the national traditions. The Eurasians, clearly, regard a unified global order on the road to modernization and sharing universal human values and civilizational standards as the main danger to Russia and the world.
The Atlanticist and Eurasian projects are two irreconcilable strategies for understanding the world and making history. Describing their eternal confrontation, the Eurasians explain that they are devoted to empire, authoritarian, hierarchical, communal, and anti-individualistic, traditional forms of organization, labeling them "solar" and "Eastern." Atlanticism, by contrast, is viewed as being based on cherishing democracy, egalitarianism, individualism, and liberalism, and as being "lunar" and Western: "The Eurasian project was implemented in Ancient Rome, the Atlantic in Carthage. The first inspired Germany, Russia, and Japan during the last century, the second England and the U.S." (Dugin, 1993, p. 43).
The eternal polarity of the Eurasian movement and Atlanticism, according to Dugin's mythology, is deeper than party, national, religious, or state preferences, and represents a profound metaphysical choice.
The two opposing camps, Dugin claims, trace their rivalry back to Soviet times, when the Atlanticists are said to have gathered in the KGB, while the Eurasians allegedly played the leading role in the GRU-military-intelligence department; the founders of the USSR, according to Dugin, were Eurasian-Communists, whereas Nikita Krushchev and Leonid Brezhnev were Atlanticists in spirit; the coup of 1991 is said to have been a conspiracy of the Atlanticist Vladimir Kruchkov against the Eurasian Anatolii Lukyanov, who was preparing his "authentic coup." While the collapse of the USSR was a victory for the Atlanticists, "the revenge of the Eurasians will come soon," Dugin predicts (Dugin, 1993, p. 43).
This pattern of thought is not too sophisticated, but it appeals to mass consciousness, to communists and national patriots, and to all those dissatisfied with the low standards of living in contemporary Russia. It penetrates easily into the minds of people accustomed to thinking in terms of "us" and "them" and to searching for an enemy. And Dugin gives the reader a lot of intriguing "detail" leading into a dichotomous classification of leaders and institutions.
Those "details" might not be shared by all Eurasians, but his bipolar vision is reproduced even by thinkers who claim their analysis is free of any illusory trace metaphysics. Aleksandr Panarin, for example, is very far from Dugin's extreme conservatism, being closer to moderate patriotism and centrism. But, like Dugin, he sees history as a confrontation between the Atlanticist and Eurasian projects. While not as harsh as Dugin, in his assessment of Atlanticism, his sympathy is clearly with the Eurasians versus the liberal reformers: "Totalitarianism is the other side of the liberal Utopia and its tolerance of chaos" (Panarin, 1993, p. 21). Opposition to Yegor Gaidar's proposal for reforming Russia created the basis for the alliance between centrists and red-brown theoreticians. Their resentment of the outright liberals explains the centrists' acceptance of the Eurasian mythology.
Who are the potential allies the Neo-Eurasians see in the international arena in their struggle against the global conspiracy? We find the answer in the publications of the Center for Special Metastrategic Studies, headed by Dugin himself. First, the Neo-Eurasians think it necessary to obtain some kind of support from Central Europe, represented by Germany. Ignoring the current trend toward integration, the Eurasians hope for a split within Europe and for the victory of extreme nationalist forces in Germany. "Germany was always the opponent of the Anglo-Saxon colonial conquests and was always trying to create a continental, authoritarian civilization based on traditional hierarchical and soil values" ("Geopoliticheskie problemi blijnego zarubejya," 1993, p. 21). A renewed traditionalist Germany, according to the Center for Special Metastrategic Studies, must establish its control over Central Europe in cooperation with Eurasia-Russia and in opposition to Atlanticism. The Neo-Eurasian hopes for an anti-Atlanticist transformation of Central Europe under the leadership of Germany are, to be sure, unlikely to be realized. Germany's current role in the European Union is totally different from the illusory dreams of Neo-Eurasians in search for allies in the anti-Atlanticist struggle.
Prior to NATO's military involvement in the Yugoslav conflict and the fall of Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Dugin and his followers believed that Russia should gain a lot by supporting its traditional ally, Serbia. In Dugin's view, Serbia represented Orthodox Russia in the Balkans, while Croatia and Slovenia were associated with Central Europe (Germany, Austria, Prussia, etc.). Albania and Bosnia, on the other hand, were perceived as being the vestiges of a Turkish and Muslim presence on European territory. Macedonia, described as a fusion of Serbian and Bulgarian ethnic elements, was said to be the very symbol of Greater Yugoslavia, which had never been able to fully consolidate itself. "Due to religious and ethnic factors, Serbia is linked directly with Russia as its immediate continuation in the south of Europe" ("Geopolitika Yugoslavskogo koflikta," 1992, p. 22). This meant that Serbia was part and parcel of the stream of common Eurasian interests and was destined to follow the Russian path. Supporting Milosevic, the Neo-Eurasians were persuaded that the Yugoslav crisis was just the rehearsal for a possible scenario in which Russia might become involved in military conflicts with those former Soviet republics in which ethnic Russian populations felt unjustly humiliated and oppressed. They hoped to come to power on a wave of national and religious hatred. Following the fall of Milosevic's regime, the analytical premises of Dugin's Center for Special Metastrategic Studies regarding the future of Serbia could be evaluated as naive and lacking any realistic dimensions.
The anti-Atlanticist forces, according to the Eurasians, are also gaining strength in Asia, which is suffering from U.S. expansion. While Turkey and Saudi Arabia act in accord with the West -- China, India, and Iran are said to be the main allies of the Eurasians on a global stage. Iran is described as "a typical continental state having all the strategic, economic, and ideological potential to become the nucleus of the huge Eurasian bloc" ("Geopoliticheskie problemi blijnego zarubejya," 1993, p. 24). Muslim fundamentalism of the Iranian type is more desirable for Neo-Eurasians as a source of influence on the Asian republics of the CIS than the Turkish road to modernization. At the same time, they do not rule out an alternative Russian-Eurasian alliance with Japan.
In an article published in 2001, Dugin wrote that the Neo-Eurasian movement should belong to the political center supporting President Vladimir Putin (Dugin, 2001, p. 8). However, on closer analysis, his doctrine reveals its lingering, extreme conservative orientation. It was only slightly modified in order to readjust the Neo-Eurasian mythology to a changing political situation, while its core remained wholly unaltered. The most striking example of this rests in the continued Neo-Eurasian appeal to religious fundamentalism as a chief instrument for the desired cultural and political revival of Russia-Eurasia. Failing to find political allies on a purely secular political basis, the Neo-Eurasians turned to religious fundamentalism as an instrument aimed at promoting an anti-Western union. Religion, according to Dugin and his followers, should play a major role in the cultural and political renewal of Russia-Eurasia:
"From our point of view, such sophisticated matters as religion, spirit, metaphysics, which are often neglected while attempting to solve economic and social-political problems, play a major and sometimes a decisive role. The religious factor is not a superstition miraculously preserved since time immemorial. It is an active, deeply-rooted-in-life attitude, forming the foundations of human culture, psychology, and social and even economic subconscious reactions" (Dugin, 2001, p.8).
There is no doubt that Dugin is correct in emphasizing the active role of the religious factor in social and cultural spheres. At the same time, his understanding of the instrumental role of religion is biased and potentially makes it a servant of politics. This becomes clear when Dugin turns to his vision of the role religion should play in the struggle against the alleged global conspiracy.
Neo-Eurasian thought is seemingly based on the idea that the necessary imperial restoration of Russia should have as its foundation the messianic spirit, and that this spirit is inconceivable without a confrontation between Russian Orthodox spirituality and the Catholic-Protestant value system of the West. Dugin believes that "the Russian people (= Russia) are endowed with a specific type of religiosity and culture that differs greatly from the Catholic-Protestant West, as well as from the post-Christian civilization developed there" (Dugin, 1999, p. 190). Unlike Western culture, Russian civilization, according to this theoretical approach, is universalistic and, therefore, by its very nature needs spiritual expansion. Such an expansion is eschatological in its character due to the typical Russian longing for final answers -- a longing deeply imbedded in the national world outlook. Although the task of the "God-bearing" nation is portrayed in purely spiritual terms, it has a certain political significance. The Neo-Eurasian theorist continues:
"Therefore, from a theoretical perspective, there is no people, culture, or territory here on our planet whose destiny or way f life is of no interest to the Russian mind. This is revealed in the unshakable belief of Russians in the final triumph of Truth, Spirituality, and Justice not only within the boundaries of Russian state, but everywhere. To deprive Russians of this eschatological faith would be tantamount to a spiritual castration. The Russians are interested in everything and all, and, therefore, the interests of the Russian people are not limited to the Russian ethnic group, the Russian Empire, or even all of Eurasia. This 'transcendental' aspect of the Russian nation should be taken into account when elaborating any future geopolitical strategy" (Dugin, 1999, p. 191).
Despite the premise that Russian universalistic and eschatological spirituality has nothing to do with expansionist politics, Dugin is thus asserting that this very spirituality forms the cornerstone of a geopolitical strategy bringing final answers to all cultures and nations.
During the period of his opposition to Boris Yeltsin's regime, Dugin's writings were openly anti-Semitic and included resolute support of Islamic fundamentalism as the closest ally of conservative Orthodoxy in its struggle with Western culture, nourished by Catholic and Protestant religious traditions. With the coming of the Putin's era, Dugin decided to modify slightly his attitude to the Jewish question. In his recently published essential book "Foundations of Geopolitics," Dugin wrote about the split of Jewry into two opposing factions: Eastern and Western. While Eastern Jewry always bore within itself the mystical impulse that makes it close to the Eurasian global vision, Western Jewry, with its purported rationalism, greed, and worship of Mammon rooted in the tradition of rabbinic studies of the Talmud, was always at the opposite pole from Eastern non-rationalist attitudes to life (Dugin, 1999, p. 742). During the October Revolution of 1917, for example, this polarization reached its climax in a confrontation between the Eastern-minded Jewish Bolsheviks, whose spiritual roots should be sought in the Cabbalist and the Hassidic traditions, and the Western-minded Jewish bourgeoisie that was nourished by rabbinic rationalism, modernity praxis, and the Enlightenment. Later, the Jewish communists were expelled from the stage of Russian history, and the opposite trend gradually prevailed. Since perestroika, its representatives have begun exploiting the country's natural and human resources in league with mondialist forces, according to Dugin. Using this kind of "differentiated mildly anti-Semitic arguments," Dugin expressed the readiness of the Neo-Eurasians to cooperate with Jewish religious fundamentalists, who were said to be anti-Western in both theory and practice, while resisting Zionism, said to be allied with the mondialist conspiracy.
Throughout his career as a theoretician and a politician, Dugin has displayed deep sympathy with some versions of Islamic fundamentalism as a potential anti-mondialist ally of Neo-Eurasians. The war in Chechnya made him highly critical of Saudi Arabian fundamentalism, and his hopes shifted as a result to a possible partnership with Iranian fundamentalism:
"The objective logic of geopolitics dictates with all clarity and precision the necessity of a quick strategic alliance of all Eurasian forces, irrespective of their confessional, racial, cultural, or ideological color. The door is, for instance, open to forging a Russian-Islamic pact, to a general coordination of Moscow's strategy with Islamic trends that are oriented to Iran, Sufism, fundamentalism of the soil, continental, and anti-Western pattern. This is important for both domestic and foreign policy projects" (Dugin, 1999, p. 821).
Thus for reasons of an anti-mondialist struggle within and outside Russia, the Neo-Eurasians are ready to cooperate with extreme-right Islamic fundamentalism. Such an alliance is only one part of a more global plan that would unify all fundamentalist forces under the banners of the Neo-Eurasian movement.
The true, extremely conservative, nature of Dugin's program for the Neo-Eurasian movement is most clearly revealed in his intention to offer this kind of fundamentalist unification as the panacea for solving internal conflicts in Russia itself and resisting mondialist expansion all over the world. He speaks of a "strategic unity of creative fundamentalists" -- not only in Russia but abroad as well -- as leading to a "symphonic" harmony in the ethnic and political spheres (Dugin, 2001, p. 8). Unlike his earlier declarations, this program is aimed at demonstrating that the Neo-Eurasians are capable of cooperating with the ruling authorities and of acting in line with President Putin's blueprint for blending the country's different social forces to benefit the nation as a whole. But the "tamed" new "centrist" version of Neo-Eurasian ideology soon displayed its unchanged essence in September 2001. Speaking on Russian television, Dugin agreed with Islamic fundamentalist leader Geydar Jemal that mondialist conspirators were behind the terrorist attacks of 11 September, staging the tragedy in order to discredit Islamic fundamentalism, which was resisting their increasing global domination. Dugin's version of the root causes of the 11 September tragedy was consonant with Jamal's, according to whom "American Protestant republican neo-fascism hates any kind of secular or religious globalism able to resist its plans for ruling the whole world, and for this very reason is likewise hostile to efficient international organizations and to the universal aspirations of the Catholic Church or those of Islamic fundamentalism" (Jemal, 2002, p.6).
The Neo-Eurasian reaction to the U.S. tragedy was, in fact, predictable if viewed in the context of the Neo-Eurasian understanding of the phenomenon of religiously inspired international terrorism. In the documents of the Center for Special Metastrategic Studies published in 1996, one can find the following conclusions:
"It is necessary to support the military force of the Orthodox, Islamic, and Confucian states in order to destabilize the Western economy, which should be forced into competing with a number of potential adversaries simultaneously. Russia should sell arms, including nuclear weapons, to Muslim countries -- in particular to Iran, Iraq, and also Libya. Western nuclear atheism should be opposed by a nuclear Orthodoxy and a nuclear Islam" (Tsentr specialnikh metastrategicheskikh issledovanij," 1996, p.42).
In an article published in "Elementii," Dugin wrote that terrorism "became the last refuge of the subject longing for the total vision of the world where this thirst is outlawed" (Dugin, 1996, p.6). By "subject," Dugin means the individual acting on the political scene in a world where his or her longing for wholeness has been forbidden, and the idiom employed is metaphorical and therefore intentionally ambiguous. It is evident that before taking a strategic decision to become a centrist, Dugin was more attracted by the idea of providing a philosophical justification for terrorism, which in his eyes represented a creative act of the "subject" to internalize and act upon the aspiration of a "totality of being" -- thereby also breaking with any kind of oppression. This by-and-large explains how and why religion came to be viewed by Dugin as a tool of the terrorist struggle against oppression by the West.
The well-known Russian thinker Georgii Fedotov, who predicted the fall of the Soviet Empire, once warned that this process would be accompanied by extremist attempts to restore authoritarian rule and by a revival of nationalist ideology. "Bolshevism will die as hard as National Socialism. But nobody knows what forms of Russian fascism or nationalism will be generated in the process" (Fedotov, 1992, p. 325). The rise of the Neo-Eurasian movement confirms that Fedotov was right. Despite efforts by this movement's leaders to appear to be respectable scholars and politicians, the Neo-Eurasian program and activities reveal their true New Right nature. Using religious fundamentalism as a tool of politics, the Neo-Eurasians pursue purely political goals. The attempts by Neo-Eurasians to gain influence on the official political course under President Putin did not meet with success, as is apparent from the government's antiterrorism cooperation with the West and from moves toward integration with the West in other areas. But this should not lead one to overlook the support that the Neo-Eurasians enjoy among some representatives of the establishment, within circles of the Russian Orthodox Church, and in some business structures. Their ideas and ties to religious fundamentalism might gain popularity in the event of further economic and political instability in Russia. To prevent the spread of this dangerous ideology, a flexible strategy to combat the Neo-Eurasian temptation is needed immediately.
(Professor Boris Gubman, PhD, is chairman of the Department of Theory and History of Culture at Tver State University, Russia. [For further reading on the Neo-Eurasians, courtesy of Paul Goble, please see http://petrsu.karelia.ru/psu/Structure/Deps/PreRev/BIBLRUS.rtf])
Baburin, S. 1992, "Mondialism i tayna Rossii" [Mondialism and the Mystery of Russia] in "Elementii," No 2, pp. 26-27.
"Tsentr specialnikh metastrategicheskikh issledovanij. The Rest and the West" [The Center of Special Metastrategic Studies. The Rest and the West], 1996, in "Elementii," No 7, pp. 40-42.
Dugin, A., 1993, "Vozvrashayas k velikoy voine kontinentov" [Coming Back to the Great Intercontinental War], in " Elementii," No. 3, p. 43.
Dugin, A., 1996, "Subject bez graniz," [The Subject Surpassing Boundaries] in "Elementii," No. 7, pp. 3-6.
Dugin, A., 1999, Osnovi geopolitiki [Foundations of Geopolitics], (Moscow: Arktogeja-Tsentr).
Dugin, A., 2001, "Evrasijstvo: ot philosophiji k politike" [The Eurasian Movement: From Philosophy to Politics] in "Nezavisimaya gazeta," No. 95, 30 May.
Fedotov, G., 1992, "Sudba Imperii" [The Empire's Destiny] in Sudba i grekhi Rossii [The Destiny and Sins of Russia], (St. Petersburg: Sofia).
"Geopoliticheskie problemi blijnego zarubejya. Materiali tsentra metastrategitsheskikh issledovanii" [The Geopolitical Problems of the Foreign Surrounding Countries. Publications of the Center for Special Metastrategic Studies], 1993, in " Elementii," No. 3, pp. 18-26.
"Geopolitika Yugoslavskogo koflikta. Materiali tsentra metastrategitsheskikh issledovanii" [The Geopolitics of the Yugoslav Conflict. Publications of the Center for Metastrategic Studies], 1992, in "Elementii," No. 2, pp. 20-25.
Jemal, G., 2002, "Pochva i sud'ba" [The Soil and the Destiny], in "Zavtra," No 24, June.
Panarin, A., 1993, "Medju Atlantizmom i Evrauistvom" [Between the Atlanticist and Eurasian Doctrine] in " Svobodnaya misl," No. 11, pp. 1-15.