- Radical RussiannessThe Religious and Historiosophic Context of Aleksandr Dugin’s Anti-Occidentalism
One of the main factors of Russian political and intellectual life is anti-Occidentalism. Its significance has become more visible in the West since the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in 2014. It should be noted, however, that contemporary Russian anti-Occidentalism cannot be considered a result of this conflict or the support shown by Western countries to Ukraine. Anti-Occidentalism is deeply rooted in Russia’s political, national, and religious traditions. The conflict in Ukraine has only revealed its scale and consequences.
There is a long-standing tradition of anti-Occidentalism in Russia, both in the imperial and Soviet period of its history. One can distinguish short and relatively unimportant periods of Russian cooperation with the West—for example, in the twentieth century, Provisional Governments of the Russian Republic under Prince L’vov and Kerenskiy between the February and the October Revolution 1917 and Boris Yeltsin’s presidency in the 1990s. However, these two periods have been considered in later Russian political and cultural thought not only as failed attempts to westernize Russia, but also as political [End Page 65] errors which led the country’s defeat in the First World War or provoked one of the most chaotic periods in Russian political and social life known as “the bad nineties” (likhiye devanostye). Moreover, according to Zoe Knox, the failure of Yeltsin’s westernizing reforms encouraged alternative political and social visions that had developed in Russian tradition.1
Aleksandr Dugin’s anti-Occidentalism is not an isolated phenomenon. He belongs to the Izborsk Club, established in 2012, whose head is another extreme-right Russian intellectual, Aleksandr Prokhanov. According to its members, this club was supposed to be a conservative think tank with the aim to oppose Western influences in Russia and to fight the pro-Western tendencies within Russia, whose supporters are referred to as “the Fifth Column.”2 It seems that Dugin’s anti-Occidentalism is sincere, contrary to the anti-Western rhetoric presented by the representatives of the Russian Federation authorities, whose children are educated at Western universities and whose wealth is deposited in Western banks or invested in property in Western countries. Dugin perceives the West as Russia’s existential enemy. He considers Russia’s existence and development dependent on its strict isolation from the West or, in his more radical statements, on the destruction or fall of the West.
The controversial character of Dugin’s thought makes it an interesting subject for numerous scholars who specialize in contemporary political science and international relations. The analysis of the roots and meaning of Dugin’s thought as well as its connections to extreme-right Western movements has been undertaken in insightful ways by such renowned scholars as Marlène Laruelle, Mark Sedgwick, Andreas Umland, Anton Shekhovtsov, and Dmitry Shlapentokh. Although acknowledging their input in the reflection on Russian extreme-right and neoimperialism, we claim in this article that the analysis of Dugin’s views solely from a perspective characteristic of political science, albeit valuable, is insufficient to reveal its true significance. A similar situation, in a wider context, can be observed in the case of the contemporary anti-Western and isolationist ideology that is promoted by the Russian Federation under the conditions of the conflict with the West. This conflict, although political, military, and economic nature, reveals other roots of hostility toward the West and its characteristic values, principles of community and individual life, as well as the relation of an individual toward the community that are present in Russian intellectual and religious traditions. An additional research [End Page 66] perspective should also be added, which is indispensable both with respect to Dugin himself as well as the anti-Western ideology currently promoted by the Russian Federation, namely the religious and historiosophic context. This context is permanent in Rus’ and Russian tradition, and it has survived, despite pressure to modernize the country, especially during Peter the Great’s reforms and in the Soviet period, to become a significant feature of modern national propaganda.3 This propaganda is addressed mostly to the citizens of the Russian...