Alex Hearn

Aleksandr Dugin: The sinister ideologue who's Putin's favourite philosopher

Dugin’s death cult seeks the total destruction of his opponents

March 11, 2022 13:53

The Russian invasion of Ukraine seems to be completely irrational. As well as worrying about how to stop the aggression, many of us are trying to understand why it is happening.

Aleksandr Dugin, a Russian philosopher, historian and sociologist, is not well known, but it might help to understand his thinking and influence. Known as “Putin’s philosopher” by some, Dugin is nostalgic for a simpler time. He mistrusts technology and dreams about closing down the internet. It is modernity itself that he doesn’t like. To put that another way, he wants to radically change our world.

Dugin derives his worldview from that of German philosopher Martin Heidegger, who joined the Nazis and ran the University of Heidelberg for them, implementing their “racial” exclusions. Like Heidegger, Dugin sees technology as eroding identity and promoting individualism, helped by “globalist elites” seeking to control the world. His “counter-revolution” aims to end the rights, liberties, science and internet of the Western world.

Adopted by educational institutions across Russia, Dugin’s influential 1997 book Foundations Of Geopolitics advocates for Russian rule “from Dublin to Vladisvostok” using military means, disinformation and leveraging natural resources. “Eurasia” is Dugin’s term for the new Russian Empire. Long before the recent invasion, he saw Ukraine as an integral part of this vision, and that Russia not controlling Ukraine would be “an enormous danger for all of Eurasia”. So it is unsurprising that in 2015, Dugin was sanctioned by the US for “actively [recruiting] individuals with military and combat experience” to fight on behalf of Russia-backed forces in Ukraine.

Dugin’s Russia is a fertile breeding ground for conspiracy fantasies. There is a long-held antisemitic tradition by those either in power or seeking to gain power in Russia. Left-wing organisation “The People’s Will”, which opposed Tsar Alexander II, stigmatised him as “the Jewish Tsar”. When he faced demands for reform, his secret police produced the antisemitic text The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, alleging a Jewish global domination conspiracy. Following the Bolshevik revolution, White Army counter-revolutionaries issued a call to “beat the Jews to save Russia”, while people in the Bolshevik party denounced the Whites as agents of “Jewish capitalism”.

Antisemitic propaganda was central to the disinformation campaigns of the Soviet Union. When one of their KGB agents, Vladimir Putin, became the leader of Russia following the fall of the Soviet Union, he continued to use the tactics he had learned.

With the end of the Cold War, some Russians were trying to understand their place in a new world. With technology leading to dramatic changes globally, this was fertile ground for conspiracy fantasy to take root and propagate via the internet. We have also seen recently how people made sense of the hardships imposed by Covid-19 by resorting to similar fantasies about deep-state power, the wickedness of science, or about powerful elites pretending to be liberal while deviously reshaping the world for their own benefit. Antisemitic themes are used to project human faces onto conspiracies created by desperate imaginations. It’s no surprise that Dugin’s use of conspiracy theories serves to promote antisemitism.The anti-liberalism in his internet footprint is quite revealing and stretches to possible hints of antisemitism. For example, he posted on Facebook: “The stupid, peverted, liberal feminists were created by dirty old Soros. The women were created by God”. Clearly, he is blaming the far right’s Jewish hate figure for the “evils” of liberalism and womens’ rights.

The Geopolitics website, part of a Russian online ecosystem, spreads Dugin’s “Eurasianist” ideology along with anti-western propaganda. 

The Katehon website, to which Dugin contributes, masquerades as a think tank, but in true Soviet style is part of a network pumping out disinformation. Dugin’s translator for Katehon is Nina Kouprianova, the wife of the notorious, American neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. She is friendly with the infamous Assad propagandist Partisan Girl.

Katehon has clear links to the Russian state and intelligence services. These are the successors to the Soviet agents who organised the “Doctors’ plot”, in which Jewish doctors were accused of a conspiracy to assassinate Stalin. They were also the ones who pushed the “Zionism is Racism” cant at the UN. 

Katehon is owned by Oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, a conservative Orthodox Christian in Putin’s inner circle, who was sanctioned by the EU and US for funding Russia-backed forces in Ukraine. 

In 2014, Russian hacker group Shaltai Boltai revealed that Dugin and Malofeyev were trying to create an international network of politicians and intellectuals sympathetic to Russia.

Dugin’s mix of fascist and Soviet communist ideas make use of a scholarly facade, but behind this lie Christian notions of good and evil, as well as references to the occult and myths that also obsessed the Nazis, including Atlantis. 

Dugin’s messianic narrative of a sacred mission sees the West as the Antichrist and Russia as being akin to the Roman empire.

Some would describe Dugin’s philosophy as a death cult because he seeks the total destruction of his opponents. 

Alarmingly, his ideas have had influence on the thinking of some important Russian figures, most notably Putin. It’s no coincidence that the war in Ukraine aligns with his philosophy and activities, and for this reason Dugin has been cast as a Rasputin-style figure.

President Putin has built on top of generations of antisemitism to gain more power, using vast resources and technology to supercharge a toxic strain of modern Jew-hatred.

The Russian leader’s approach to national rejuvenation is underpinned by Dugin’s fascistic ideology. Labelled by one journalist as “Putin’s brain”, Dugin, who had been a Communist Party organiser, became an advisor to the speaker of the Duma. The Daily Beast reported that his “Eurasian” ideology is required reading for Russian generals.

Dugin’s buzzword, “Novorossiya”, meaning “new Russia”, was repeatedly used by Putin on national television in 2014 regarding the annexing of Crimea, resurrecting the Tsarist terminology of the Russian empire. 

Dugin envisages a “new world” centred around Russia, and Putin’s victorious press release about Ukraine was similarly titled the “offensive of Russia and the New World”. According to Ukraine’s Page News, its proud publication had been scheduled for two days after the Ukraine invasion. With efficiency typical of the Soviet era, somebody forgot to remove it from the automated timer function.

Such is Dugin’s importance that he was seated next to Ayatollah Maqami for Iran’s “New Horizon Conference” (NHC), the aim of which was to expose “Zionist control”. Extremists from the left and right come from across the world to attend NHC events, where they can hear keynote speeches by figures such as Dugin alongside a Hezbollah MP.

The US Senate and intelligence services reported a massive online campaign by Russia, ordered directly by Putin, to influence the US 2016 election. Putin responded in a 2017 interview by appropriating Jewish suffering, claiming the accusation was “like antisemitism”. Then in an NBC interview in 2018, he blamed the Jews, Ukrainians and Tatars.

The Network Contagion Institute study in 2020 showed that, as with Soviet Union propaganda, antisemitism is still a key feature of Russian disinformation campaigns, but now with the added reach of social media. 

Facebook’s threat report in 2021 found that Russia remains the largest driver of disinformation on social media, followed by Iran.

Fashioning himself as a new Tsar, Putin has surrounded himself with a contemporary nobility, the “oligarchs”. He has nurtured new and apparently unlikely configurations of right, left, Islamists and conspiracists many of whom share that most seductive of conspiracy theories – antisemitism.

The fight is far greater than we imagine. The goal for Putin and his ideological guru, Dugin, is “new world” dominance with the reversal of progress. Ukraine is just the tip of the iceberg. Unless we stop them.

Alex Hearn is director of Labour Against Antisemitism.

March 11, 2022 13:53

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