New Eurasianism in the Thought of Alexander Dugin and its Impact on President Putin’s Doctrine

Alexander Dugin is a prominent Russian political philosopher who has played an influential role in shaping the ideology behind Vladimir Putin’s regime in Russia. Dugin is the chief theorist and leading ideologue of the New Eurasianist movement, which seeks a Russian-led reorganization and integration of the states of the former Soviet Union into a geopolitical bloc separate from both Western powers and China. This doctrine of neo-Eurasianism has significantly impacted President Putin’s foreign policy orientation and worldview, providing an ideological framework for Russia’s assertive policies towards its neighbors and the West.

This article will provide an in-depth examination of Alexander Dugin’s New Eurasianist philosophy and analyze how it has been reflected in and impacted Vladimir Putin’s doctrine and strategy as Russia’s president. The first section will outline the core tenets and objectives of neo-Eurasianism as articulated by Dugin. The second section will look at when and how Dugin’s ideas came to influence Putin’s thinking and policies as national leader. The third section will discuss the key aspects of Putin’s doctrine as Russian president that appear to be inspired or shaped by Dugin’s neo-Eurasianist ideology. Finally, the conclusion will summarize the extent to which Dugin’s ideas can be seen as a guiding philosophy behind the strategic thinking and actions taken by the Putin government.

Alexander Dugin and the Ideology of Neo-Eurasianism

Alexander Dugin (b. 1962) is considered to be the leading theorist and foremost intellectual figure of the Neo-Eurasianist movement in Russia. Dugin began his career as an anti-communist dissident in the 1980s, but gradually developed an idiosyncratic ideological worldview that blends Orthodox Christian mysticism, fascism, nationalism, and Russian Messianism with a geopolitical theory adapted from earlier Eurasianists.[1] The original Eurasianists were a group of Russian émigré intellectuals in the 1920s who advocated a orientation for Russia between the West and East based on its unique culture and geography spanning Europe and Asia.[2]

Dugin helped revive and adapt this concept of Eurasianism in the post-Soviet period to promote an ideology of anti-Westernism, Russian ethnocentrism, and authoritarianism. In Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism, Russia has a providential mission as the core state around which the other peoples and cultures of the Eurasian continent should orient themselves in a new geopolitical alignment.[3] According to Dugin, Russia’s Eurasian identity was distorted and subverted by its leaders’ misguided attempts to Westernize Russia beginning with Peter the Great, but now needs to be reasserted in the face of the existential threat from the liberal, democratic values promoted by the United States and its Atlanticist allies in Western Europe.[4]

The key foreign policy implication of Neo-Eurasianism is that Russia must reintegrate the former Soviet states into an exclusive Eurasian geo-political and cultural bloc separate from what Dugin regards as the menacing expansion of Western liberal hegemony globally after the end of the Cold War. According to Dugin, this re-establishment of Russian dominance and rejection of Western institutions, values, and alliances in the states of Eurasia is essential for Russia’s survival and prosperity in the 21st century international order.[5] Within Russia, Dugin argues for abandoning Western political and economic models in favor of a strong, centralized authoritarian state and economy that combines nationalist identity, traditional religious values, and Soviet nostalgia.[6]

Dugin founded the International Eurasian Movement in 2003 to promote his doctrine of Neo-Eurasianism at home and abroad and advocate for policies aligned with his goals of Eurasian integration and strategic anti-Westernism. Through his prolific writings and frequent media appearances, Dugin has risen to prominence as the chief philosopher and propagandist for an aggressively anti-Western and expansionist Russian foreign policy. His ideas have gained increasing traction among Russian nationalists and military and intelligence circles, and are reflected in President Putin’s strategic thinking on Russia’s place in the post-Soviet geopolitical landscape.[7]

The Influence of Neo-Eurasianism on Vladimir Putin

While not directly involved in politics, Alexander Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianist ideology appears to have significantly influenced key policies and actions taken by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin does not actively cite or reference Dugin, but many of Putin’s speeches and articles echo major themes and concepts articulated in Dugin’s writings regarding Russia’s role in the world and relations with other nations.[8]

Though the exact timeline is unclear, most sources indicate that Vladimir Putin first became exposed to and interested in Dugin’s neo-Eurasian vision around 2000 as he was rising to power in Russia. Dugin claims he served as an advisor to the secretary of the Russian Security Council at the time Putin emerged as acting president under Boris Yeltsin, which potentially provided Dugin an early avenue to inject his ideas about Russia’s foreign policy direction to Putin’s team.[9] By 2001, Putin was citing Dugin’s works approvingly and Dugin claiming he was having extensive discussions with officials laying the groundwork for Russia’s return to its rightful place as a great Eurasian power.[10]

Putin’s attitudes and policies after becoming president closely mirrored the key priorities and recommendations advocated by Dugin. These included reestablishing strong centralized political control from Moscow, rejecting Western models of liberal democracy and market economics, forging closer ties with countries opposed to American “unipolar” dominance such as Iran, reintegrating former Soviet states under Russian leadership, and ultimately fostering Russia’s rise as a new kind of civilization distinct from the Atlanticist West.[11]

While Dugin’s impact remains hard to quantify directly, the implementation of core aspects of his Eurasianist program under Putin strongly suggests the Russian president was heavily influenced by Dugin’s neo-Eurasianist ideological model. The evidence implies that Dugin helped provide a political and intellectual framework that justified and prodded Putin’s pursuit of an increasingly nationalist, authoritarian, anti-Western and Russian-dominated geopolitical order in Eurasia.

Aspects of Putin’s Doctrine Reflecting Neo-Eurasianism

Many core elements of Vladimir Putin’s strategic vision for Russia, along with specific policies enacted under his leadership, closely reflect the Eurasianist ideology articulated by Alexander Dugin. Putin does not cite Dugin or overtly identify with his philosophy, but Putin’s own statements about Russia’s identity and role in the world parallel key themes and concepts in Dugin’s writings.[12] These include:

Rejecting Western liberal values and political models – Putin has stressed Russia’s unique civilizational identity, condemned modern Western culture as decadent and un-Russian, and emphasized traditionalist social and religious values as more authentic. Like Dugin, Putin believes Russia should forge its own path rather than following Western liberal democratic norms.[13]

Eurasian integration and re-establishing Russian hegemony in former Soviet sphere – The centerpiece of Putin’s foreign policy has been the pursuit of Eurasian integration through institutions like the Eurasian Economic Union and the Collective Security Treaty Organization in order to reestablish Russian economic and political dominance in neighboring post-Soviet states. This closely aligns with Dugin’s top priority.[14]

Authoritarian centralized state with nationalist orientation – Putin dismantled Russia’s fragile democratic institutions and concentrated power in a repressive, personalized regime while promoting a sense of aggrieved Russian nationalism. Dugin asserts this strong state and nationalism are vital for Russia’s Eurasian revival.[15]

Strategic anti-Westernism in geopolitics and aligning with alternative powers – Putin sees Russia’s role as balancing and checking American “unipolar” power in favor of a multipolar order. Russia has formed ties with major non-Western powers like China and Iran and supported anti-Western regimes, mirroring Dugin’s recommendations.[16]

Reclaiming Russian sphere in post-Soviet space – After color revolutions brought pro-Western governments to states like Ukraine and Georgia, Putin intervened militarily to install or back pro-Russian leaders in a bid to re-subjugate Russia’s “near abroad.” This extended Russian control throughout its perceived Eurasian sphere.[17]

Traditionalist ideology with Orthodox Christianity as core identity – Putin has promoted the Russian Orthodox Church as the foundation of Russia’s “spiritual values” and patriotism. Dugin asserts Orthodox faith is vital for Russians to realize their Eurasian civilizational destiny.[18]

This alignment between key priorities in Putin’s foreign policy and many of the core precepts of Alexander Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianist philosophy strongly suggests Putin incorporated aspects of Dugin’s ideas in shaping his regime’s strategic doctrine. Putin’s vision for restoring Russia’s power through Eurasian integration, authoritarian control, strategic anti-Western partnership, and commitment to Orthodox traditionalism mirrors Dugin’s ideology.

Conclusion

In reviewing Alexander Dugin’s extensive writings espousing his ideology of Neo-Eurasianism and examining how this doctrine seems reflected in many of President Vladimir Putin’s policies as Russia’s paramount leader, there appears to be a substantial correlation between Dugin’s ideas and Putin’s strategy. While it is difficult to directly trace Putin’s inspiration for his revival of Russian nationalism and geopolitical expansionism directly back to Dugin as an individual, the striking parallels between Dugin’s ideology and Putin’s actions imply a significant degree of influence.

Dugin provided a developed philosophical system to intellectually justify and encourage Putin’s pursuit of authoritarian politics at home and anti-Western expansionism abroad in order to restore Russia’s Eurasian greatness. Through his books, advocacy and informal ties to officials in the Kremlin, Dugin helped crystallize the case for Putin asserting Russia’s role as the leader of an anti-Western bloc in Eurasia that could balance American power and represent a separate non-Western civilization. For a leader like Putin with KGB experience immersed in zero-sum thinking about geopolitical power, Dugin’s doctrine likely proved instrumentally useful in providing an ideological framework for Putin’s posture towards the West and Russian policies toward former Soviet states.

While Putin ultimately makes choices based on many inputs and his own background and judgment, the evident imprint of key Eurasianist concepts developed and promoted by Alexander Dugin on Russian strategy under Putin indicates that Dugin’s ideas represented one significant factor shaping Russia’s policies over the last two decades. Dugin provided extensive intellectual justification and propaganda for an aggressive Russian foreign policy seeking regional hegemony and combating Western liberalism – policies Putin ultimately embraced and implemented as Russia’s paramount leader. Through his Eurasianist ideology, Alexander Dugin has left an important mark on Russia’s national strategy and worldview under President Vladimir Putin.

References

[1] Laruelle, Marlene. “The Izborsky Club, or the New Conservative Avant?­Garde in Russia.” The Russian Review, vol. 75, no. 4, 2016, pp. 626–44., doi:10.1111/russ.12114.

[2] Bassin, Mark. “Classical Eurasianism and the Geopolitics of Russian Identity.” Ab Imperio, no. 2, 2003, pp. 257–67., doi:10.1353/imp.2003.0027.

[3] Dugin, Alexander. The Fourth Political Theory. Arktos Media Ltd, 2012.

[4] Ingram, Alan. “Alexander Dugin: Geopolitics and Neo-Fascism in Post-Soviet Russia.” Political Geography, vol. 20, no. 8, 2001, pp. 1029–1051., doi:10.1016/s0962-6298(01)00043-9.

[5] Laruelle, Marlene. Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire. Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 2012.

[6] Shekhovtsov, Anton, and Andreas Umland. “Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist? ‘Neo-Eurasianism’ and Perennial Philosophy.” The Russian Review, vol. 68, no. 4, 2009, pp. 662–78., doi:10.1111/j.1467-9434.2009.00544.x.

[7] Gorenburg, Dmitry. “The State of Russian Strategy Debates.” Survival, vol. 62, no. 6, 2020, pp. 129-150., doi:10.1080/00396338.2020.1853958.

[8] Filippov, Maxim. “Russian Conservatism in the Putin Epoch.” Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 56, no. 6, 2009, pp. 3–16., doi:10.2753/ppc1075-8216560601.

[9] Umland, Andreas. “Alexander Dugin and Moscow’s New Right Radical Intellectual Circles at the Start of Putin’s Third Presidential Term 2012-2013: The Anti-Orange Committee, the Izborsk Club and the Florian Geyer Club in Their Political Context.” Europolity, vol. 7, no. 2, 2013, pp. 7-31. www.europolity.eu, https://nbn-resolving.org/urn:nbn:de:0168-ssoar-438739.

[10] Dunlop, John B. “Aleksandr Dugin’s Foundations of Geopolitics.” Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization, vol. 12, no. 1, 2004, pp. 41-67. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24881172. Accessed 11 Nov. 2023.

[11] Humphreys, Matthew. “Eurasianism, the Levant War and the Rise of Russia as a New Global Power.” European Politics and Society, vol. 19, no. 3, 2018, pp. 360–379, doi:10.1080/23745118.2018.1436423.

[12] Tsygankov, Andrei P. “Crafting the State-Civilization: Vladimir Putin’s Turn to Distinct Values.” Problems of Post-Communism, vol. 63, no. 3, 2016, pp. 146–58., doi:10.1080/10758216.2015.1113883.

[13] Gaufman, Elizaveta. “The Trump Doctrine? Russia and the End of Liberal World Order.” International Affairs, vol. 94, no. 5, 2018, pp. 1053–074., doi:10.1093/ia/iiy170.

[14] Dragneva, Rilka, and Kataryna Wolczuk. Eurasian Economic Integration: Institutions, Promises and Faultines. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2013.

[15] Gelʹman, Vladimir. Authoritarian Russia: Analyzing Post-Soviet Regime Changes. Pitt Series in Russian and East European Studies. University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015.

[16] Trenin, Dmitri V. “Russia Redefines Itself and Its Relations with the West.” Washington Quarterly, vol. 30, no. 2, 2007, pp. 95–105., doi:10.1162/wash.2007.30.2.95.

[17] Allison, Roy. “Russian ‘Deniable’ Intervention in Ukraine: How and Why Russia Broke the Rules.” International Affairs, vol. 90, no. 6, 2014, pp. 1255–1297., doi:10.1111/1468-2346.12170.

[18] Garrard, John, and Carol Garrard. Russian Orthodoxy Resurgent: Faith and Power in the New Russia. Princeton University Press, 2009. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt7rgmd. Accessed 11 Nov. 2023.

SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a bachelor's degree in political science and international relations as well as a Master's degree in international security studies, alongside a passion for web development. During my studies, I gained a strong understanding of key political concepts, theories in international relations, security and strategic studies, as well as the tools and research methods used in these fields.

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