Geopolitics StudiesPolitical studiesStrategic studies

The Popularity of Duginism: Duginism as Dream Come True

By Shlapentokh, Dmitry

The creation of the movement and then the party was a true culmination of Dugin’s not just political, but intellectual career. In a brief period, he enjoyed what very few Russian intellectuals enjoyed throughout modern Russian history and especially during the Soviet period. At that time, two types of Russian intellectuals existed. The first represented officially approved and institutionalized intellectuals. They easily published their books and articles and enjoyed quite a comfortable life. But no one read their writings, unless they were obligatory reading for students and offi- cial propagandists. They were also ignored in the West. The other group represented those who had problems with the authorities; for a variety of reasons, their works were not published, and their manuscripts circulated in typewritten form in what Russians called “samizdat ”—literally “self- publishing.” Some of these people had managed to send their manuscripts abroad and were published in the West, in émigré journals, newspapers, and publishing houses, or—in some cases—in translation. These people often had a very unpleasant life and were harassed by the authorities, even during the comparatively “vegetarian” Brezhnev rule. Still, they were lauded by the intelligentsia, at least in the big cities. They were “prophets,” noble sufferers. They despise not just personal well-being but even the most essential comfort, at least from Westerners’ prospec- tive. Practically all of them despise not just power but even the masses, the average man from the street as primitive animal foreign to any high pursuit. Most of them want to be published. Still, for some, one might assume, even this might not be essential. Indeed, publication as well as power and comfort implies a sort of prostitutionalization and implicitly imposed restrictions on one’s creativity.

It is true that many of them would like to see their works published in the West. But the real West was terra incognito not just for them but even for the majority of lucky Soviets who visited places outside the “Iron Curtain.” Indeed, they had no real experience living in the West as ordi- nary residents and saw not the real West but show windows displayed by high-positioned and well-paid hosts to the rare exotic visitors from the “evil empire.” For these dissidents, the West was absolutely different from what they saw around them. The people were not similar to the average Soviet zombie—in the capacity of hoi polloi or party bureaucrats—but they were similar to the few refined intellectuals to whom the particular creator could give his work for assessment. These intellectuals, “guru” or “saint,” thought broadly and controversially. Their manuscripts were avidly read despite the danger such activity entailed.

Young Dugin as anonymous street sweeper belongs to this category at the beginning of his life. Now Dugin has the best of both worlds. By the beginning of Putin’s tenure, he became quite known among the people in the Kremlin—acknowledged even by those who strongly disliked him. At the same time, he was well known by various segments of Russian intelligentsia and even among those who lived in what Russians called “near-abroad”—the republics of the Former Soviet Union. He was also known in the West, where he had been increasingly viewed as an important and influential philosopher and politician.

Dugin as a Rising Political and Intellectual Star and Popularity in Russia

One should state that not all those who knew Dugin believed he was a person of great influence and popularity. Konstantin Frumkin, a contrib- utor to the popular journal Druzhba Narodov (Friendship of People), noted in 2002 that, at that time, Dugin was interdicted by the Russian intelligentsia. He was not invited to parties (tusovki) and/or “invited to TV and radio.” Some believed he had a great many followers. Still, Frumkin noted, one could hardly see them.1 Yet even Frumkin admitted that Dugin was an extraordinary individual: “Dugin is a political and social philosophical writer of immense talent, hard work, and erudi- tion.”2 He added that “there is no doubt that in the future Dugin’s works would be published by academic publishing houses and mono- graphs will be written about him.”3 He also admitted that some of Dugin’s followers had been accepted by the Russian academic elite. For example, Arkadii Maler, a Dugin admirer, at least at that time, regularly lectured at the Institute of Philosophy of Russian Academy of Science (RAN).4 Already by the late 1990s and early 2000s, Dugin, with his friends, became a sort of living classic. According to Frumkin, their major works became the intellectual foundation of Russian tradition- alism. It was Dugin’s book, “Puti absoliuta (The Way of the Absolute), Mamleev’s Sud’ba Bytiia (Destiny of Being) and Dzhemal’s Orientatsiia: Sever (Orientation: North).”5

Despite acknowledging Dugin’s contribution to Russia’s intellectual life, Frumkin believed Dugin was a rather marginal figure in Russia’s intellectual and quasi-political life, all his talent notwithstanding. Others, however, had a different view, related to the assumption that Duginism has exercised considerable influence on Putin himself. Dugin’s assump- tion that he could influence Putin or that Putin had embraced ideas quite similar to his and other like-minded individuals was not ground- less and was supported by well-informed Russian observers. Even pro- Western liberals, hardly Dugin’s admirers, acknowledged Dugin’s influ- ence. Leonid Radzikhovsky, a contributor to the influential daily Sevodnia, noted “Dugin ‘until recently was considered a man from the political margin,’ but today he is fashionable and won some influence in the Kremlin.”6 According to Marina Latysheva, a contributor to Versiia, Dugin seemed to be extremely influential. Indeed, “Eurasianism” itself had virtually become official state doctrine. The rumors about the Eurasian Movement’s influence and connections with upper echelons of Russia were many and varied. There were rumors that Eurasianists and Dugin personally worked together with Gleb Pavlovsky, an influ- ential Kremlin insider at that time, and with other influential people at the very top of the political pyramid. Besides maintaining an important connection in the Kremlin, Dugin became a welcome public speaker. He made an appearance at an important public gathering where he had a chance to elaborate on the importance of Eurasianism. For example, in his presentation on TV during the World Congress (Sobor) of RPTs (Russian Orthodox Church), Dugin pointed out that more than 70% of Russians regarded Russia as a Eurasian country.7 His works also became quite popular and, one could assume, were taken as a blueprint for action by members of the political and military elite. Elaborating on the influ- ence of his ideas, Dugin stated that his 1000-page book on geopolitics had seven editions and was broadly used in the Academy of General Staff, Diplomatic Academy, and several regional universities.8 In addition, “the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a set of guidelines for foreign policy, the main inspiration of which are Dugin’s ‘Basics of geopolitics,’ which can be evidenced not only by the strategy of action outlined in the docu- ment, but also its foundation based on the statement that Russia’s greatest strength ‘is its geopolitical position as the largest Eurasian state.’”9 The Ministry of Defense seemed also to be guided by Dugin’s ideas. “In 2001, Shenfield noted that …various periodicals of the Ministry of Defense have for a number of years now been publishing advertisements for Dugin’s books and articles …and there is considerable circumstantial evidence suggesting that General Igor Rodionov was particularly well-disposed toward Dugin during his tenure as head of the Academy of the General Staff and then (briefly) as defense minister in 1996-1997.”10 Conse- quently, it was not surprising that some Russian observers claimed “that the CIA has recently set up a special department that deals exclusively with Dugin and his ideas.”11

Besides publishing his works, Dugin continued to propagandize his ideas as a teacher. From 1998 to 2001, he continued to deliver lectures in the New University that had been published under the title Philos- ophy of Traditionalism (Filosofiia Traditsionalizma). Dugin also had other plans to disseminate his views as the teacher. For example, together with his ideological allies, Dugin planned to create Russian (Rossiiskii) State Geopolitical University (RGGU).12 The university was to teach in the following fields: “Philosophy of Tradition,” “Modern Geopoli- tics,” “Classical Geopolitics,” “Conspirology,” and “The Culture in the Context of the Sacred.”13 Geidar Dzhemal, Vladimir Bukarskii, and Rabbi Avram Shmulevich (already discussed in our study) were to be among the core faculty. The university planned even to use Saddam Hussein as an expert in Arabic language and culture.14

The coexistence or “symbiosis” of Islamists, anti-American Arab nationalists, and avowed Zionists demonstrates one of the major ideas of Duginian Eurasianism: “Traditionalists” of all stripes have much more in common with each other than one might think and their conflicts were just a result of the plots of conniving “Atlantists.” “Atlantism” here was structurally similar to“bourgeouis ideology” in Marxist philosophy. The proletariat is docile and separated along ethnic and national lines because it is in the grip of “bourgeois ideology.” The goal of Marxism was to open the eyes of the workers to their real goal—destruction of the capitalist order. Marxism also demonstrated to the workers that their enemies are not fellow workers of different ethnicities or nationalities but the internal community of capitalists. The same should be the goal of “Eurasianists.” They should reveal that Orthodox Zionists, Arab nationalists, and Russian Eurasianists have no reason to be in conflict with each other. The conflict is the result of conniving brainwashing of “Atlantists” who prevent these groups to join hands in fighting the common enemy.

Dugin also acquired followers from the increasing number of Bohemian intellectuals and artists. Sergeii Troitsky, the modernist rock composer, was most likely a Dugin follower. He blasted the “disgusting bourgeois democracy” and praised the inevitable rise of an “empire of poets, painters, and warriors.”15 Throughout Putin’s first term and possibly beyond, Dugin developed friendships with a variety of members of Russian intellectual circles. There was, for example, Oleg Fomin, editor of the journal Bronzovyi Vek (Bronze Age).16 Dugin’s friends also included Vadim Stepa, Sergei Kornev, Sergei Dunaev, and Aleksei Romanovskii. All of them participated in the journal, Volshebnaia Gora (Magic Mountains), published in 1996–1998. The title was most likely inspired by Thomas Mann’s novel Magic Mountain, which had been translated into Russian during the Soviet era, together with most of the other writers’ work, and had been available for educated Russian reader for a long time. The novel centered around a mountain hospital where the patients, isolated from the distraction of daily life, engaged in philosophical discussions. Some of them openly advocated what could be called totalitarian rule. In 2000, the journal became Filosovskaia Gazeta. Artur Medvedev and Mariia Mamyko were both journal and newspaper editors.17

It is, of course, hard to assess the real influence of a journal. But clearly Dugin was well known among a broad segment of Russian society, from people in the government to bohemian intellectuals. He was fully aware of the rumors about his personal importance and the apparent popularity of his ideas. Consequently, he implied in his presentations and interviews that he was indeed a rising political and intellectual star. Dugin defi- nitely had a reason to regard himself as a popular, almost iconic figure. In some universities, students wrote works and papers about his works and life,18 and Eurasianism became a popular subject of social science study in Russian thought. Several monographs on Eurasianism were published and many dissertations defended on the topic. Dugin personally engaged in the peer reviews of 15 of the dissertations.19 Even those who seemed to be his ideological enemies acknowledged that at least some of his ideas were sound enough that they needed to be advertised. For example, Russian, basically pro-Western, liberals were alarmed by increasing signs of ethnic-bounded nationalism, which disturbed ethnic Russians’ relation- ship with ethnic minorities in Russia and in former republics of the Soviet Union, where ethnic Russians were transformed into minorities increas- ingly mistreated by dominant ethnic groups. Here Eurasianism, including its Duginian version, became appreciated even by those who hardly shared other aspects of Dugin’s philosophy.

This was the case with Dmitry Trenin, who usually mocked Duginism for wishful thinking about Russia and Eurasia’s imperial greatness. He was also not excited by Dugin’s ideas about confrontation with the USA as a historical destiny. But even he did not discard Eurasianism completely and regarded it as a quite viable ideology, at least in some post-Soviet states, such as Kazakhstan. Trenin noted that Kazakhstan should be a truly Eurasian country where Kazakhs and Slavs lived as equals; otherwise a separatist movement would emerge. Here, of course, Trenin pointed to Russians in Northern Kazakhstan, many of whom wanted to create a separate republic or become part of Russia. This led to the so-called Pugachev Plot—a botched plot to separate Northern Kazakhstan from Kazakhstan—and later to the equally ill-fated Limonov enterprise. Trenin was definitely aware of these events and implied that many more serious problems could emerge in the future. Ethnic Russians could rise, Kazakh authorities would send troops to quell the revolt, and Russia might intervene.20 These developments, Trenin implied, would hardly benefit either Kazakhstan or Russia, and the relationship between Kazakhstan and Russia, and possibly other post-Soviet states, would be permanently damaged. The invasion would also raise Russian ethnically bound nationalism, which could hardly help Russia’s relationship with the West. Therefore, Duginian Eurasianism, or precisely any form of Eurasianism with emphasis on the trans-ethnic nature of Russian and Kazakh culture, should be praised. Moreover, this aspect of Eurasianism should be actually advertised even by those who did not share other aspects of the creed.

While elements of Duginism, as well as, of course, similar intellectual trends, influenced even Westernized liberals, this was especially the case with moderate Slavophiles. The creation of the party, Dugin’s political activism, and the general popularity of his ideas among some Russian intellectuals coincided with Dugin’s continuous scholarly and journalistic activities. Dugin continued to be extremely prolific. In 2002, he published an 800-page compendium of major trends in Eurasian thought.21 Some of his work was published in CD format.22 He also continued his publishing ventures with considerable attention to reprinting Eurasianist classics. In 2002, he published the works of Erenzhen Khara-Davan and Iakov Bromberg, both among the important protagonists of early, classical pre-World War II Eurasianists. It should be also noted that Khara- Davan was Kalmyk and Bromberg was Jewish. The books were published with Dugin’s commentaries23 and clearly indicated the major tenet of Eurasianism: Russia-Eurasia is the place of harmonious “symbiosis” of all ethnicities. The major venue for Dugin’s own works and publications of other similar minded intellectuals was his own publishing house, Arkto- gaia. Its very location indicated Dugin’s political clout. Indeed, by 2002, it flourished, and he opened a bookshop just near State Duma.24

Dugin had presented Eurasianism as a popular creed and quite a hot subject for study among Russian intellectuals. This was only partly true, at least with Russian academia. Quite a few academic or, to be precise, often quasi-academic works on Eurasianism continued to be published at the beginning of Putin’s term and, of course, later. By that time, however, Eurasianism had lost its novelty. Consequently, by the begin- ning of Putin’s tenure, it was starting to lose popularity, at least among academics: “The number of academic publications boosted in the 1990s, and sharply declined after 2001.”25 Still, by the time Eurasianism started to lose its luster as a new, and, in a way, semi-dissident creed (remember the absolute domination of pro-Western, mostly pro-American feelings among most Russian intellectuals in the early post-Soviet era) it continued to be quite popular among considerable groups of influential Russian intellectuals, including journalists. Indeed, one Russian journalist noted, after 9/11 Putin seemed to make a decisive turn to the West and alliance

with the USA. But the popularity of Eurasianism and the constant appear- ance of Dugin and similar thinking individuals on TV indicated that any alliance between the USA and Russia was far from solid.26 In addition, Eurasianism and similar creeds started to spread among the Russian popu- lace. As a matter of fact, one could assume that the blend of anti-Western, mostly anti-American feeling, and nostalgia for the Soviet Union reached its maximum intensity by the beginning of Putin’s era.27 This feeling also started to spread among Russian youth; from this perspective they were quite different from the youth of the Yeltsin era.

The views of Russian youth were, of course, a complicated phenomenon, and pro-Western, even pro-American feelings were not absolutely out of circulation. But the general trend was clear and one could sense a growing feeling among youth that “the West has simply written their country off as a serious player in world politics and treats it purely instrumentally.”28 The end of the Yeltsin and beginning of the Putin era was roughly the time of the end of the Western myth, at least as constructed during the Soviet era or possibly even before. This myth had different implications for different Soviets and post-Soviets. For intellec- tuals, the West, especially the USA as its symbol, was a place of hard work, talent, and independent mind. It was quite different from the USSR; for many of those who emigrated or wanted to emigrate, it was different from Russia regardless of Russia’s political system. These traditions went back to the early nineteenth century, when groups of Russian Western- izers regarded Russia as a wretched country by definition. It had horrible historical genetics, so to speak, that made it a pariah among the nations of the Earth. Talented individuals unlucky enough to be born in Russia would degenerate and their lives be wasted. Alexander Pushkin noted that many of those whom he met would be great people if they were born in ancient Greece or Rome. But they were unlucky and born in Russia into the “shackles of service to the tsar.” Consequently, they could only be officers of the guard and waste their lives in debauchery and drunken- ness. This attitude was shared by quite a few Russian intellectuals at the end of the Soviet and beginning of the post-Soviet era.

For minorities, especially Jews, there was an additional reason for departure to the West, viewed here, of course, holistically—Israel was included in the West in the context of this narrative. For Jewish intellec- tuals, the regime and the country were not only oppressive but also deeply anti-Semitic, and the anti-Semitism of the Kremlin was just the reflection of the anti-Semitism of the masses. For average people, the West, espe- cially the USA, was a place of paradise, a type of life constructed on the basis of images from Hollywood movies and magazines—all available to Soviets by the end of the regime. These images were reinforced by infor- mation brought to the USSR by a few who were allowed to venture to the West, especially during the Soviet era. These lucky few were usually well-known official writers, sportsmen, party bureaucrats, and so forth, all representatives of the mysterious and mighty “evil empire.” Consequently, as important visitors, they were entertained by professors from top univer- sities, highly positioned members of the Washington bureaucracy, and similar people. Their hosts invited them into their big houses and demon- strated directly or indirectly their high incomes. The Soviet visitors also had a chance to visit the local shops, where they marveled at the profu- sion of goods unavailable for most if not all the Soviet population. Some possibly visited pornographic shops, of course only if they were sure their behavior was not recorded by other members of the group, who could, or even should, report such incidents to the authorities; visits to porno shops were regarded not so much as a moral as a political transgression, a sign the person could be seduced by “bourgeois” propaganda. Some of them might engage in affairs with local women. They were represen- tatives of the mighty and dangerous “evil empire,” and one need not be Michel Foucault, Jacques Lacan, or a similar postmodernist luminary to conclude that power could be very attractive, and some American women, not even necessarily from the Department of Slavic Studies, could engage in “carnal knowledge,”29 which Marina Mogilner asserted is one of the discursive ways to construct and maintain the empire. Consequently, these rare visitors to the West, a dimension unknown to the average Soviet, brought back reports that reinforced the popular image of the West, especially the USA, as a place of endless easy pleasures, mostly, “carnal knowledge” eagerly dispensed by leggy blondes. Riches were also easily obtained, together with fame and recognition.

It would be, of course, wrong to assume that this image of the West was unchallenged. Russian émigrés’ disappointment with the West could be traced to the early nineteenth century with such prominent figures as Alexander Hertsen and Vladimir Pecherin. The same could be said about the Soviet era. After World War II, a number of Russian émigrés returned voluntarily to Stalinist USSR despite the risk of being outcast for the rest of their lives or sent to the camps. Later, by Brezhnev’s tenure, emigra- tion became legal, mostly for Russian Jews. Some ethnic Russians who took advantage of loopholes also left the country. Some were actually encouraged to depart by the authorities for a variety of reasons. Brezh- nev’s regime was not willing to engage in mass repression and preferred to see troublemakers departing to the West.

Quite a few, even those who were quite famous, became disappointed. For example, Alexander Zinov’ev became known in the West for his book Yawning Heights, where he blasted the Soviet regime as a sort of absur- dity. On emigration to the West, he continued to blast the regime until the beginning of the Gorbachev era,30 but even then he made critical remarks about the West. By the end of Gorbachev era and the begin- ning of the post-Soviet period, Zinon’ev had changed his views in a most radical way. From then on, he regarded the West as a hell and the Soviet regime as the best option for Russia. Finally, he returned to the country of his birth.

Many ordinary people also became disenchanted and returned to the USSR when Gorbachev made this possible.31 There were also many cases of disappointment with Russian Jews who went to Israel, as demonstrated by the writings of Efraim Sevela and Viktor Perel’man. Of course, this subject has never been explored in the West due to its profound polit- ical incorrectness and disappointed ex-Soviets were seen as a few misfits who had either an excessive expectation or simply a lack of talent and aptitude for hard work. These problems of transplantation to the West were ignored by most Russians during the Soviet era and the beginning of the post-Soviet era. One might say that they ignored them because many émigrés became adapted to the new conditions and even pros- pered, and because the negative image of the West in Soviet mass media was discarded as cheap propaganda. But this was not the reason. Those who emigrated—predominantly Russian Jews and Germans—cut their ties with the USSR/Russia completely. They could not come back, even for short visits, and letters were their only communication with those they were left behind. The letters did not provide adequate information about real life in the West. Those who left the USSR understood that they could not return and needed to provide themselves and those they left behind with justification for their actions. Most of them described a glamorous life in the West. The situation did not change much at the beginning of post-Soviet era. In the early 1990s, the glamorous image of the West, especially the USA, ruled supreme and the horrific conditions in Russia provided an additional stimulus to the majority to regard the West as an ideal place, whatever ideals meant for different groups of people. Note too that very few people who were able to venture to the West lived there as ordinary folk and returned.

By the end of Yeltsin’s tenure and the beginning of Putin’s, the situation had changed. Now thousands of Russians could go to the West and return to share their experience. And it was not always pretty. Many found out that neither talent nor hard work guaranteed success and hiring could be as arbitrary as in the Soviet era. It often depended on connections, following prevailing trends, gender, race, and so on. Western academia, in fact society in general, not only had little aptitude to accept truly independent minds but routinely ignore their own rules, so a person with the same credentials could land in a top university or on the street unemployed. This was especially so in the USA, seen so recently as the embodiment of the West. Not just intellectuals were disappointed. Average people were also not always happy. Many found out that making a living in the West was not as easy as they thought and payment for education and medical services was not an invention of Soviet propa- ganda but unpleasant reality. They also found that pleasant smiles and firm handshakes often meant nothing, especially in the USA, and those who proclaimed themselves your friends could quickly forget about you when you became unemployed.

All this led to a reevaluation of the West in the minds of many Russians, and the emergence of these critical views could not be reduced just to Moscow propaganda. We should state that the negative image of the West was not homogeneous. West and Central Europe usually fared much better in the minds of average people than did the USA. Europe was often seen as the symbol of positive repercussions of post-Soviet development: freedom of travel, property rights, variety of consumer goods, and so on. Yet while Europe was seen clearly as a better place than the USA, overall excitement with the West was gone by the beginning of the Putin era and Russia had been rediscovered as the best of all possible places, its problems notwithstanding. This upsurge of Russian patriotism had different and sometimes rather peculiar manifestations. “Sexual patriotism” was one of them, and possibly more than anything else demonstrated the peculiar return to roots.

Official Soviet ideology was quite puritanical: any type of erotic display was banned and smuggling pornography could lead to a prison term. Officials implied that only married couples could engage in sexual relationships, mainly for procreation.

There were shortages or low quality of everything that made women attractive or desirable in the West, from lingerie to perfume. The asexual nature of Russian women and overall life in Soviet society was under- scored by the drabness of both female and male dress. Consequently, at the beginning of Perestroika, when a Russian woman, asked by Amer- icans about sex life in the USSR, responded that “We have no sex!,” this statement was taken at face value. Indeed, in Westerners’ views, sexual restrictions were one of the manifestations of the totalitarian nature of Soviet society. Yet the external image of Soviet sexual mores was deceptive. The sexual mores of the late Soviet era were extremely loose, especially in the big cities. Still, for quite a few of Russian men, the real sexual paradise was outside Soviet borders in the West, where all women were as beautiful as the models on the covers of glossy magazines and love making was as carnal as shown in Hollywood movies. Unrestricted sexu- ality, an erotic El Dorado, so to speak, was part of the glamorous image of the West, and many Russian men ventured abroad with the assump- tion that local beauties were eagerly waiting to dispense passions and pleasures. Many were quite disappointed; for the local women, they were just penniless émigrés with broken English. They were hardly aroused by these men, and sexual access was denied. Newcomers lucky enough to be incorporated into Western academia or business found out that what was regarded as an innocent or even desirable flirtation in Russia was a serious problem in the USA: charges of sexual harassment could lead to serious problems.

As a result, the image of the West, especially the USA, changed dramat- ically. Instead of a sexual El Dorado, an erotic cornucopia, it became a place of sexual starvation. Incorporated in the general negative image of the USA, Western, especially American women were now presented in a very negative light. This could be easily seen in articles in Russian newspa- pers. Instead of alluring, sexy beauties, American females were shown as mostly ugly—extremely fat or skinny—and absolutely undesirable. Their sheer ugliness and their terror of men, those normal creatures with sexual desire, led to absolute de-sexualization of American life. The spread of feminism and related lesbianism was also due to men’s fear and Amer- ican women’s lack of sex appeal. Some articles, following French Jewish intellectual Emmanuel Todd, noted that American women in leadership positions evoked not desire but fear. Consequently, Russia was rediscov- ered in the context of “sexual patriotism.” Russian girls were beautiful and not prudish and would easily sleep with a man even if he had no money or status.

This “sexual patriotism” was incorporated in the renewed Russia and Russian positive image. Russians were truly open-minded and sophisti- cated, while Westerners, especially Americans, were seen as dim, one- dimensional creatures who would do their best to prevent the truly independent man from being known and appreciated. Whereas Russians were truly friendly and spiritual and could sacrifice their lives for friends, Americans were cold-blooded egotists who could cut a person’s throat while smiling broadly. This negative image of the West, especially the USA—remember that West and Central Europe were often seen as oppo- site to America—started to spread among Russian populations, including youths, by the beginning of Putin’s tenure. They turned to various alternative anti-liberal Western constructions—remember that not all anti- liberals were anti-Western, as was the case with Russian neo-Nazis—and Eurasianism emerged as one of them.

Eurasianism definitely appealed to a considerable segment of Russian youth, the first post-Soviet generation. While recording the rise of nation- alistic feelings among Russian youth, one shall not relate it totally to abstract nostalgia for imperial glory. Their nationalism was the subli- mation of much deeper social frustrations caused by the realities of the maturing post-Soviet order. Quite a few were economically marginal- ized and increasingly skeptical of liberal capitalism. Consequently, many became quite skeptical of the West, especially the USA, and experienced increasing fascination with the Soviet Union, which became transformed in their minds into a land of greatness and plenty. It started to play for them the same role as the West, especially the USA, did for their parents and grandparents—a place of untold easy riches, all conceivable pleasures, and appreciation of true talents and hard work. The image of the Soviet Union became as mythological as that of the USA and West in the past. The only difference was that while a mythological USA was located in space, an equally mythological Soviet Union was now firmly lodged in the past. Still, regardless or possibly because of its mythological quality, this image became quite popular in the minds not just of those who lived in the late Soviet era—now retrospectively seen as a golden era—but of a new generation who had never lived in the Soviet era as mature indi- viduals. As time progressed, increasing numbers had no memory of the USSR at all.

This popularity of the Soviet Union was directly related to the increasing popularity of Eurasianism and related geopolitics. Indeed, a contributor to Izvestiia noted, “In a way all geopoliticians were Eurasian- ists for they regard Eurasia as a ‘stronghold territory’ and those who control it could rule the world.”32 Consequently, Dugin was right when he pointed out that more than 70% of Russians regarded Russia as a Eurasian country.33 The ultimate proof of Dugin’s and his Party’s popu- larity—the belief of a number of ordinary Russians that Eurasianism was an ideology that would solve the country’s problems—was manifested in generous donations for the cause. Dugin received donations from a variety of people. Marat Gelman gave Dugin $45,000 for the devel- opment of Eurasianism and implicitly for the Party.34 It was quite a considerable sum of money for Russia at the beginning of the 2000s; remember that most Russians got only a few thousand dollars per year. All this was an indication of Dugin’s continuous influence and presum- ably supported the notion that he had become one of the leading figures in the country.

The Views of Foreign Observers

Foreign observers also saw Dugin as a man of considerable influence. As noted by Dugin, Westerners, mostly Europeans, were taking note of him already in the 1990s. Taking into account their own historical experi- ence, they saw in Duginism—and of course in similar emerging creeds in Russia—the ideology of a future authoritarian or even totalitarian Russia that would engage in bloody revenge quite dangerous to European neigh- bors. Most Westerners dreaded this scenario, remembering the horrible repercussions for Europe of Germany’s wounded national ego after World War I. These Europeans could very well have dreaded this scenario and taken it seriously. The story in the USA was different. It would be wrong to say the “Weimar” scenario was absolutely excluded from US views. But there was no concern like that in Europe. Indeed, when American pundits pondered such a scenario they often turned to people such as Vladimir Zhirinovsky. This was done not only because Zhirinovsky was quite visible, especially in the very beginning of his political career, but for other reasons. His outrageous statements and behavior made him a clown of sorts, and when American observers elaborated on this, they implied that a man with such a view could hardly be Russia’s Hitler or even Benito Mussolini. It was implied that not a “Weimar” scenario, but American democratic capitalism was in store for Russia and the entire world. Fukuyamism was an unchallenged profession of faith, and “transi- tology”—the study of the transition from totalitarian “abnormalities” to democratic capitalist “normalities”—was mainstream.35 American society and models were the only possible, the only “normal.”

The transformation thus would embrace every aspect of the Russians, and, of course, the other “ex-abnormal” societies—from the economy to female behavior. While the Russian economy should be absolutely privatized, Russian women should abandon their reactionary, or at least outmoded behavioralistic models such as dreams of being attractive as “sex objects,” and become career-oriented American feminists, or at least not be focused on their looks and attractiveness. Despite the assertive statements of professors from top American universities and think tanks, application of the theories to reality did not work. The economy collapsed with incredible speed, and some Russian industrial cities started to look like Detroit; no one, of course, explained why the supposedly speedy rise of the American economy—it was the time of the happy Clinton era—made the industrial heart of America look like a ghost town. Glenn Beck, the popular conservative demagogue, would later note on television that the ruins of Detroit were different from the ruins of Persepolis—the capital of the ancient Persian Empire—only in their ugliness.

Most Russian women also did not abandon their old habits. Many of them—especially if young and pretty—became even less interested in education and a career than during the Soviet era, for no viable jobs existed for a smart and educated woman, especially if she was not young, pretty, and willing to satisfy the boss’s sexual needs. The practice of using a female secretary as an additional sexual outlet became so pervasive that newspaper ads where the young woman stated that they were looking for a position sometimes had a line, “Intim ne predlagat’,” sex should not be a condition for employment. Those with fewer scruples eagerly searched for a “sugar daddy” or lined the streets and solicited customers in downtown Moscow.

The models of “transitology” clearly did not work. Or, at least the promised “end of history” was hardly promising, at least for the majority. But the fact that reality did not fit the ideological shibboleth did not matter at all; no one would have received a grant for studying an alterna- tive path and no serious publishing house would publish a work with such an idea. This was clearly understood by the majority of Western intellectuals, who were mostly preoccupied with finding the appropriate social niche, selling their products and in a way themselves to potential customers—publishers, grant agencies, and universities. So despite the obvious unworkability of “transitology,” it continued to rule supreme from approximately the beginning of Gorbachev’s rule to the middle of Yeltsin’s.

But by the late 1990s the intellectual climate, even in the USA, started to change somewhat. To be sure, “transitology” continued to rule, but its power was not absolute and a new explanatory model started to emerge, mostly due to the global environment, the rise of forces too powerful to be ignored. The rise of nationalism, including countries in Europe— the former Yugoslavia was a good example—indicated that quite a few nations were not ready to be “normal”—moving toward capitalist democ- racy of the American type—but persisted in their “abnormalness.” In these “unnatural” arrangements, national traditions played an important, if not crucial role. One might add that the emphasis on national tradi- tions and ideologies was quite pleasing to Dugin. Indeed, both he and the “neocons” saw in irreconcilable ideological postulates the real reason for global conflicts. Thus, one might assume that the “neocon” ideology and Duginism reinforced each other. At that point, the neo-Romantic approach to history became increasingly popular.

Romanticism, in its early nineteenth-century version, discarded the universalistic models of the Enlightenment that implied the same pattern of development for all nations of the earth. These notions had been preserved in American thought more than in other Western countries. In the Romantic paradigm, each nation had its particular cultural framework or spiritual genetic code, so to speak, which predicted its path and made them absolutely different from each other. Late in the twentieth century, with the decline in popularity of democratic tradition in the post-World War I era and especially after the rise of totalitarian regimes that put them- selves in opposition to the democratic capitalist West, the theory received an additional boost and was reformulated by such well-known figures in Western thought as Oswald Spengler and, later, Arnold Toynbee. While this ideological construction in itself was not an absolute novelty, those who returned to the paradigm in the 1990s brought a new aspect to the theory. The novelty was that cultures and civilizations were not just abso- lutely different from each other, but could not live in peace and would inevitably clash. The theory was well developed by Samuel Huntington, at that time a professor at Harvard. It reinforced residual skepticism about universal transformation of the global community along the American model that existed, albeit in a subdued form, even at a time of what seemed to be absolute domination of “Fukuyamism” or “transitology” in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Henry Kissinger was clearly among these early skeptics and this was the reason he was not much appreciated by Bush “neocons” later.36

Neo-Romanticism, with the belief that each country or civilization had its own immutable cultural code that could not be changed, started to influence even emerging “neocons.” Indeed, “neocon” doctrine, which still clung to the Fukuyamian notion about the “End of History” (Western democratic capitalism as the best among all possible forms and the natural end result of the historical process) still implied that some countries could not achieve the desirable transformation by themselves. Consequently, they would need “help” in the form of American interven- tion. The general crisis of the 1980s “transitology” could be illustrated by the views of Anatol Lieven, the well-known British-American specialist in Russian affairs. Lieven mocked “transitology”—the study, or rather endlessly repeated mantra, of “transitions from totalitarian rule to democ- racy and the free market.” He noted that many former socialist countries did not follow this road. Many became “sultanistic regimes” with Putin a good example.37 The term “sultanism” taken from Max Weber, indi- cated an authoritarian regime where the ruler has no goal but enriching himself and his cronies and relatives. “Transitology” became increasingly irrelevant, not only because the “neocons” implied that American socioe- conomic and political arrangements could be introduced by force, at least in some parts of the world, but also because the underlying current of their ideological postulate hardly fit the “transitologist” design. Indeed, “transitology” rested on Fukuyamianism, which itself consisted of two major ingredients—capitalism (“free market”) and political democracy. The neocons seemed to be paladins for these two sacred shibboleths or professions of faith. It was implied that the USA had actually engaged in global conquest to install these principles all over the world, at least in places where they could not take root on their own.

Still, a close look at the neocon doctrine revealed that the very way the principles were spreading had led to their negation. Indeed, a corporatist element could very well be detected in their doctrine. “Their conser- vatism was not liberal,” but “culturally ‘authoritarian’ and ferociously predatory on liberal values – both in domestic and global politics.”38 The authoritarian or even semi-totalitarian streak in the neocon doctrine could be reinforced by the similarities of its postulates to those preached by “the authoritarian intellectual circles of Weimar Germany.”39 Even the neocons’ appeal to Leo Strauss’s authority, his belief—based on his own experience of Jews who witnessed the Nazi Holocaust—that legal formal- ities should be forsaken in dealing with great evil implied a streak of authoritarianism. As a matter of fact, Strauss’s polemic with Carl Schmitt, one of the major ideologists of the Third Reich, revealed not much of a difference, but actually structural similarities. Indeed, Mario Del Pero noted that Jean-François Drolet made it clear that “Strauss is convincingly linked to and read through Carl Schmitt: Precisely the kind of connection, Drolet argues, the neocons have always been wary of, given Schmitt’s controversial works and life.”40 Finally, the neocon appeal to Thomas Hobbes was also indicative. It is true that when Robert Kagan, one of the leading neocons, appealed to Hobbes, he noted that he meant foreign policy. Still, Hobbes as the author of Leviathan did not deal with foreign policy; Leviathan was the template for a totalitarian regime. At least this is how Hobbes is usually interpreted.

This appeal to Hobbes implied a totalitarian aspect of neoconser- vatism regardless of Kagan’s proclamation that he upheld democracy. The neocons’ economic program also did not fit well into true unre- stricted capitalism. “In spite of all the praise for capitalism, Drolet convincingly argues, ‘neoconservatives are profoundly anxious about the strains which market forces and corporate culture tend to inflict on the American social compact.’”41 Hence, “the search for an ‘extra-market moral anchor’ – often found in religion – capable of balancing, or at least tempering, materialistic infatuations for rationalism, technology, and consumerism.”42

Thus, even in the USA, corporativist and authoritarian ideas became increasingly visible and even acceptable, albeit possibly in dilute form. The conclusion was that authoritarianism-corporativism was even more viable as a template in a country with a strong authoritarian-totalitarian tradition. These views explain why Dugin with his praise of authoritarian- totalitarian regimes—that the plan for creating such a regime often did not imply nationalization or strict regulation of the economy was usually ignored—and grand empire as the only ones that fit the Russian political tradition became so popular among Western pundits that even American Russia-watchers started to accept the danger of a Weimarian scenario. At that point, a “Weimar” scenario of sorts—Russian transformation into an authoritarian/semi-totalitarian state—started to become more popular or at least not dismissed outright as garb for marginals or clowns of the Zhirinovsky type. In this context, Russian nationalism was given its due. While at the beginning of the post-Soviet era, American pundits ignored or marginalized Russian nationalism as a serious force or saw it as loaded with democratic potential,43 the interpretation of the role of Russian nationalism in the country’s political culture and, in fact, nation- alism elsewhere, started to change. In the context of this new—or, actually old—approach, Russian nationalism had been restored to the role it had played throughout the Cold War era and before: it became the framework for Russia’s authoritarian/totalitarian and imperial propensities.

In the context of this study of Russian nationalism, Dugin was seen as an important figure and possible harbinger of a new era.44 Victor Yasmann, a well-known Western observer, saw Dugin as the emerging major ideologist of Putin’s Russia and Eurasianism as a major national ideology. In his view, “The new Eurasia movement brings under one political roof representatives of all major religious confessions, something that has not happened since Soviet times. More important, it represents another effort to popularize the concept of Eurasionism and make it into a national ideology for post-Soviet Russia.”45 As Dugin’s popu- larity rose, Yasmann increasingly saw Dugin and his Eurasianism as a leading force in shaping Kremlin policy; he believed in this role until the very end of Putin’s first term. Later, he noted, “It does indeed seem that many tenets of neo-Eurasianism including an insistence on Russia’s central role in Eurasia have become elements of state policy during Putin’s presidency. Putin’s foreign policy has clearly adopted a geopolitical approach in sharp contrast to the ideological Soviet foreign policies and Tsarists era messianic imperialism.”46 He also noted the great popularity of Eurasianism and implicitly supported Dugin’s statement that it exercised a strong influence on communists and other major parties.47 Other foreign observers followed suit. Ilan Bergman, a well-known political analyst, while analyzing Dugin’s ideas and their increasing popu- larity, came to the conclusion that Russia increasingly sought to regain ground in Eurasia.48 Charles Clover from the influential Financial Times – he would author a book on Dugin and Eurasianism in the future—noted that Russian President Vladimir Putin has a foreign travel program that looks similar to Dugin’s program.49 Clover was absolutely sure that Dugin was a man of great influence and extremely dangerous. Upon visiting Dugin, he made the following comment: “Only minor things reveal that Alexander Dugin is the diabolic initiator of the global empire. It is possible to have a pointed beard. It may be his habit to speak his voice too carefully. It is possible to have that honey-fluffy tone in his voice.”50 Richard Heinberg also believed Dugin shaped the Kremlin’s foreign policy.

Elaborating on Dugin’s influence and the implicit danger, he noted, “While Dugin’s ideas were banned during Soviet times for their echoes of Nazi pan-Eurasian fantasies, they gradually gained influence among post-Soviet Russian officials. For example, the noted Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently attacked the ‘strengthening tendency towards the formation of a uni-polar world under the financial and mili- tary domination of the USA’ and called for a ‘multipolar world order,’ while emphasizing Russia’s ‘geopolitical position as the largest Eurasian state’.”51 German scholars also noted Dugin and his influence.52 Russian émigré observers also believed Dugin and his ideas shaped Putin’s foreign policy.53 Ryszard Paradowski, Polish scholar, warned against underes- timating Dugin’s influence. He noted that some people could take Duginism as “intellectual play.” Still, he cautioned, Duginism had become too influential to take it as just an intellectual artifact of sorts.54

Finally, Dugin became the subject of serious academic studies.55 Mark Sedgwick paid considerable attention to Dugin in his work. He noted that whereas the Kremlin had accepted many premises of “Red to Brown,” Dugin made steps toward the Kremlin, indicating that Duginism had become the Kremlin’s mainstream ideology. Indeed, according to him, the creation of the Eurasian Party and similar moves clearly indicated that “Dugin and his associates have made a successful move towards the political mainstream, abandoning the red-brown alliance as useless, rather as Dugin once abandoned Pamyat.”56 John B. Dunlop, from the prestigious Hoover Institution, also noted Dugin and dealt with him in his work. He justified his interest by stating that a Dugin-type “extreme right wing philosophy” had become extremely popular.57 James noted Dugin as an influential intellectual who “dreams of an anti-Atlantic axis of Berlin, Tokyo and Teheran, each led by ‘charismatic theocrats.’”58 Joseph Tartakovsky noted on Billington’s analysis of Dugin’s philosophy, “Eurasianism is an eccentric and bigoted movement, but Billington insists on taking it seriously.”59

Dugin and his views also became an essential ingredient of any serious Western monograph that dealt with what was defined as right-wing ideology in modern Russia and its modifications, including right-wing views on Jews.60 For some Western scholars, Dugin became not just one of the major subjects of their academic work, but, in a way, a quintessen- tial symbol of Russian politics. For them, he was not just an intellectual on the right wing of the country’s political spectrum with some influence among the ruling elite, but a mainstream ideologist and indeed the North Star for the Kremlin. This made Dugin as a person and his ideas extremely dangerous. In their view, Dugin’s prominence indicated the primordial threat of post-Soviet Russia. In this reading, post-Soviet Russia either was on the eve of a neo-fascist imperial transformation, or had already entered this stage and constituted a mortal threat for the West. This specialist in Russian intellectual/political/cultural life insisted that Dugin should be the focus of study, for his rise heralded great danger for both Russia and the world. Andreas Umland, a German scholar of Russian- German lineage, devoted a good part of his entire academic career to Duginism and related phenomena and connected them with the vision of a dangerous neo-fascist Russia. Umland begin to publish on Dugin in the 1990s. His publication activities increased dramatically at the begin- ning of the 2000s, when the advent of Putin seemed to prove to him and similar-minded Western observers that a neo-fascist imperial Russia was in the making with Dugin its most important ideologist.61 Umland continued to see Dugin as extremely influential and, therefore, dangerous through Putin’s first term and beyond. Dugin’s popularity among leading Russian intelligentsia was clearly a point of concern.

Besides the West, Dugin also became popular in what Russians usually call the “near abroad”—the republics of the former USSR. Observers noted his strong influence on intellectual development in post-Soviet space in general, including Ukraine62 and Central Asia. Dugin became especially popular in Kazakhstan, where he is known even to taxi drivers.63.


1 Konstantin Frumkin, “Traditsionalisty: portret na fone tekstov,” Druzhba Narodov, June 2002, p. 128.

2 Ibid., p. 122.

3 Ibid., p. 127.

  • Frumkin, “Traditisionalisty,” 126.
  • Lofkowicz, “‘Rasputin’ ”
  • Dugin, “RPTs v prostranstve Evrazii,” Evraziia, 12 December See also Umland,

PostSoviet “Uncivil Society” and the Rise of Alexander Dugin, p. 127.

  • Dugin, “Vyzovy Evraziiskie otvety,” Evraziia, 20 August 2001.
  • Lofkowicz, “‘Rasputin’ ”
  • Umland, PostSoviet “Uncivil Society” and the Rise of Alexander Dugin, 11.
  • Lobkowicz, “Rasputin ”
  • “Rossiiskii” could not be translated directly as “Russian.” “Russian” usually implied ethnic belonging whereas “rossiiskii” has a broader It includes all people who lived in Russia regardless of ethnicity.
  • “Rektorom RGGU budet Alexandr Dugin,” ru, 10 December 2003.
  • Sergeii Troitskii (Pauk), “Novyi Kurs,” Zavtra, 29 October
  • Frumku, “Traditsionalisty,” 125.

17 Ibid., p. 125.

  • “Stenogramma raboty uchereditel’nogo s’ezda OPOD Evraziia,” Evraziia, 18 December
  • Dugin, Evraziiskaia missiia Narsultana Nazarbaeva, 118.
  • Dunlop, “‘Neoevraziiskii’ uchebnik Aleksandra Dugina i protivorechivyi otklik Dmitriia Trenina,” 111.
  • Dugin, Evraziiskaia Missiia Narsultana Nazarbaeva, 118.
  • “Finis Mundi CD,” Evraziia, 7 December
  • “Kratkii Obzor evraziiskoi ideologii,” Evraziia, 30 June 2002.
  • Grigorii Nekhoroshev, “Biznes-Evraziia,” Delovaia Khronika, 5 June
  • Igor S. Martynyuk, “Toward Understanding the Art of Modern Diasporic Ideology Making: The Eurasianist Mind-Mapping of the Imperial Homeland (1921–1934),” Journal of the Interdisciplinary Crossroads, 3, No. 1 (April 2006): 93.
  • Nekhoroshev “Biznes-Evraziia.”
  • One could add that the new round of anti-American and, in many ways, anti-Western feelings, in general would reach a new high with the beginning of the war in Ukraine (2014). Still—in sharp difference from a half-generation ago—these feelings would not be mixed with nostalgia for the USSR but mostly Russocentric, and have no appeal to Russo-Turkic symbiosis of
  • Stephen Hanson, “Leadership Succession in the Russian Federation After 2008?,”

Policy Memo 288, Center for Strategic and International Studies, December 2002.

  • Mogilner, “New Imperial History,” 44.
  • Iuliia Troll’, “Istinu govoriat odinochki,” Novoe Russkoe Slovo, 27 October
  • Iuliia Troll, “Intsindent v Aeroportu Kennedi,” Novoe Russkoe Slovo, 9 January
  • Andrei Kolesnikov, “Pokhishchenie Aziopy, Kolonka obozrevatelia,” Izvestiia, 21 November
  • Dugin, “RPTs v prostranstve Evraziia,” Evraziia, 12 December
  • Zarifullin, “Duginskoe evraziistvo umerlo, Da zdravstvuet evrazistvo! Beseda s byvshim rukovoditelem ESM Pavlom Zarifullinym,” APN , 6 November
  • Note that Fukuyama’s views changed or at least were modified as time progressed; he seemed to start to question the viability of grassroots democracy not only in the non-Western world but in the USA
  • During Bush’s tenure, Kissinger was dropped from the pool of CIA advisors and usually not invited to the White House for gatherings dealing with foreign
  • Anatol Lieven, “Post-Communist Sultans on the Caspian,” org, 8 November 2000.
  • Mario Del Pero, review of American Neoconservatism: The Politics and Culture of a Reactionary Idealism by Jean-François Drolet (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), H Net Reviews, 15 May
  • 41 Ibid., p. 96.
  • 42 Ibid., p. 99.
  • See Nikolai Petro, The Rebirth of Russian democracy (Harvard University Press, 1995).
  • See for example Wayne Allensworth, The Russian Question: Nationalism, Moderniza- tion, and PostCommunist Russia (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1998).
  • Victor Yasmann, “The Rise of the Eurasians,” RFE/RL Security Watch, Vol. 2, No. 17 (30 April 2001).
  • Victor Yasmann, “Aleksandr Dugin, Eurasia Party Founder and Chief Ideologue of the Russian Geopolitical School,” Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 2007, http://www. org/specials/russianelection/bio/dugin.asp.
  • Yasmann, “The Rise of the ”
  • Ilan Bergman, “Slouching Toward Eurasia?” Evraziia, 2002; originally published in Perspective,, 7 November
  • Lofkowicz, “Rasputin ”
  • Richard Heinberg, “The US and Eurasia: End Game for the Industrial Era?,” Online Journal, 13 March
  • See, g., Markus Mathyl, “Grenzenloses Eurasien,” Jungle World, No. 45, 30 October 2002,

htm (accessed 4 October 2007).

  • Semen Itskovich, “Kem formiruetsia gosudarstvennaia ideologiia Rossii,” Vestnik,, 5 June 2002.

  • Lofkowica, “Rasputin ”
  • Mark Sedgwick, the well-known scholar of those who confront modern liberal capi- talism, sees Dugin as quite an influential Sedgwick is the “author of an important book, Against the Modern World,” Anton Shelchovtsov and Andreas Umland, “Is Dugin a Traditionalist?,” Russian Review, Vol. 68 (October 2009): 662–78. “Sedgwick’s book was the first extensive scholarly attempt to analyze Duginism through the lens of Inte- gral Traditionalism, and this explained why his conclusions have been reproduced in subsequent scholarly studies of Duginism and ‘neo-Eurasianism’” (674).
  • Mark Sedgwick, “Eurasionists Versus Eurasionists,” JRL Research and Analytical Supplement to Johnson List, Stephen D. Shenfield, 10 July 2002, p. 14.
  • Dunlop, “‘Neoevraziiskii ‘uchebnik Aleksandra Dugina i protivorechivyi otklik Dmitriia Trenina,” p. 85.
  • Joseph Tartakovsky, “Strange Creatures,” Claremont Review of Books, June
  • See, g., Vadim Joseph Rossman, Russian Intellectual AntiSemitism in the Post

Communist Era (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press International Center, 2002).

  • See, e.g., Andreas Umland, Toward an Uncivil Society? Contextualizing the Recent Decline of Extreme RightWing Parties in Russia (Cambridge, MA: Weatherland Center for International Affairs, Harvard University, 2002).
  • Andrei Okara, “O chem povedali ‘Duginskie tetradki,” Ponedel’nik, 11 August
  • No author given, “Lazyk ryby znaet liagushka, ili kto drug Dugina,” Strana i mir, 14 November
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