The Kremlin is looking for a new identity in the most difficult moment of the ‘special military operation’ that Moscow undertook last February against Ukraine. And as has already happened in the past, for example after 2010, it is aimed at ultra-conservative thinkers, perhaps known abroad, such as Aleksandr Dugin, but marginal in Russia. They are the only ones able to provide a “clear and coherent project that Putin can appreciate” and above all they are among the few thinkers left in Russia.
Their influence is evident in the public discourse, deprived of any residue of pragmatism, dominated by terms such as “holy war against the West” and “final and apocalyptic confrontation between Orthodox Rus against the Antichrist”, declined in various ways recently by Ramzan Kadyrov and Dmitry Medvedev and also, when it comes to the West satan, by Vladimir Putin.
Representatives of the presidential administration, including Deputy Chief of Staff, former technocrat, Sergei Kiriyenko, Director of the State Council Department Aleksandr Kharichev and Head of the Directorate for Social Affairs, Sergei Novikov, receive and consult with Aleksandr Dugin, Aleksandr Prokhanov, Vardan Bagdasaryev, and Konstantin Malofeyev, announce the independent news site Meduza citing several well-informed sources.
These meetings help to generate the programmatic contents of the official ideology and also to define the points of discussion that then end up in the speeches, in the tweets, of the whole apparatus from Putin down.
Dugin – whose daughter Darya was killed in an attack last August – is a Eurasist philosopher and ideologue of “Russkyi Mir”, the idea of a Russian world that unites Russians across borders and therefore of a universe purified of all idea coming from the collective and threatening West.
Prokhanov, editor of the weekly Zavtra, proposes an imperial ideology and the idea of ”atomic orthodoxy”, that is, a model of state organization that combines elements of Stalinism and pre-revolutionary patriarchal orthodox Russia.
The historian Bagdasaryan is perhaps the least known of them. He has written for Zavtra and co-signed books with the former president of Russian railways, the ultra-conservative Vladimir Yakunin. He often writes about the ongoing clash of civilizations and defines the Donbass as “the frontier of Russian civilization”. The Donbass is not only the springboard for the liberation of Ukraine from Nazism “it is also a platform for the reconquest of Russian civilization itself.
It is the Donbass that produces Russian ideology, not with theory but with blood and death, he wrote. Only an ideology made sacred by the blood of heroes can, in his opinion, have a historical perspective. The Donbass was the cradle for a new youth, different from the postmodern students of Moscow. Sooner or later they will return to civilian life and the young people of Moscow will not have easy times.
Konstantin Malofeyev is also known abroad. Ultra-conservative oligarch, founder and editor of Tsargrad TV, which he founded with the help of former Fox news director Jack Hanick, for whom Dugin works and for whom Dugina worked. His relations with the Kremlin have not been easy in the past, particularly when he tried to climb the Righteous Russia Party in 2019.
The head of the Ukraine dossier in the Kremlin Kiriyenko, who started talking last month about victory if the war was really popular, spoke in the same days at the World Assembly of the Russian People, an Orthodox Christian organization led by Patriarch Kirill and by Malofeyev who is number two.
Dugin and Prokhanov gained access to the Kremlin inconsistently. Shortly before 2010, they were heard by the “Eminence Gray” Vladislav Surkov. Then that’s enough. They were once again marginal. But now this is no longer the case. “These days, Dugin’s vocabulary comes directly to Putin’s lips,” a source explained to Meduza, stating that if the President had hardly ever heard of him previously, everything has changed.
After the assassination, Putin took a “strong interest in Dugin”. He sent him a condolence telegram and encouraged administration contracts with the philosopher. A month after Dugina’s killing, Putin used one of his father’s favorite leaders, Anglo-Saxon hegemony in the West, then American and British.
Dugin, 60, whose father worked for the Crane before being transferred to customs after his son’s arrest in 1983, then studied at the Civil Aviation Academy. For a few years he played the rebel beatnik. But after the collapse of the USSR he had taught, thanks to Prokhanov, at the Academy of the General Staff which developed in the early 1990s as a bastion against the government of Boris Yeltsin and his liberal reformers, in favor of a syncretism between nationalism and sovietism. From his lessons he drew the essay “Fundamentals of geopolitics”, published in 1997, still in use now in the various military academies, in which the return of the USSR, Eurasia is called for. A book that, as Dugin said, was “open source software” that everyone could copy.
His ideology has veered towards even more extremist tones. A few hours ago, on television, the philosopher who as a young man did not hide his sympathies for Nazism, said he agreed with Kadyrov’s words on the holy war against the West. The country is engaged, he said, “in an Orthodox, final, apocalyptic and eschatological battle: Orthodox Rus against the antichrist. This is the goal of the special military operation”.