The Eurasian Idea

by Jonah Shepp

Pankaj Mishra explores the anti-Western, chauvinist ideology that Putin’s Russia reflects:

Eurasianism is presently articulated by the political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, the son of a KGB officer, who reportedly has many attentive listeners in the Kremlin and the Orthodox Church. Dugin and his acolytes acknowledge that centuries after Tamerlane’s conquests, which redrew the map of the world, Eurasia remains, as U.S. policy maker Zbigniew Brzezinski put it in 1997, “the chessboard on which the struggle for global primacy continues to be played.” Accordingly, Dugin has advocated a new anti-Western alliance between Russia and Asian countries. Revanchists such as Dugin have enjoyed a fresh legitimacy in the post-Yeltsin era, when the empire created by Soviet Communists fragmented and a struggling Russia appeared to have been deceived and undermined by a resurgent and triumphalist West. …

Putin himself rose to high office on a wave of support from the Russian masses, which had been exposed to some terrible suffering caused by Russia’s westernization through economic “shock therapy.” Bending Crimea to his will, or calling for a religious revival, Putin seems to be realizing the old Eurasian fantasy of a strong ideological state dedicated to restoring Russia’s distinctive national and civilizational “otherness.”

With that ideology in mind, Timothy Snyder notes that Putin’s view of the Ukrainian revolutionaries is more than a little ironic:

It is deeply strange for an openly right-wing authoritarian regime, such as that of Vladimir Putin, to treat the presence of right-wing politicians in a neighboring democracy as the reason for a military invasion. Putin’s own social policy is, if anything, to the right of the Ukrainians whom he criticizes. The Russian attempt to control Ukraine is based upon Eurasian ideology, which explicitly rejects liberal democracy. The founder of the Eurasian movement is an actual fascist, Alexander Dugin, who calls for a revolution of values from Portugal to Siberia. The man responsible for Ukraine policy, Sergei Glayzev, used to run a far-right nationalist party that was banned for its racist electoral campaign. Putin has placed himself at the head of a worldwide campaign against homosexuality. This is politically useful, since opposition to Russia is now blamed on an international gay lobby which cannot by its nature understand the inherent spirituality of traditional Russian civilization.