Timothy Snyder, whose historic analysis of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine is worth reading in full, situates Putin’s ideology within the rising tide of far-right nationalism in Europe:
More than anything else, what unites the Russian leadership with the European far Right is a certain basic dishonesty, a lie so fundamental and self-delusive that it has the potential to destroy an entire peaceful order. Even as Russian leaders pour scorn on a Europe they present as a gay fleshpot, Russia’s elite is dependent upon the European Union at every conceivable level. Without European predictability, law and culture, Russians would have nowhere to launder their money, establish their front companies, send their children to school, or spend their vacations. Europe is both the basis of the Russian system and its safety valve.
Likewise, the average Heinz-Christian Strache (FPÖ in Austria) or Marine Le Pen (Front National in France) voter takes for granted countless elements of peace and prosperity that were achieved as a result of European integration. The archetypical example is the possibility, on 25 May, to use free and fair democratic elections to the European parliament to vote for people who claim to oppose the existence of the European parliament.
In an equally weighty essay, Pádraig Murphy explores the intellectual heritage of Eurasianism:
The most prominent representative of this school in Moscow is Aleksandr Dugin, a professor at Moscow State University and leader of the Centre for Conservative Research. … Dugin is a disciple of Sir Halford Mackinder (1861-1947), the geopolitician who introduce the concept of the “Heartland”, or the “world island”, the Eurasian land mass, and who theorised that “who rules the world island commands the world”. He contrasted this with the Sealand, essentially the geopolitical sector dominated by sea power – in his time, Britain, now, the United States.
Dugin sees Russia as dominating the Heartland, the term he consistently uses. He explicitly harks back to the Slavophiles who, he says, had the concept of the Heartland, while the Westernisers did not, but also to the Eurasianists and their disparagement of Romano-German civilisation. The White emigration in Prague, he says, declared Russia not a part of European culture, but a separate “state world”, made up of a unique blend of western and eastern cultures.
It began with Boris Yeltsin signing a number of decrees recognizing special rights, including the right to bear arms, for Cossack groups, but their re-emergence has accelerated under Vladimir Putin, who has made them something of a symbol of his conservative nationalist ideology. In 2005 Putin signed a bill allowing registered Cossack organizations to select members of special Cossack units in the Russian military and giving himself the right to appoint Cossack generals.
Cossack military schools have been formed. Cossack patrols have been policing cities in 19th-century military garb, including Moscow. In Krasnodar, home to Sochi, 1,000 Cossacks were put on the government payroll ahead of the Winter Olympics. They’ve also at times served as conservative cultural enforcers, policing ethnic minorities from southern Russia and leading campaigns against controversial artwork including Pussy Riot and a staged reading of Lolita in St. Peterburg.