Staunton, July 4 – The Izborsky Club, a group of intellectuals and writers put together by Aleksandr Prokhanov to promote Russian nationalist and traditionalist views, clearly has had a major influence on Vladimir Putin’s thinking and policies, including his annexation of Crimea and support for the idea of “a Russian world.”
But now that Prokhanov and his even more notorious club member Aleksandr Dugin have complained to the “Wall Street Journal” about Putin’s current approach to Ukraine and about their loss of status and access, some may conclude that the Izborsky Club is becoming passé.
That Prokhanov, Dugin and their colleagues may have lost on this issue, however, should not obscure the influence they have had and are likely to continue to have on the way in which Putin and his entourage conceive the world and hence on the policies that he and they are likely to pursue.
Indeed, it may be the case that groups like the Izborsky Club in Russia, just like some think tanks in the West, are less important for their impact on specific policies, even policies as critical as Moscow’s approach to Ukraine has been than they are for that kind of broader but less specifically traceable influence they do exert.
That is certainly the implication of what Vitaly Averyanov, the director of the Moscow Institute of Dynamic Conservatism and a co-founder of the Izborsky Club, told a Svobodnaya Pressa interviewer at the end of last week when asked about the influence of group.
The core of the Izborsky Club consists of a group of “ideologists, each of whom over the last 15 to 20 years has pursued his own course and established his own school and his own direction of social thought.” Among the most prominent are not only Prokhanov and Dugin but Glazyev, Fursov, Platonov, Narochnitskaya, and Father Tikhon.
Several things made the formation and promotion possible, he continued, including the collapse of Vladislav Surkov’s divide-and-rule approach to nationalism, growing recognition in Russia of the need for a national idea, and of course the work of members like Prokhanov himself.
In many respects, Averyanov argued, the Izborsky Club is an indication that the process of the absorption of Russia and its “swallowing” by the West has come to an end and that Russians are now prepared to oppose that process wherever they see it. “Resistance,” he said, “is a sign of life.”
As far as the club’s influence on politics is concerned, he continued, “we practically have created a reserve Kremlin ideology,” which if not “adopted by the powers,” nonetheless helps to define the “official order of the day” and thus determines “step by step the transformation of the political atmosphere.”
Asked about the widely-rumored links between the Izborsky Club and the actions of pro-Russian groups in eastern Ukraine, Averyanov said that “of course the Izborsky Club is not the author of the scenario of the rising in the Donbass. But a connection exists, a deep connection,” and Igor Strelkov is “a man of our direction.”
With regard to Ukraine, he said that “Ukraine is not a state: it is a buffer formation.” It is the product of the weakening of the Russian nation. And it is not a separate nation either – although he said one can create the simulacrum of a nation. “Give me the money and staff, and after 15 years, I will form a nation of Siberians which I can control,” Averyanov added.
The division of Ukraine is not an ethnic one but “a mental or civilizational one,” the specific “front” of the clash of civilizations in which the West is seeking to extend its sway over Russia. If the West wins in Ukraine, he argued, there is “a great probability” that it will extend this clash into Russia itself.