Staunton, December 21 – Putin’s opposition to Europe and the US “is acquiring the aspects of a real holy war, not at the level of metaphor as in the old Soviet song but in the completely literal religious sense,” but except for its core belief in Russian imperial statehood, the new faith on which it is based lacks any real content, according to Vadim Shtepa.
One can only agree with those who say that Putin has begun to use a certain messianism for pragmatic reasons, the Russian regionalist writer says. But the situation in which the Russian leader has evolved “from a civic politician into a religious conservative” in fact reflects something deeper as well.
That is shown by the fact that Putin propagandists talk about the country’s opponents in a way which “denies the enemy even a human status, claiming that “’We [Russians] are people, but they there (in the West) are not really so.”
Moreover, Shtepa says, “the ‘Third Rome’ is being to be conceived as a logical extension of the ‘First’ and ‘Second’” with the end of each being “equivalent to ‘the end of the world.’”
Thus, what Russia is doing now is taking “global revenge not only for the fall of the USSR … but also for more ancient empires.”
The ideological basis for such a view is provided by Eurasianism, not the original of the Russian emigration of the 1920s but in the form it has taken since the 1990s, a form which today „already looks almost to be the official geopolitical doctrine of the Kremlin,” Shtepa says.
Eurasianism now “synthesizes the history, geography, and ethnography of Russia and thus looks more ‘encompassing’ than the abstract ideological propositions of communism or liberalism.” Not only does this make it more influential, but at bottom, Eurasianism is all about the opposition of the East to the West.
Nikolay Trubetskoy, one of the founders of Eurasianism in the 1920s, ‘directly declared that Russia is the heir not of Kievan Rus but of the Golden Horde” and that the basis of Russian history is opposition to Europe. But at the same time, neither he nor his followers chose to move to Ulan Bator or Tehran, preferring instead to go to Europe.
That shows, Shtepa argues, the nature of Eurasianism. It is “a simulacrum, ‘a copy without an original.” Its “idealized ‘East’ had no relation to reality. In the final analysis,the essence of Eurasianism was [and is] purely reactive – ‘anti-Westernism’ as such.” Anything is justified as long as it is “‘against the West.’”
That makes it a good fit for the Kremlin now, he continues, at a time when “communist ideology has collapsed and the restoration of the pre-revolutionary monarchsm isn’t going to happen” becaue it provides a justification “for those who want to preserve the principle of imperial statehood” on which Russia is based.
“At first glance, [Eurasianism] appeals to the cultural multiplicity and uniqueness of Russia. But if one examines things more closely, it is difficult not to note that all this multiplicity is at the level of ‘national costumes’” rather than about something deeper. For Eurasianism, “the civilizational uniqueness of Russia consists in a centralized empire.”
That is a way in which it is fundamentally different from what could be called Europeanism,the ideological basis of the EU. Europeanism is “built on a dialogue of the multiplicity of European cultures. Eurasianism in contrast is an imperial monologue” in which Moscow speaks and everyone else listens.
If one throws out all the verbiage with which Eurasianism covers itself, Shtepa says, “the entire ‘civilizational identity of Russia is reduced to a banal state centrism,” something that makes Eurasian projects like the customs union problematic and challenges the status of the non-Russian peoples within the Russian Federation as well.
Because contemporary Eurasianism lacks any positive content except for Russian statism and imperialism, its adepts are driven to presenting their geopolitical projects as something akin to “religious messianism.” And that in turn leads them to strike eschatological poses which are truly frightening.
Shtepa notes that Aleksandr Dugin, the leading exponent of contemporary Eurasianism, has said that “it is necessary not to think about whether the end of the world is coming; instead, we must think about how it will be realized. This is our task.”
“If this were being proposed by some independent and insane philosopher to his adepts, there wouldn’t be any question about it,” Shtepa continues. “But Dugin is an author of textbooks for the Academy of the Russian General Staff” and a major influence on the thought of Vladimir Putin.
Such “geopolitical and religious fanatics for whom the entire surrounding world is hostile are really ready to destroy it even at the cost of the destruction of their own country,” an attitude that has more to do with a religious rather than a realist view of the world and one that must be opposed.