The Rise of Integral Antiamericanism in Russian Mass Media and Intellectual Life
Anti-Americanism has become a, if not the major feature of Russian foreign affairs journalism, and incorporates extreme ideas provided by Dugin and other anti-Western theorists.
While manifest neo-Nazi trends among youth are, for the first time, triggering a massive response by the Russian government, thinly veiled, yet structurally similar tendencies in public and elite discourse continue to flourish uninhibitedly and may be receiving encouragement from the Presidential Administration.
Ultranationalism among Russian youth and, to a lesser degree, in party politics as well as nascent official activity against xenophobia are receiving increasing attention by Russian and Western observers. Alarmed by the growing number of victims among foreign students, visitors from abroad and immigrants from Asia, Africa and the Americas, the Putin administration has started to take action against escalating skinhead violence. The Kremlin-directed Russian mass media reports now on a daily basis about attacks on foreigners and their – often, still hesitant – persecution by the procuracy. There is also frequent information on various central and local campaigns (concerts, demonstrations, meetings, etc.) to increase tolerance und mutual understanding among the young. The Russian government’s change of course from far-going disregard of the proliferating neo-Nazi subculture during Putin’s first term to robust reaction to it in his second term seems less determined by a change of mind in the Kremlin, than by utilitarian deliberations. The increasingly blatant behaviour of free-flowing neo-Nazi youth groups is seen to create an image problem for Russia, and to threaten foreign investment. Besides, the Kremlin appears to consider large-scale immigration as an instrument to counteract the dramatic demographic problems of Russia which is loosing about 700,000 people per year. Although pragmatic, rather than principled motivations may lay behind the current official campaign against primitive hate speech, violent attacks and other obvious forms of extreme xenophobia, the Russian state’s recent open acknowledgement of this problem is by itself to be welcomed.
On the other hand, less manifest, yet basically similar illiberal tendencies in public and elite discourse continue to develop with little inhibition and seem to be gaining influence on mainstream politics, civil society, mass media and higher education. Apart from the Putin administration’s own course of gradual curtailment of democratic procedures and its propagation of a relatively moderate form of nationalism, and in parallel to the more extreme expression of this trend in the ranting of the pro-Putin Zhirinovskii party, an intellectually refined form of deep anti-Westernism and, especially, anti-Americanism is becoming prominent in Russian expert commentaries and publicism on international affairs and contemporary history.
The Russian book-market is flooded with anti-liberal pamphlets outlining fantastic conspiracy theories, bizarre visions of Russian rebirth, and apocalyptic world views. The authors of such pamphlets include Sergey Kurginyan, Igor Shafarevich, Oleg Platonov, Maksim Kalashnikov (a pseudonym) and Sergey Kara-Murza. Moreover, many, if not most of central Russian TV’s weekly or daily political programmes are converging on a Manichean world view in which the US is made responsible for most of Russia’s (and, sometimes, humanity’s) problems. In prime-time regular “analytical” TV shows like “Odnako [Although]” (Leont’ev), “Real’naya politika [Real Politics]” (Pavlovsky), “Post Scriptum” (Pushkov) or “Chelovek i zakon [The Human Being and Law]” (Piromanov), the recurrent conclusion of many world and some domestic reports is that the United States’ political or/and intellectual elite is directly or indirectly involved in hidden malicious actions against the Russians and other nations. Such denouncing of American foreign behavior goes far beyond the critique of the current policies of the Bush administration to be found elsewhere, and is characterized by a paranoid interpretation of current history and plain hatred of, as well as considerable ignorance about, US American politics, values and culture.
The, perhaps, most prolific of this class of commentators is Dr Aleksandr Dugin (b. 1962) who is active in both book publishing and TV production. Dugin has transformed himself from a lunatic fringe figure openly admitting his sympathies for various permutations of inter-war fascism in the 1990s to a “radically centrist” Putin-supporter and well-regarded guest commentator in mainstream Russian mass media. Apart from his increasingly frequent participation in talk shows on Russia’s most important TV channels ORT, RTR and NTV, Dugin also hosts his own political programme “Vekhi [Signposts]” transmitted via Russia’s new Orthodox TV channel “Spas [Saving]” (an odd phenomenon in view of Dugin’s praise for West European occultism and Satanism during the 1990s). He is also a frequent contributor to various radio programmes as well as such newspapers as “Rossiiskaya gazeta”, “Literaturnaya gazeta”, “Krasnaya zvezda”, etc.
Whereas most nationalist authors and journalists remain within the limits of traditional Russian anti-Westernism, Dugin’s writings and speeches are informed by his intimate knowledge various non-Russian forms of anti-liberalism including West European integral “Traditionalism” (René Guénon, Julius Evola, Claudio Mutti, etc.), European and American geopolitics (Alfred Mahen, Halford Mackinder, Karl Haushofer et al.), the German so-called “Conservative Revolution” (Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, etc.) and the francophone, neo-Gramscian “New Right” (Alain de Benoist, Robert Steuckers). In most of his public statements, to be sure, Dugin plays down the influence of Western authors on his thinking, and instead uses the term “neo-Eurasianism” (an explicit reference to a reputed Russian émigré intellectual movement of the 1920s and 1930s) – an obvious attempt to hide his true sources.
In his many books and articles, Dugin draws the picture of an ancient conflict between
- free-market, capitalist, Atlanticist sea powers (“thallocracies”) that go back to the sunken world of Atlantis, are in the tradition of the ancient states of Phoenicia and Carthago, and are now headed by the “mondialist” United States, on the one side, and
- autarkic, etatistic, Eurasian continental land powers (“tellurocracies”), originating with the mythic country of “Hyperborea”, continuing the tradition of the ancient Roman Empire, and now having as its most important component Russia, on the other.
The secret orders or “occult conspiracies” of these two antagonistic civilizations—Eternal Rome and Eternal Carthago—have been in an age-old struggle, an occult Punic war, that has, often, remained hidden to its participants and even its key figures, but has, nevertheless, determined the course of world history. The confrontation is now entering its final stage, the “Great War of the Continents”. This demands Russia national rebirth via a “conservative” and “permanent revolution”. The new order to be created would be informed by the ideology of “National Bolshevism” and an exclusively “geopolitical” approach to international relations. A victory in this “Endkampf” (final battle; Dugin uses the German original as introduced by the Third Reich) against Atlanticism would create a “New Socialism”, and imply territorial expansion as well as the formation of a Eurasian bloc of fundamentalist land powers (including, perhaps, a “traditionalist” Israel!) against intrusive, individualist Anglo-Saxon imperialism.
Ideas such as these have led many observers to dismiss Dugin as a non-serious thinker, if not simply a bizarre, temporary phenomenon on Russia’s fragile political scene. In spite of the many phantasmorgic elements in his writings, Dugin has by now established himself, however, as the leader of an influential intellectual movement, “neo-Eurasianism”, that reaches beyond the lunatic fringe. Among the current members of the Highest Council of Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement, for instance, are several relevant Russian political figures including Minister of Culture Vladimir Sokolov, Presidential Aide Alsambek Aslakhanov, Federation Council Vice-Speaker Aleksandr Torshin, or the Chairman of the International Affairs Committee of the Federation Council Mikhail Margelov. Apart from various other, somewhat less prominent Russian actors, Dugin’s organization also includes a number of representatives, mainly academics, from the member countries of the CIS, as well as some marginal Western intellectuals.
While anti-American views have been a recurring feature of 20th century Russian interpretations of international affairs, their current proliferation is different in terms of the quantity and quality of these views. Anti-Americanism has become a, if not the major feature of Russian foreign affairs journalism, and incorporates extreme ideas provided by Dugin and other anti-Western theorists. Opposition to “American imperialism” seems to be designed to legitimize Putin’s illiberal politics, and to provide the glue that holds Russia’s elites together.
Dr. Andreas Umland is German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) Lecturer at the National Taras Shevchenko University of Kyiv.