20 years under Putin: a timeline

Alexander Yanov explains why is it that INSOR ideologues found themselves unexpectedly alligned with Dugin, and what was the “great turning point” in the ideology of the imperial revanchists.


Alexander Dugin, the main imperial revanchist ideologue and current leader of the International Eurasian movement.


“Unacceptable to whom?” — the reader might ask. Or “why?”

In the previous essay, I focused on why reactionaries reject INSOR’s (Russia’s Institute of Contemporary Development) ideology. Now I will take a look at why INSOR’s ideas should also be unacceptable to anyone (whether an opposition leader or the President himself) who wants to pull Russia out of the “historic trap" in which the country, in INSOR’s own words, has ended up.

While at the end of the day, INSOR’s economic analyses could be useful for any reformer of Russia, their theories are impossible to accept, not just because its ideologues were so cruelly deceived about [Dmitry] Medvedev, but because INSOR doesn’t just stick to making economic analyses. A large part of their work deals with policy, especially foreign policy, where their inexplicable political naivete makes them particularly vulnerable. They do not see the “third party” on the Russian political stage, what I will call the “party of imperial revanchism.”

In the meantime, with Putin’s imminent and essentially lifetime return to the Kremlin, the topic of imperial nationalism and fascism moves front and center. And this time around, Putin’s famous “dumb luck” (i.e. high oil prices have allowed for both guns and butter to co-exist) has, it seems, betrayed him. Since we know that Putin does not know how to do anything without that very same “dumb luck,” we can be sure that the first thing he will do is add fuel to the fire of nationalism. And this wouldn’t be the first time.

Just recall Putin’s 2007 Munich speech in which he, in essence, equated the U.S. with Nazi Germany. The Russian imperial revanchists greeted this speech with delight, seeing it as a sign of a change of course in Russia’s foreign policy. But after the 2008 financial crisis and Obama’s “reset” policy, Munich was was never brought up again.

What is important, however, is that in its foreign policy survey, INSOR did not even notice the delight of the imperial revanchists. This, of course, is nothing more than a symptom, but a significant symptom nonetheless. It shows that INSOR’s ideologues simply do not understand who is destined to become their main rival in the era of Russia’s degeneration under Putin.

There can be no doubt that this era awaiting Russia is going to become a time in which both the liberal democratic and the imperial revanchist opposition will maturee and rise to the competition. If Russia has truly entered into a phase of Brezhnevite decay with the return of Putin, then a new perestroika is not far off, either. And of course, this time around the imperial revanchists are going to get revenge for their resounding defeat in 1991.

Not only does INSOR not predict any of this, it doesn’t even have a hunch that this it to come. This becomes thoroughly obvious as soon as its ideologues move from doing economic analyses to attempting to enter the sphere of international politics. Here they are obviously out of their element, while the imperial revanchists, on the contrary, feels right at home.

For example, Dmitry Trenin, political analyst  at the Moscow Carnegie Center, clearly defines the role of foreign policy“as attracting an external (innovational) resource for the objectives of internal development…The foreign policy of the Russian Federation must be directed inwards, into the country itself.”  Does INSOR agree with this? In principle, yes, but in practice, INSOR begins its foreign policy recommendations with the premise that “the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) must be a key priority for the foreign policy of Russia.” Why? What “innovational resource” can Russia expect from Belarus, let alone from the Central Asian states? In what way can they help the “internal development of the country?”

“In the near future, we ought to orient ourselves towards the formation of a Eurasian Union,” continue the authors of the INSOR report. What for? Because, in their opinion, “the essence of Russia’s geo-economic interest lies in the fact that the countries of the Commonwealth are vital for the country to retain the status of a world power.”  Right here, INSOR’s shortsightedness tops the scale. INSOR is simply not aware that the imperial revanchists  have already staked their claim to the territories of the CIS some twenty years ago.

By the beginning of the 1990s, the newspaper Den', led by [Alexander] Prokhanov, was then staking its claim as the headquarters for the imperial revanchists, launched a special Eurasian page. Alexander Dugin, the main imperial revanchist ideologue and current leader of the International Eurasian movement, got his start there. He was then invited to give lectures to the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces. It was on that page that Dugin first published rough sketches of what would later become his famous book, Osnovy geopolitiki [Fundamentals of Geopolitics], which remains an important reference book for the top Russian military brass. Apparently, INSOR’s ideologues don’t even have a clue about any of this as they continue to repeat their mantra about “orientation towards a Eurasian Union.”

It looks like there is no way out: we are going to have to take it upon ourselves to enlighten INSOR (and not only them) about the ideas of the imperial revanchists and, more importantly, how this party, represented by its main ideologist Dugin, is preparing for the impending fight.  First, however, a bit about Dugin’s key ideas.

“Russia within the limits of the Russian Federation is not only a territorially insufficient geopolitical formation, but also a fundamentally unacceptable solution to the question of geopolitics.” Any decision must adhere to “an imperial-based understanding of the historical mission of Russia, which must either become an independent and self-sufficient formation, or shift away from its historic destiny.” Furthermore, argues Dugin, after “any slowing down in the gathering of empire (to say nothing of the abandonment of the geopolitical expansion of Russia) will inevitably lead to much Eurasian bloodshed.” It should come as no surprise that that during the five day war in South Ossetia in August 2008, Dugin was calling for the occupation of Tbilisi and was photographed with a gun aimed in the direction of Georgia. It’s important to add that Dugin, who was in the National-Bolshevik Party (NBP) with Eduard Limonov from 1993 to 1998 and who Limonov referred to as “the Cyril and Methodius of Russian fascism,” took 36th place on a list of the most influential Russian intellectuals (based on the results of a survey by the authoritative website Openspace.ru).

And now about the preparation for the impending battle of ideas. Dugin, with whom the INSOR ideilogues found themselves unexpectedly alligned with (surely ignorance leads to disaster), has abruptly changed sides in recent years. With the return of Putin, Dugin is no longer a revolutionary. Not only is he not buddies with Limonov any more, not only is he renouncing fascism (although he does continue to assert that “the nation is everything, the individual is nothing”), he is now probably one of Putin’s biggest supporters among the country’s intellectuals. Judge for yourselves: “There are no opponents to Putin’s course of action,” said Dugin after the Munich speech, “and if there are, then these are mentally ill people and they need to be institutionalized. Putin is everywhere. Putin is everything. Putin is absolute. Putin is irreplaceable.”

In a recent and unusually candid interview with the Pravaya.ru website (which features the absolutely delightful subheading “The Herald of Black Modernization”), Dugin admitted that “if we suppose for a moment that Limonov had died of AIDS in 1998, and that the National-Bolshevik Party had remained under my leadership, then we would undoubtedly have joined with Putin. Instead of “Nashi,” there would have been the large oprichnina [Ivan the Terrible’s dreaded secret police — Trans.] NBP organization.”

But all this iswishful thinking.  In reality, Dugin has since then defended two doctoral dissertations (in sociology and political science), has become a professor at the Moscow State University, and is now head of the Center for Conservative Research, an all-Russian organization which has set out to propagandize the ideas of a conservative revolution in Russia, targeting the country’s intellectual elite.

From my point of view, the “great turning point” in the ideology of the imperial revanchists — a shift from criticizing the regime to recruiting the intelligentsia and students to serve it – is hugely important. I will try to explain why, even at the risk of repeating some of the ideas frommy forthcoming book, Istoriya odnogo otrecheniya: Pochemu v Rossii ne budet fashizma [The History of One Renunciation: Why There Will Not Be Fascism In Russia], which will be released in the next few days.

Unlike its predecessors of the 19th and the end of the 20th century, today’s intellectual elite of Russia is not prepared to face the liberal opposition. Disappointed by previous defeats, a significant part of today’s intellectuals has come to believe in some sort of “Russian nature,” which, due to some supposed “metaphysical character of Russian Power,” deprives the country of having a truly European future. History shows us, however, that the liberal opposition has a chance at winning only in the event that the struggle for freedom is led by the country’s intellectual elite. In other words, the indecisiveness of today’s elite, in essence, has decapitated today’s opposition.

All this is made even worse by the fact that the liberal opposition itself, buried up to its neck in the day-to-day hustle of current politics, does not realize that it has been decapitated, and as a result does not know how to react when such a committed democrat as Yuri Afanasiev unexpectedly declares: “The Russian system – end of story.” Or when such a committed liberal as Yuri Pivovarov explains: “The idea that Russia will someday become a normal European country is impossible.”

In practice what happens is this. As [political activist] Evgeniya Chirikova candidly admits, “when [political activist] [Alexei] Navalny explains how one should conduct oneself in the election, I believe him, and when [Boris] Nemtsov explains it, I believe him.” [Navalny and Nemtsov have different opinions about what to do in the voting booth in the upcoming election: Nemtsov says to write an expletive on the ballot while Navalny suggests voting for anyone else other than Putin. — Editor's note]

And this is the exact weak spot that the imperial revanchists and Dugin have gotten wind of. Why not actually make use of the disarray in the ranks of the liberal elite and the devastation in the heads of the liberal opposition in order to entice the student youth over to the side of the conservative revolution? Do the youth traditionally sympathize with the opposition? But wait, Dugin, too, is in opposition to the status quo. Something INSOR also does not suspect is the number of people who want change.  For example: “We must say that what we have now is not good, and is, in fact, very, very bad, and furthermore, to continue supporting the status quo is monstrous, since it merely stands in the way of real recovery.” We now know what Dugin considers to be a “recovery” for Russia.

The only problem is that INSOR does not know this. This is why its ideology is, in the end, utterly unacceptable. It is not preparing us for the impending battle of ideas — it does not even suspect that a battle is going to take place.


EDITOR'S NOTE: On October 5, 2011, Financial Times quoted Aleksander Dugin saying the following:



Aleksander Yanov remarks: "I wrote my new essay 'Why INSOR's Ideology Is Utterly Unacceptable' in mid-September. While it was being translated and edited, it turns out that INSOR wasn't the only one who picked up, without even realizing it, Aleksander Dugin's idea about the Eurasian Union: Prime Minister Vladimir Putin did the same. INSOR's analysts gave a warm welcome to my previous essay 'INSOR and Its Critics'. Unfortunately, they 'forgot' to mention where it had been originally published. It will be interesting to hear their response to this new essay about their ideology being impossible to accept."