donderdag, juni 01, 2006

The Philosophy Behind the Nationalism door Andreas UMLAND in The Moscow Times, 1 juni 2006.

Ultranationalism among Russian youth, along with nascent official activity against xenophobia is receiving increasing attention from 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 administration of President Vladimir Putin has started to take action against escalating skinhead violence. The Kremlin-directed mass media reports now on a daily basis about attacks on foreigners and the prosecution, if hesitant, of the offenders. There is also regular information about different campaigns (such as concerts, demonstrations and meetings) to increase tolerance and mutual understanding among the young.

The government's change of course from an overarching disregard of the proliferation of neo-Nazi subculture during Putin's first term to a more robust reaction to it in his second seems less determined by a change in attitude in the Kremlin than by utilitarian considerations. The increasingly violent behavior on the part of these ultranationist youth groups creates an image problem for Russia. Further, the Kremlin seems to consider large-scale immigration as an instrument for dealing with the country's dire demographic situation, so animosity toward outsiders isn't particularly positive. Whatever the reasons, the fact that the state has recently begun to acknowledge the problem openly is a welcome development.

On the other hand, less manifest yet similar illiberal tendencies in public and elite discourse continue to develop and appear to be gaining influence in mainstream politics, civil society, mass media and higher education. Along with the Putin administration's own gradual curtailment of democratic procedures and propagation of a relatively moderate form of nationalism and an intellectually refined form of deep anti-Westernism and, especially, anti-Americanism has become common in Russian expert commentary and analysis related to international affairs and contemporary history.

The country's publishing market is flooded with anti-liberal diatribes outlining bizarre visions of a Russian rebirth and apocalyptic worldviews. The authors of these works include names like Sergei Kurginyan, Igor Shafarevich, Oleg Platonov, Maxim Kalashnikov (alias Vladimir Kucherenko) and Sergei Kara-Murza. Moreover, many, if not most, weekly or daily political programs on national television offer a Manichean worldview in which the United States is responsible for most of Russia's (and often humanity's) problems. Prime-time analytical programs like Mikhail Leontyev's "Odnako," Gleb Pavlovsky's "Realnaya Politika," Alexei Pushkov's "Post Scriptum" and Alexei Pimanov's "Chelovek i Zakon" conclude the majority of their international and some of their domestic reports with the assertion that U.S. elites are involved, directly or indirectly, in hidden malicious activities against Russia and other countries. This discourse goes far beyond the common criticisms of the recent policies of U.S. President George W. Bush's administration to be found elsewhere, and is characterized by a paranoid interpretation of current history and, sometimes, pathological animosity toward U.S. politics, values and culture.

Perhaps the most prolific commentator here, both in print and on television, is mystic philosopher Alexander Dugin, who has transformed himself from a lunatic fringe figure with open sympathy for various permutations of inter-war fascism in the 1990s to a "radically centrist" Putin supporter and well-regarded guest commentator in mainstream media. Apart from regular appearances on national television talk shows, Dugin also hosts the political program "Vekhi" on the new Orthodox television channel "Spas" -- an interesting venue considering his interest in Western European occultism in the 1990s. He is also a frequent contributor to newspapers like Rossiiskaya Gazeta, Literaturnaya Gazeta and Krasnaya Zvezda.

Dugin is interesting as an anti-liberal thinker in that, while most nationalist writers remain within the limits of traditional Russian anti-Westernism, Dugin's writings and comments are informed by his intimate knowledge of a broad spectrum of non-Russian forms of anti-liberalism, including West European integral traditionalism (such as Renй Guenon, Julius Evola and Claudio Mutti), European and U.S. geopolitics (Alfred Mahen, Halford Mackinder and Karl Haushofer), Germany's so-called "Conservative Revolution" (including Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, Arthur Moeller van den Bruck) and the francophone, neo-Gramscian "New Right" (such as Alain de Benoist and Robert Steuckers). He generally, however, downplays the influence of these writers on his thinking, instead using the term "neo-Eurasianism," an explicit reference to a reputed Russian emigre intellectual movement of the 1920s and 1930s.

Dugin melds all of these influences together to draw a picture of an ancient conflict between two civilizations and between two contradictory ideas. On one side are the free-market, capitalist, Atlantic sea powers (he calls them "thallocracies") in the tradition of the ancient states of Phoenicia and Carthage, which are now headed by the United States, and on the other autarchic Eurasian continental land powers (labeled "tellurocracies"), begining with the mythical country of "Hyperborea" and running through the tradition of the ancient Roman Empire to its main representative today, Russia. The secret orders, or "occult conspiracies" of these two antagonistic empires -- Eternal Rome and Eternal Carthage -- are continuing their age-old struggle, an occult Punic war, one that has often remained hidden from many of its participants and even its key figures, but has nevertheless determined the course of world history.

Which brings us to what it all means, in Dugin's opinion, for Russia today. He says that the confrontation is now entering its final stage, the "Great War of the Continents," which will require a Russian national rebirth via a conservative and permanent revolution. The new order Dugin envisions will be informed by the ideology of National Bolshevism and an exclusively geopolitical approach to international relations. Victory in this "Endkampf," or final battle, as the term was introduced in German in the Third Reich) against Atlanticism will create a "New Socialism," bringing territorial expansion and the formation of a Eurasian bloc of fundamentalist land powers (including, perhaps, even a traditionalist Israel!) against intrusive, individualistic Anglo-Saxon imperialism.

Ideas like these have led observers to label Dugin a nonserious thinker, if not simply a bizarre, temporary phenomenon on Russia's political scene. The problem is that, despite the many phantasmagoric elements in his writings, Dugin has established himself as the leader of an influential intellectual movement, "neo-Eurasianism," that reaches beyond the lunatic fringe. And he's got an influential following. The High Council of Dugin's International Eurasian Movement, for instance, includes political figures like Culture and Press Minister Vladimir Sokolov, presidential aide Aslambek Aslakhanov, Federation Council Deputy Speaker Alexander Torshin and Federation Council International Affairs Committee chairman Mikhail Margelov. The organization also includes representatives, mainly academics, from a number of other CIS member countries, as well as some marginal Western intellectuals.

While anti-Americanism has been a recurring feature of Russia's 20th-century views on international affairs, the current manifestation differs in terms both of the quantity and quality of these views. Anti-Americanism has become one, if not the major, feature of Russian foreign affairs journalism, incorporating many of the more extreme ideas provided by Dugin and other anti-Western theorists. This opposition to "American imperialism," in turn, serves as a justification for Putin's illiberal policies and provides the glue that holds Russia's elites together.

Andreas Umland is German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) lecturer at the National Taras Shevchenko University of Kiev.

Bron: The Moscow Times


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