Putin’s ‘Mad Philosopher’ Is Out of a Job
Moscow State University fires the mad dog of the Russian far right
Pay attention to the most extreme voices coming from Russia’s far right scene, and you’d be hard pressed to miss Alexander Dugin.
Variously described as “Putin’s brain,” a “mad philosopher” and “the crazy ideologue of the new Russian empire,” the 52-year-old sociology professor might be Russia’s biggest far right crackpot—with sway in the Kremlin. The heavily-armed, pro-Russian insurgents wrecking havoc in Ukraine also cite him as an inspiration.
But Dugin might now be too extreme to keep his job. Late last week, Dugin announced on his Facebook page that he’d been expelled from his prominent post at Moscow State University, where he headed the sociology department.
It’s not entirely clear what happened. The university responded that Dugin was still employed, but did not deny he’d been sacked from the chair of the department.
According to Dugin, unnamed “certain circles” were not happy with his hard-line support for the separatists in Ukraine. As far as Dugin is concerned now, he said, “my work at MSU is over.”
While the ups and downs of Dugin’s career might seem frivolous, he has a prominent place in both the Russian extreme right, and in mainstream politics. Aside from his—now possibly former—position at MSU, he’s cultivated ties to senior officials in the United Russia party and military officers.
Furthermore, Dugin has built a large following on social media, and frequently appears on state-owned television to promote Pres. Vladimir Putin and Dugin’s own fascistic brand of politics known as Neo-Eurasianism.
‘Kill, kill and kill’
What is Neo-Eurasianism? In short, Dugin wants to live in a totalitarian and ultra-Orthodox empire comprised of an ethnically homogeneous Russia and its former Soviet republics—united under the symbol of golden arrows emblazoned on a black flag.
He also sees Russia inevitably coming into conflict with the United States, which he calls a “maritime civilization” plagued by liberalism, homosexuality and cosmopolitanism. In Dugin’s world view, the West divorces people from their roots, ethnicity and religion. In contrast, Russia should create a land-based empire that reconnects its citizens to their blood and soil.
In April, Dugin elaborated his views for nearly an hour on prominent journalist Vladimir Posner’s T.V. program. Dugin provocatively argued Russia should rebuild its nuclear weapons stockpiles.
“If we want to avoid a hot war, we must be ready for precisely what [Russian journalist Dmitry] Kiselev is talking about, the destruction of America,” he said.
But Dugin’s apparent dismissal from MSU has led to theories he’s the target of some kind of intrigue—or an attempt by the Kremlin to distance itself from its most radical supporters. Recently, Dugin took to advocating a full-scale invasion of Ukraine and for Russians to “kill, kill and kill Ukrainians.”
That led to a petition campaign demanding Dugin’s dismissal. But there’s reasons to think something else is going on. “Examples in Russia of people power are thin on the ground making it seem likely that other factors were at play,” wrote journalist Halya Coynash of the Kharkiv Human Rights Protection Group.
There’s curious timing here. Putin last week asked the Russian parliament to rescind the authorization to use force in Ukraine—a signal Russia’s goal is shifting to create breakaway states under Russian protection as opposed to outright annexing the territory, as in Crimea.
The separatists also now have a representative—Ukrainian oligarch Viktor Medvedchuk—in negotiations with Kiev. In other words, Dugin might be good at inspiring young men to stir up chaos in places where chaos needs stirring up, but he might now be more trouble than he’s worth.
“The Kremlin now seems to have opted for efforts, with Medvedchuk’s help, to foist its version of ‘federalization’ on Ukraine, while apparently respecting its borders,” Coynash wrote. “Medvedchuk’s appearance indicates rather that the ‘ideological’ militants have served their purpose and can be largely bypassed.”
The Kremlin can bypass Dugin, too. But this doesn’t mean he’s going away, as he still has a large following.
“Any reports suggesting Dugin’s political demise are thus exaggerated—tragically for Ukraine, as well as for Russia itself,” Coynash added. It’s also not as if the Russian government is giving up on its plan to peel away foreign territory, piece by piece.