The excerpt here gives a brief idea of the career of Alexander Dugin, a devotee of far-right political philosophies whose ideas about “geopolitics” have, according to many pundits, influenced some of Vladimir Putin’s recent decisions about international policy. Dugin is a follower of Julius Evola, the Italian far-right esoteric thinker, and in his controversial writings, he often mixes Evola’s Traditionalism with elements of chaos magick, as well as a variety of totalitarian political and social ideas.
In recent times, Dugin has become an increasingly visible presence as a contributor and/or interviewee with English-language media outlets that cover conspiracy theories, including Alex Jones’ InfoWars.
Uniting everything inside the Russian soul – or at least its borders – is something that Alexander Dugin would very much like to do. He has called for a Russian fascist state, along synarchic lines, stretching from Vladivostok to Dublin and for the American “empire” to be “destroyed,” although with Trump’s victory, his tone toward the US, usually venomous, has grown less aggressive. Trump’s election, Dugin said, was “incredibly beautiful – one of the best moments of my life,” a feeling, we’ve seen, that far-right advocates in other parts of the world also shared. He is now following developments in the US “with great interest” and has asked Trump to “call me.” Given the trouble Trump and his team have had with talking to Russians, it might be awhile before Dugin hears from him.
This sudden political mood swing is characteristic of Dugin, who takes Vladislav Surkov’s tactic of adopting contradictory political positions to new extremes, something his training in chaos magick must have facilitated. His approach to politics is rather like a chaotician’s to ritual: throwing disparate elements together to see the effect, deconstructing National Socialism, picking out the good bits, and velcroing these to Stalin-style authoritarianism to see what happens. This is something he pursues in his confusing and often incoherent work The Fourth Political Theory, which cherry-picks from the authoritarian politics of the previous century, in order, with a pinch of Heidegger, to steer the postmodern world into the post-apocalyptic future. For Dugin Trump’s ascension suggests that his dream of a Russian super-state, absorbing its ex-Soviet satellites and expanding beyond them, is becoming a reality, or at least is made more “achievable.” For a political theorist savvy with hyper-sigils and forms of New Thought, this is a good thing. It also suggests a new meaning to the idea that Russia was somehow behind Trump’s election.
So far Dugin has had some success, much more than Julius Evola, of whom he is a great reader, ever had. It is no exaggeration to say that Putin’s annexing of Crimea and incursions into Ukraine have been motivated in no small part by a strange theory of geopolitics that Dugin promotes, and which itself is in no small way influenced by the idea of a perennial war between “solar” and “lunar” types that Evola advances in practically all his work. Geopolitics is the study of how geography influences world politics – a discipline at which some Nazi theorists excelled – and Putin’s push into Ukraine and covetous glances at the Baltic states and other neighbours is informed by Dugin’s take on this. Dugin’s vision of a new civilization, along Spenglerian lines, rising up from the great “heart land” of which Holy Russia is the center, calls for a global struggle between the maritime forces of the “lunar” Atlanticists, citizens of the “world island,” and the continental-based forces of what he calls “solar” “Eurasia.”
Readers of Orwell’s 1984 will recall the name of one of the world states occupied in perpetual war. Dugin’s vision of the coming end times includes the kind of non-linear war that Surkov, a sometimes ally, initiated in Ukraine, and which resulted in sanctions being imposed on both by the US for their activities in the conflict. Dugin, who is looking forward to these being lifted, no doubt accepts that this is a small price to pay for helping the end of the world along, which he sees as imminent and necessary and which will entail the kind of “war of all against all” that looms over Orwell’s novel – an example once again, perhaps, of fact and fiction fusing into something simultaneously more and less than either. The end of the world will not happen by itself, he tells us. We must give it a push or, as chaos magicians would say, a nudge. This is our “task,” our “practice,” what he calls “active metaphysics,” something that in various forms we have been occupied with throughout this book.
Alexander Dugin was born in Moscow in 1962 to a upper middle class family. His father was an officer in Soviet military intelligence and his mother was a doctor. Dugin came to the authorities’ attention in 1983 when he was detained by the police for singing at a party an anti-Soviet song he had written, which called for the elimination of the Soviet leadership (“our revolvers will not misfire”) and for Russian – not Soviet – soldiers to conquer the world. He was arrested at home and taken to the Lubyanka, the notorious KGB headquarters, for questioning. Dugin’s father was demoted because of the incident, and Dugin himself was banned from then on from working at anything more than menial jobs.
Early on the military strain we have found in others appeared in Dugin, as well as the tendency to “rightness” and violence that often accompanies it. He was once almost shot by an angry driver after drunkenly kicking in his taillight – Dugin was a heavy drinker – and during the occupation of Ostankino, the national television station, by anti-Yeltsin protestors in 1993, he felt “the breathe of spirit” blowing through the chaos as troops loyal to Yeltsin retook the building, massacring several demonstrators in the process.  He is known to storm out of interviews if his statements are questioned, and has called for a new Russian political party, a “party of death, of the total vertical” that would be the equivalent of Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant Islamist group.
Probably his most violent remarks concerned the war in Ukraine. When asked his view on events he said “Kill them, kill them, kill them” – the Ukrainians, that is. The outburst cost him his job in the Department of Sociology at Moscow State University. Dugin is also believed to be responsible for the fake news story that Ukrainian soldiers “crucified” a young boy in Slovyansk, in eastern Ukraine. As an expert on “conspirology”, the study and propagation of conspiracies, Dugin no doubt recognizes that the truth of some statement is no longer important, only its effectiveness, an insight he shares with Trump.
By the time of his arrest Dugin had already been expelled from the Moscow Aviation Institute because of his interest in various neo-Nazi ideas. His fascination with the Third Reich started early and was nurtured in the bohemian occult-science fiction scene he entered in his late teens. One book popular with this set was The Morning of the Magicians, which spoke of Hitler as “ ‘Guénonism’ plus tanks.” While this is not quite accurate, it did set the mould for the blend of occultism and far-right radical politics that attracts Evola’s readers and colored Dugin’s career.
He was taken under the wing of Yevgeny Golovin, an alcoholic alchemist also obsessed with Hitler. Another older bohemian who guided the young Dugin was Geydar Dzhemal, a Russian Islamist who, like Evola, promoted a kind of religious radicalism. It was a milieu in which Satanism, séances, Ouija boards, occultism, drugs, sex, alcohol, role playing, and fascism came together into a heady brew.
Golovin was something of a Svengali, “zombifying” his followers and leading them through a variety of “performances,” directing them in fantasies as sailors, poets, Knights of the Round Table, and, invariably, Nazis, an early outing in the role-playing that characterizes Dugin’s career. Dugin soon became another dominant figure on this scene, zombifying others himself, as gurus and demagogues do. With his pudding-bowl haircut, hippie guitar, cavalry breeches, and aristocratic manner, he presented a striking persona, one with “a dash of fascist imagery and a repertoire of occult songs.” “Dash” however does not quite cover Dugin’s Nazi obsession. He called himself “Hans Sievers,” after the director of Himmler’s Ahnenerbe, which researched “Aryan history,” and once smashed a bottle of port at a train station while shouting “Sieg Heil!” In 1947 the real Hans Sievers was hanged at Nuremberg.
Dugin later claimed that his Hitlerism was only an expression of his anti-Soviet feelings, a manifestation of the “transgressive” stance that included his interest in the dark poetry of the Comte de Lautrémont’s Songs of Maldoror, whose beautiful sadism inspired the Surrealists. He was, we might say, a kind of “fascist dandy.” Years later, when questioned about his Nazi behaviour, he would claim, in standard postmodern fashion, that it was a joke, a bit of irony, implying that those who took him seriously had the problem, something that alt-righters and 4Channers rely on today. This “plausible deniability” is difficult to match with the neo-Nazi atmosphere in which he came of age and the politics he pursued.
It was in this milieu that Dugin came upon Evola, whose books, oddly enough, were available off the shelf in the Lenin Library, not far from where he and Golovin’s other zombies would meet. Dugin, who taught himself French and other languages, grabbed a copy of Evola’s Pagan Imperialism, the German edition, and quickly produced a samizdat edition of the work. This was the beginning of a career that would unite occultism with far-right politics in an often dizzying mix. He would later write books about Evola and Guénon, linking them to the Russian Orthodox Church, of which he is a firm believer. In fact, he is an Old Believer, joining the branch of the faith that maintain the rituals and practices prior to the reforms of the seventeenth century. As Guénon advised, he stuck close to the roots of tradition, even to wearing the beard and peasant dress associated with the sect.
In 1986 Dugin joined Pamyat, an organization dedicated to restoring old monuments. This innocuous aim was soon overshadowed by the anti-Semitism of its leader, Dmitry Vasilyev, a paranoid actor who believed the Jews were destroying Russia’s patrimony and had sent Zionists to kill him. Pamyat attracted more hooligans, crypto-fascists, and nationalists than art restorers but it stirred a patriotic sense in Dugin; he began to wear a black shirt, leather belt, and shoulder strap, the garb of the Black Hundred, a patriotic tsarist movement of the early twentieth century. The historian Walter Laqueur, who wrote a book about the Black Hundred, noted Dugin’s activities as early as 1993; with Dugin, he wrote, “we move from the realm of a quasi-rational approach to the depths of irrationality.” Readers of Dugin out of sympathy with his ideas may agree.