Perhaps nobody who could be considered part of the new ‘Right Renaissance‘ is as controversial and fascinating to hear from as Russia’s Aleksandr Dugin. Born in Moscow, 1962, to a military family, he took a particular interest in history and philosophy, even going so far as to translate the works of authors such as René Guénon and Julius Evola intro Russian for the first time. He holds degrees in economics, sociology and philosophy, has worked as an advisor to State Duma members Gennadiy Seleznyov and Sergei Naryshkin, as well as President Vladimir Putin. He also held a post as head of sociology at Moscow State University between 2008 and 2014. In addition, his book ‘The Foundations of Geopolitics: The Geopolitical Future of Russia‘ was used as a textbook in the General Staff Academy of Russian military.
His history in politics is, put simply, confusing. He was for example one of the founding members of the ‘National Bolshevik Party‘, whose name to outsiders can be rather misleading. From the start of his time in politics, Dugin gravitated towards what can accurately be deemed Reactionary groups, i.e – the neo-tsarist organization Pamyat. The NBP was, in the wake of the disastrous wounds ripped open in Russia by the collapse of the Soviet Union, oriented mainly towards both a rightist, anti-capitalist program and a defense of Russia’s history, including the Stalinist period. This is hard to comprehend outside of the given context, but does make sense once we understand his view of geopolitics (which is his primary interest).
This leads us to the book in question, published in 2012, and translated to English in 2015. By this time, Dugin’s politics had taken a more overtly rightist position, but of course antithetical to what we might call the ‘Americanized right’ of free marketeer, invite everyone/invade everyone normalcy, which of course has come to dominate the European political landscape. The rightism of Dugin transcends the contemporary political field in more ways than one, while also still entertaining certain aspects of avant-garde philosophy that some have criticized as too accommodating of paradigms based in critical theory for their own good. This book however, is not primarily concerned with theory, but instead history and geopolitics, so if you have been put off the author by ideological idiosyncrasies, you need not worry about such things as they pertain to Last War.
The book begins with the essential foundation of Dugin’s geopolitical thought, that in history there exists an eternal conflict between the civilization of the land (tellurocracy), and the civilization of the sea (thalassocracy). The greatest example of this in the ancient world is the war between Rome and Carthage, illustrated eloquently with a long form quote from G.K. Chesterton on the Punic Wars. As well as geopolitical significance, the land/sea dichotomy has a metaphysical character as well. As Christ was born in the land empire, the antichrist was destined to be born in the sea empire. The values of the land empire are naturally conservative, sacrificial, faithful, and holistic. On the flipside then, the values of the sea civilization will be decadence and materialism. The traits of the land civilization are, for Dugin, not rooted in the Russian people themselves, but were adopted over time, largely due to Mongol occupation and Orthodoxy’s spread (the concept of the Third Rome comes from here). Not only this, but Russia is the heartland of this type of civilization, and as such…
“Geopolitically, the fact that Russia is the Heartland makes its sovereignty a planetary problem. All the powers and states in the world that possess tellurocratic properties depend on whether Russia will cope with this historic challenge and be able to preserve its sovereignty.”
The challenge, in the form of thallasocratic or Atlanticist expansion has gone through many phases, the last one before our contemporary era being the dominance of the mercantile British Empire. Today however, the pole of the sea is grounded entirely in the United States, Western Europe reduced to vassal status.
On the Bolshevik Revolution, Dugin argues that beyond the various historical factors which played into the tsar’s overthrow, there was a strong current of geopolitical destiny at work beneath the surface. By the outbreak of WWI, a bourgeois class had emerged fully in Russian society and in fact gained powers from the tsar. Influenced in large part by French ideas which had been at play in Russia for well over a century, he had accepted these developments and thus oriented the nation around St. Petersburg, an atlanticist orientation. This went against the very essence of Russia, and thus the tsarist regime and the provisional government which replaced it were overthrown by the Bolsheviks.
Incredible history is gone into here, and it should be mentioned, because Dugin goes into a point that is usually missed, that Lenin willingly ceded huge territory to Germany likely because he was counting on a burgeoning communist revolution to overthrow the kaiser (it never came). The early Leninists seemed disinterested in promoting Russian territorial integrity as nationalism flared in various regions (think; Finland). It took the death of Lenin, and Stalin’s directional change to ensure Russia lost no more territory.
WWII brought on a very strange geopolitical situation. Dugin outlines the reasons that in fact, the axis should have won the war because they should have remained allied to the Soviet Union throughout. This would be the natural flow of events from a geopolitical standpoint, as both were land-oriented, both were anti-capitalist and anti-bourgeois, and both stood to gain from the allied powers loss. And yet, it ended up that the capitalist west and the communist east became allies against the continental center. A reminder perhaps that personality and subterfuge can have massive impacts on great power politics.
“This alignment of forces entirely contradicts the context and regularities of objective geopolitics. So it shows the powerful influence of the subjective factor: Hitler’s adventurism and the effective work of anti-German agents in the USSR and anti-Soviet agents in Germany.”
One of the senses you get from the book is that at least after Stalin, Russia had a Spartan character, even within an avowedly atheistic, leftist institution such as the USSR. We might say; as much as the Lenin era Communized Russia, the Stalin era Russified Communism. This is why the most insidious left wing thought (which would be adopted by Liberalism in its great 1960s tactical shift) did not emerge from Russia, but rather from Italy and Germany, from anti-Stalinist Marxists like Antonio Gramsci. However, one could see going forward that what contradictions there were between the Russian (and indeed on a broader note, the human) nature of Russians themselves and the Marxist foundations of their society would eventually weaken the state, with help of course from the West.
The book goes into the Cold War, though Dugin doesn’t seem to ascribe much significance to the post-Stalin Soviet leaders. Khrushchev is painted as a modernizer, Brezhnev as a conservative, which is probably accurate. The collapse of the Soviet Union, due to the method via which it occurred which was effectively a surrender, threatened the existence of Russia itself as a viable entity. The entire world shifted from a bipolar model of two competing powers to a center-periphery or unipolar model, essentially recognizing the United States as the sole superpower, with all other countries arranged in concentric circles around it, their success limited depending on how far away from this center they were.
The Gorbachev and Yeltsin eras mark for Dugin perhaps the bleakest moment in Russian history. At this time, Russia is flooded with Atlanticist agents who he proceeds to name; advisors, deputies, diplomats and so forth. These always inhibited Russia’s response to losses (the First Chechen War), and were even capable of recruiting Russia to aid the sea civilization at its own expense (support for the Iraq War). Influenced by Halford Mackinder (by then a long dead English geostrategist), the plan was to eventually break Russia up into a swath of nugatory republics that could never threaten the United States’ preeminence again. This plan however, failed.
Dugin spends the last portion of the book discussing Vladimir Putin and Dmitri Medvedev, lauding the accomplishments of the former while chastising the latter for his willingness to compromise with the West, while at the same time speculating on the true motives of these men, which to this day he seems to be unsure about. This uncertainty is well justified, and it leads to some ambiguity regarding the future.
“We cannot rule out the disappearance of our country from the map; after all, the great war of continents is the genuine form of war, in which the price of defeat is disappearance.”
It’s one of the more surprising elements of Dugin’s book, the precariousness of the Russian position which he does not attempt to paper over in any way. There is a compelling frankness, even through the highly academic veneer. One comes away with the sense that Dugin himself suffers no delusions about the asymmetric state of any conflict with the United States, and as such cannot be accused of expediency at least with regards to the geopolitical situation: Russia is valuable, its value is misunderstood, it bears the brunt of Atlanticist aggression, it must survive.
I was amazed at how flawless the book actually is, not noticing a single typo error in the entire thing (which is abnormal for translated works). The footnotes barely miss a beat, and no parts of it confused me due to unknown terminology or references. At 145 pages, it is by no means a long read, however this does not negatively affect the core message of the book regarding the history of Russian geopolitics. I have a feeling that finding a book that was as well-written and to-the-point on the given subject as this would be a struggle. As such, I would highly recommend picking this one up. There is likely more necessity in understanding Russia than a Reactionary outsider might at first suspect. A final victory of Liberalism would only be possible by seizing the heartland, as to quote Dugin quoting the aforementioned Mackinder, who informs globalist policies even to this day: