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Go east: Aleksandr Dugin, the leading Eurasion advocate (right), at a 2008 Russian nationalist rally in Moscow in support of Serbia. (credit: Mikhail Metzel/AP/Press Association Images) 

"An elite without an ideology is a threat." This is the central point in an article by Aleksei Podberezkin in the first issue of 2014 of the Moscow weekly Zavtra. This is the organ of the Russian far-Right, Podberezkin being a leading figure in these circles. He is a strong believer in Russian nationalism and therefore critical of the present state of affairs in Russia in which politicians are preoccupied with "technical" issues such as macroeconomics, but he also wants to preserve much of Soviet Communism. As a politician he was not very successful: competing in the elections for the presidency of Russia he scored 0.1 per cent of the vote. But he still is a respected figure in these circles as a political thinker. Whether the absence of an ideology is really a threat is not at all clear; Russia has  suffered from many disasters in its history but they were more often caused by a surfeit of ideology rather than the absence.

But it is certainly true that the recent period in Russian history has been marked by the absence of an ideology (or doctrine or strategy) comparable to the past. This has been noted by many authoritative interpreters of the Russian political scene irrespective of their political orientation. To give but one example, Dmitri Trenin, head of the Carnegie Moscow Centre, wrote ten years ago that in Russia at present ideas hardly mattered and interests reigned supreme. The world view of Russian elites centred on financial interests.

Russia has had a national idea ever since the days of Filotel, a 16th-century monk in the city of Pskov who claimed that Moscow was the third Rome and that a fourth Rome would never be. The leaders and the political elites were always preoccupied with Russia's destiny. There was Gogol's famous troika speeding in an unknown direction, Dostoevsky's apotheosis in his Pushkin speech (1880), Alexander Blok's strange conviction that Russians were really Scythians, Andrei Byeli's belief that Russia was called upon to be the Messiah of the coming days. It is seldom remembered that Tolstoy's last work was The Meaning of the Russian Revolution. Vladimir Solovyev, the religious thinker, invoked Pan-Mongolism:   
Pan-Mongolism — the name is monstrous
but it caresses my ear
and much, much more. A generation of Russian intellectuals could not make up their mind whether to be more fascinated or abhorred by their giant Eastern neighbour. They were deeply intrigued by the Far East and this was the origin of the idea of Russian uniqueness. For centuries Russia had been ruled by Mongols and Tatars and for this reason it was unlike Europe. There was resentment vis-à-vis Western Europe, which did not appreciate the important role Russia had played protecting Europe against the invasion of Asian hordes and as a result had suffered severely. More recently, some positive aspects were discovered in Russian culture as the result of the exposure to East Asian influences. Anna Karenina and Genghis Khan do not easily mix. It is difficult to discover Mongol motifs and influences in Tolstoy and Dostoevsky (let alone Turgenev and Chekhov) but a little inventiveness may go a long way.
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April 10th, 2014
11:04 AM
Unbelievably low level of analysis, maybe that's normal for the West now. Facts are also misinterpreted. But let's point out just one thing: "more than 60 per cent of Russian citizens believe that the US is the greatest danger to world peace — three times as many as in Iran and most Arab countries. True, when asked in which country they would like to live if it were not Russia, an overwhelming majority of Russians opt for the US. But such contradictions" – what is contradictory? US is the dominant force of the era, the most aggressive one and the most prosperous. Unlike Iran or other countries the West hypocritically makes out to be "a threat", US has both the reason for world-wide agression and the power to back it up, and without any conspiracy theory we see americans intervening everywhere. It's certainly better to live inside such empire than be its target, even the dumbest people can understand this much. But the pretentious Western journalists cannot, huh?

March 27th, 2014
10:03 AM
These things are beginning to look more like wishful thinking than actual attempts to analyze Russia. Inconsistencies abound (Russia will be a "junior partner" with China, whereas its role in a relationship with the IMF, Europe and the US would be what, dominant? Even equal?). The lack of economic insight on the traditionalist Right is the only point where it is weaker than the West, which has no faith in itself, no actual population (it is deemed replaceable) and no sense of future or meaning. Also, how could one describe tha Arab spring as anything else than a horrible waste of human life?

March 24th, 2014
3:03 PM
Toooo many lies.

March 24th, 2014
2:03 PM
Not a bad article but obtuse. No need to belabor obscure reasons why Russians fear the modern liberal West. They are reacting the same way millions of westerners are (with alarm) to what is increasingly perceived as morally degenerate and cultural/spiritual, and ultimately, economic suicide.

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