Who is the Russian ultranationalist Alexander Dugin? | Russian-Ukrainian War News

Alexander Dugin has been described by some as the “mastermind” of Vladimir Putin, but others have dismissed him as a “harmless cult figure” with little influence on the Russian president.

For years, analysts and observers have offered conflicting views on the true level of influence of the 60-year-old ideologue among Moscow’s political elites.

This week, the long-standing debate has taken on a new intensity after his daughter was killed by a car bomb in the Russian capital.

Moscow accused the Ukrainian secret services of killing Dugin’s daughter, Darya Dugina, a claim Kyiv dismissed as “propaganda”.

There is growing speculation that Dugin himself may have been the target of Saturday’s attack, reflecting his prominence as one of the leading proponents of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

Call for an Imperial Russia

Thirty years after his birth into a high-ranking military family in 1962, Dugin first came to national attention in the early 1990s amid the collapse of the Soviet Union as a prolific writer for the far-right Den newspaper. From Russia.

In a manifesto titled “The Great War of the Continents,” which the newspaper serialized in 1991-1992, he laid out his ultra-nationalist vision of Russia as the leader of a Eurasian empire destined to confront what he saw as decline. West.

In 1997, Dugin’s ideas on so-called Eurasianism coalesced and he published The Foundations of Geopolitics, a book that would become widely recognized as his most important work and reportedly become required reading in high school. personnel of the Russian armed forces. .

In the text, he called on Russia to rebuild its influence, minus the communist ideology of the Soviet Union, through alliances and annexations, including the seizure of Ukraine, which, according to him, “has no geopolitical significance” or “ethnic exclusivity” as condition. .

Susan Smith-Peter, a Russian historian and professor at the City University of New York in the United States, called Dugin’s notions “fascist.”

“His life’s work has basically been to take fascist ideas and modify them for a Russian audience so they have this Russian look,” Smith-Peter told Al Jazeera.

“And it’s been influencing people on a variety of different levels,” he said.

Alleged ‘greatly exaggerated’ influence

In more recent decades, Dugin has held a variety of high-profile positions, including serving as director of Moscow State University’s prestigious Department of Sociology of International Relations from 2009 to 2014 and briefly serving as editor-in-chief on television. pro-Kremlin Tsargrad. channel after its launch in 2015.

Meanwhile, his hard-line ideas have steadily seeped from the fringes into Russia’s political mainstream as Moscow’s relations with the US and its European allies plummeted to post-war lows. Cold War under the leadership of Putin.

The Russian president’s own rhetoric on Ukraine has also led to suggestions from some analysts that he has been directly influenced by Dugin’s work.

in a long essay july 2021 Titled On the historical unity of Russians and Ukrainians, Putin said he believed that “the true sovereignty of Ukraine is possible only in partnership with Russia,” echoing Dugin’s skepticism about his claim for an independent state.

But other observers dismiss the idea that Dugin, who in 2014 said he believed Russia should “kill, kill, kill [Ukrainians]”, has directly shaped Putin’s decision-making.

“Dugin’s actual influence over Russian policy has been greatly exaggerated,” Samuel Ramani, an associate fellow at the UK-based Royal United Services Institute for Defense and Security Studies think tank, told Al Jazeera.

“He’s never really had an official title within Russia … and he’s not that in touch with the current establishment, least of all with Putin,” Ramani said.

He noted that Dugin had always “wanted to go much further [on foreign policy] than Putin is willing to go,” citing the former’s calls during Russia’s 2008 war with Georgia to overthrow the country’s government and in 2014 for Russia to declare war on Ukraine and annex the country’s eastern regions after that Moscow invaded and seized the Crimean peninsula.

Ramani also pointed to the differences between the pair on the current strategy in Ukraine, noting that Dugin had repeatedly called on Russia to introduce general mobilization and conscription, measures that Moscow has yet to take and has yet to officially declare itself in. war.

“A new Russian time is coming”

Dmitry Babich, a Russian political analyst and journalist, was also skeptical of suggestions that Dugin had helped shape the Kremlin’s position on Ukraine and other foreign policy issues.

“In recent years, he [Dugin] he was more or less a harmless cult figure in his own little group,” Babich told Al Jazeera.

“He has had no impact on politics and it would certainly be wrong to say that he is Putin’s ‘brain’ or the person behind Putin’s policies, all of this is simply not true,” he added.

But as discussions continue about the extent of Dugin’s impact, or irrelevance, in Russia’s corridors of power, he himself has continued to push for Moscow to step up its deadly offensive in Ukraine.

In a Telegram post published before his daughter’s murder on Saturday, Dugin called on the Kremlin to prepare Russian society for all-out war, saying Kyiv and its Western allies had shown no signs of conceding defeat in the conflict.

“The Supreme Commander-in-Chief said, ‘We haven’t really started anything yet.’ Now we have to start,” Dugin said, quoting Putin. claim on july 7 that Russia had “in general… [not] nothing seriously started yet” in Ukraine.

“Russia… challenged the West as a civilization. So we have to go all the way,” she added. “The mighty forces of history have come into play, the tectonic plates have shifted… A new Russian time is coming. Relentlessly.”

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