On June 3rd, the infamous Kiev regime propaganda outlet, The Kyiv Post, ran a piece by the German scholar Andreas Umland, entitled “Why Aleksandr Dugin’s ‘Neo-Eurasianism’ is not Eurasianist.” A few days later, on June 8th, the article was picked up by New Eastern Europe, one of the top Atlanticist journals dedicated to intellectually colonizing Eastern Europe and headed out of NATO’s “Eastern Flank”, Poland.
Anyone even cursorily familiar with Umland’s work knows that this is meant to be his latest “hit piece” on the Russian philosopher Alexander Dugin that serves the function of an “intellectual artillery warm-up” for Atlanticist information war.
This time around, Umland is “arguing” that Alexander Dugin is not a Eurasianist and that Neo-Eurasianism is not really Eurasianism. Once again, he has summoned himself to tell us that he knows best and that we should all follow suit. Many readers might recall that this is the same Umland whose last big “scholarly” piece on Dugin (co-authored with his close friend Anton Shekhovtsov) “argued” that Dugin is not a Traditionalist and that much of what passes for Traditionalism is not really Traditionalist – because Umland and Shekhovtsov hold the key to what things are and what things are not in our world.
For those unfamiliar with these controversial terms, here they are in a nutshell. Eurasianism, which was the subject of my BA dissertation, was originally an intellectual movement among Russian emigres in the 1920’s and 1930’s loosely unified around two core theses: (1) the West is not a universal “Civilization” and its claims to global hegemony render it antagonistic to the world’s diverse cultures, and (2) Russia itself cannot be understood as either “European” or “Asian”, but as its own unique “Eurasian civilization.”
Beyond these two common denominators, the Eurasianists and there successors differed significantly in their political and ideological conclusions. Alexander Dugin has both described himself and been widely recognized as the founder of “neo-“, i.e., post-Soviet Eurasianism. Many Western analysts claim that none other than Eurasianism has underpinned Russian policy priorities in the Putin era, supposedly in no small part thanks to Dugin’s advocacy.
Traditionalism, which is one of my main spheres of academic research, was an esoteric current founded in France in the 1920’s which can similarly be summarized as revolving around a few basic points, namely: (1) Western modernity is the complete abomination of all the positive, sacred values of the perennial Tradition; (2) Tradition must be recovered through re-initiation into its metaphysical paradigm and/or surviving vestiges; and (3) upholding Tradition is the mission of an intellectual vanguard.
As in the case of Eurasianism, beyond these basic theses, one can find a wide variety of complex Traditionalist legacies from religion and politics to scholarship and cultural movements. Dugin has consistently described himself as a Traditionalist and been widely recognized as one of the most prominent Traditionalists alive today.
Indeed, one of Dugin’s most instrumental accomplishments, which even Umland and Shekhovtsov don’t dare deny, has been the introduction of Eurasianist and Traditionalist ideas into the post-Soviet space.
With his latest diatribe, Andreas Umland has reared his ahead to once again tell us what we should think about the immensely complex Russian philosopher that is Alexander Dugin, and the just as complex movements and ideologies with which he is associated. Except here is the problem: understanding and analyzing Dugin is not Umland’s goal, and it is not his job. Andreas Umland and Anton Shekhovtsov’s jobs are to disinform us.
Andreas Umland is a senior research fellow and representative of the Kyiv Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation. This institute works with the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the EU-Ukraine Cooperation Committee, the NATO Liaison Office in Kiev, and the NATO Information and Documentation Center. In other words, Umland is employed by a state which has declared Dugin a persona non grata and slapped his movement with criminal charges.
Umland works for those very organizations, outlets, and state organs which have since 2014 coordinated an information-intelligence campaign to allege that Russia, not Ukraine, is a fascistic state behind whose “fascicization” stands Dugin. Umland also served as an advisor to the ex-Ukrainian Maidan 1.0 President Yushchenko among others.
Umland’s goal is not to inform us or contribute to any critical understanding of Dugin. His job is to barrage media and scholarship with the allegation that Dugin is a “fascist” pure and simple whom we should never treat fairly as a human being and intellectual. To this end, he has spent more than a decade methodically stripping Dugin of any kind of possible association with intellectual movements that are considered worth studying.
His job has been to de-contextualize Dugin and turn him into a media and political scapegoat which serves Ukrainian and NATO policies.
Anton Shekhovtsov (from Crimea) was originally a member of Dugin’s Eurasian Youth Movement. Then he got close to Umland. This is a very personal thing for Shekhovtsov, to say the least without going into the many rumors surrounding him. He too is a member of the Kyiv Institute for Euro-Atlantic Cooperation.
Both Umland and Shekhovtsov come from something called “Fascism Studies” which appeared in the 1990’s, whose pitch to the world is that Fascism™ is not an historical phenomenon, but something ubiquitous, universal, and just waiting to coagulate around anything even remotely non-liberal. If you are intuiting that this is the academic background behind the infamous witch-hunt for “fascists” (read: “non-liberals and non-Atlanticists”) that we have seen gain momentum in the West and culminate in political and intellectual repression, you’re on the right track.
In the 1990’s, Russia had a unique socio-political experience following the Soviet Union’s collapse in which a colorful mosaic of thinkers and movements blossomed which defied understandings of “left” and “right” and couldn’t be labelled within the confines of Western political science. Dugin was arguably one of the most significant and successful figures of this experience.
“Fascism Studies” thus discovered and jumped upon the perfect opportunity to carve itself a legitimate academic and media sphere, the perfect villain whose “exposure” could bring the cash, the airtime, and intellectual and political relevance: it saw “Russian Fascism” and “Dugin the fascist” everywhere.
Since then, Umland and Shekhovtsov have dedicated much of their lives’ work to deconstructing and demonizing both Dugin and Russia as “fascist”. And Ukrainian and NATO establishments have made sure that they are able to do so – especially before any of Dugin’s works were translated into English.
To be clear, I am not rambling about Dugin, Eurasianism, Traditionalism, and Umland and Shekhovtsov out of some kind of vague sentiments or based on some second-hand sources I’ve read along the way. I have dedicated a considerable portion of my life so far to understanding and translating Dugin. I do not want to toot my own horn out of place, but much of Dugin in English that you will find on the internet is the fruit of my voluntary labor – and maybe only half has my name on it. For those interested, Eurasianist Internet Archive, which like Fort Russ News is a project of the Center for Syncretic Studies, is a good place to start. Moreover, alongside FRN Editor-in-Chief Joaquin Flores I have collaborated with Dugin directly and indirectly on a number of occasions, but never in a way that would qualify a conflict of interest as remotely tarnishing as Umland and Shekhovtsov’s. All along the way, I have repeatedly run into the fact that Umland and Shekhovtsov’s “scholarship” on Dugin is a misleading, ulteriorly motivated dead-end.
If you want to, in the very least, try to understand who Dugin is, what Dugin thinks, and why he may (or may not) be an important figure, then do yourself a favor and don’t delude yourself with thinking that reading Umland and Shekhovtsov will help. All you will encounter are strings of unsubstantiated assumptions, the pick-and-choose eclectic isolation of sources and “evidence”, some of the most egregiously twisted interpretations of Dugin’s writings you’ll find outside of Glenn Beck’s famous rant that “Dugin = Hitler 2.0”, and a glaring ignorance of anything “esoteric” or “occult”, which happens to be part of my formal education.
Umland and Shekhovtsov’s main arguments that Dugin is not a Traditionalist, not a Eurasianist, and not **insert any really existing examinable ideology here** but an evil “fascist” genius who slyly manipulates whatever sources he can get his hands on, are not sensical, are not coherent, are not heuristic, and are not objective.
I am not saying “don’t read Umland and Shekhovtsov.” Everything on this planet should be read and analyzed down to the bone. What I am saying is that Umland and Shekhovtsov’s works on Dugin are great examples of what scholarship should not be. If someone could point out to me one – just one – coherent, substantiated argument about Dugin in any one of Umland and Shekhovtsov’s works, then please – please! – show me and I’ll revise my opinion.
Otherwise, my firm advice as a critically-thinking human being who has sought to understand Dugin, is that we treat Shekhovtsov and Umland’s endless ramblings about what they dictate Dugin is and is not, as what they are: disinformation.
Shekhovtsov and Umland’s writings on Dugin are brilliant examples of how some fields of Western scholarship render people absolutely unprepared for the realities and experiences of the diverse world in which we find ourselves.
As Fort Russ News continues to strive to foster critical discussion and intellectual multipolarity, we remain committed to calling out Western propaganda for what it is.