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Anton Shekhovtsov, Andreas Umland: Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist? "Neo-Eurasianism" and Perennial Philosophy

Anton Shekhovtsov, Andreas Umland: Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist? "Neo-Eurasianism" and Perennial Philosophy

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Published by Anton Shekhovtsov
Published in The Russian Review, Vol. 68, No. 4 (2009), pp. 662-678.
Published in The Russian Review, Vol. 68, No. 4 (2009), pp. 662-678.

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Published by: Anton Shekhovtsov on Jan 20, 2011
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11/17/2012

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Is Aleksandr Dugina Traditionalist?“Neo-Eurasianism” andPerennial Philosophy
ANTON SHEKHOVTSOV
AND
ANDREAS UMLAND
“Frankly, I hate traditionalists—no matter whether they are of domestic or Western origin. They are rabble. Good people do real work or wage wars,even if they have little chance of success. All over the world.”Aleksandr Dugin, February 24, 2000
H
ow relevant is Integral Traditionalism or 
 Philosophia Perennis
to an adequateassessment of the multifaceted phenomenon of post-Soviet Russian “neo-Eurasianism,” asa whole, and to the eclectic social doctrine of Aleksandr Dugin (b. 1962), in particular?
1
Afinal answer to this question would be only possible if Dugin’s International EurasianMovement (Mezhdunarodnoe “Evraziiskoe dvizhenie”)—or another organization principallyinspired by him—were to rise to power and through its policies clarify which aspects of hisvague ideology are most significant.
2
Nevertheless, in this article we shall evaluate thesignificance of Integral Traditionalism for Dugin’s ideological constructs. Such an attemptis motivated in part by Dugin’s repeated self-identification—despite the epigraph—as a“Traditionalist” and his numerous references to the classics of Integral Traditionalism.
The authors would like to thank Olena Sivuda for her help in the preparation of this text for publication.
1
We have raised selected issues dealt with in this article earlier in Andreas Umland, “Der ‘Neoeurasismus’des Aleksandr Dugin: Zur Rolle des integralen Traditionalismus und der Orthodoxie für die russische ‘NeueRechte,’” in
Macht 
– 
 Religion
– 
 Politik 
:
 Zur Renaissance religiöser Praktiken und Mentalitäten
, ed. MargareteJäger and Jürgen Link (Münster, 2006): 141–57; and Anton Shekhovtsov, “The Palingenetic Thrust of Russian Neo-Eurasianism: Ideas of Rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin’s Worldview,”
Totalitarian Movements and Political  Religions
9:4 (2008): 491–506. The term
 Philosophia Perennis
” as it is used in modern intellectual historycarries a meaning different from Aldous Huxley’s philosophical concept of the same name. See Aldous Huxley,
The Perennial Philosophy
(London, 1946). For yet another connotation of the term see Nikolaus Lobkovits[Lobkowicz],
Vechnaia filosofiia i sovremennye razmyshleniia o nei
(Moscow, 2007).
2
Alexander Höllwerth,
 Das sakrale eurasische Imperium des Aleksandr Dugin:
 
 Eine Diskursanalyse zum postsowjetischen russischen Rechtsextremismus
(Stuttgart/Hannover, 2007); Andreas Umland, “Kontseptualnyei kontekstualnye problemy interpretatsii sovremennogo russkogo ul'tranatsionalizma,”
Voprosy filosofii
, 2006,no. 12:75–77; idem, “Tri raznovidnosti postsovetskogo fashizma,” in
 Russkii natsionalizm:
 
 Ideologiia inastroenie
, ed. Aleksandr Verkhovskii (Moscow, 2006), 223–62 (also available at www1.ku-eichstaett.de/
The Russian Review
68 (October 2009): 662–78Copyright 2009
The Russian Review
 
 Is Aleksandr Dugin a Traditionalist?
663A second reason for this investigation is the appearance of various journalistic and academicstudies that have classified Dugin as a “Traditionalist.”
3
The growing interest among political scientists and other observers in Dugin and hisactivities is the result of his recent evolution from a little-known marginal radical right-winger to a notable and seemingly influential figure within Russia’s mainstream. Dugin’sgradual entry into the Russian intellectual élite and Moscow’s political establishment duringthe last fifteen years has been already described in some detail.
4
In view of this literature,we will refrain here from demonstrating Dugin’s relative importance, as well as from justifying our attempt to analyze more thoroughly how his ideology relates conceptually toIntegral Traditionalism.
THE INTEGRAL TRADITIONALIST WORLDVIEW
The foundations of Integral Traditionalism as a systematic religious teaching were laiddown in the first half of the twentieth century by the French-born Muslim René Guénon
ZIMOS/forum/docs/Umland6.pdf [unless otherwise noted, all web sites referenced were last accessed on November 24, 2008]); idem, “Conceptual and Contextual Problems in the Interpretation of ContemporaryRussian Ultranationalism,”
 Russian Politics and Law
46:4 (2008): 6–30.
3
See, for example, Konstantin Frumkin, “Traditsionalisty: Portret na fone tekstov,”
 Druzhba narodov
, 2002,no. 6 (available at http://magazines.russ.ru/druzhba/2002/6/fr.html); Mikhail Sokolov, “Novye Pravyeintellektualy v Rossii: Strategii legitimatsii,”
 Ab Imperio
, 2006, no. 3:321–55; and idem, “New Right-WingIntellectuals: Strategies of Legitimization,”
 Russian Politics and Law
47:1 (2009): 47–75.
4
See, for example, Andreas Umland, “Die Sprachrohre des russischen Revanchismus,”
 Die Neue Gesellschaft: Frankfurter Hefte
42:10 (1995): 916–21; idem, “Toward an Uncivil Society? Contextualizing the Recent Declineof Parties of the Extreme Right Wing in Russia,”
Weatherhead Center for International Affairs Working Paper Series
3 (2002) (available at www.wcfia.harvard.edu/node/589; and also published in
 Demokratizatsiia
10:3(2002): 362–91); idem, “Formirovanie fashistskogo ‘neoevraziiskogo’ dvizheniia v Rossii: Put' AleksandraDugina ot marginal'nogo ekstremista do ideologa postsovetskoi akademicheskoi i politicheskoi elity, 1989– 2001 gg.,”
 Ab Imperio
, 2002, no. 3:289–304; idem, “Kulturhegemoniale Strategien der russischen extremenRechten: Die Verbindung von faschistischer Ideologie und gramscistischer Taktik im ‘Neoeurasismus’ desAleksandr Dugin,”
Österreichische Zeitschrift für Politikwissenschaft 
33:4 (2004): 437–54; idem,“Postsowjetische Gegeneliten und ihr wachsender Einfluss auf Jugendkultur und Intellektuellendiskurs inRussland: Der Fall Aleksandr Dugin 1991–2004,”
 Forum für osteuropäische Ideen- und Zeitgeschichte
10:1(2006): 115–47; Charles Clover, “Dreams of the Eurasian Heartland: The Re-emergence of Geopolitics,”
 Foreign Affairs
78:2 (1999): 9–13; John B. Dunlop, “Aleksandr Dugin’s ‘Neo-Eurasian’ Textbook and Dmitrii Trenin’sAmbivalent Response,”
 Harvard Ukrainian Studies
25:1–2 (2001): 91–127; Victor Yasmann, “The Rise of theEurasians,”
The Eurasian Politician
4 (2001): 1 (also available at www.cc.jyu.fi/~aphamala/pe/issue4/yasmann.htm); Markus Mathyl, “Der ‘unaufhaltsame Aufstieg’ des Aleksandr Dugin: Neo- Nationalbolschewismus und Neue Rechte in Russland,”
Osteuropa
52:7 (2002): 885–900; idem, “The National-Bolshevik Party and Arctogaia: Two Neo-fascist Groupuscules in the Post-Soviet Political Space,”
 Patterns of  Prejudice
36:3 (2003): 62–76; Marlen Lariuel’ [Marlène Laruelle], “Aleksandr Dugin, ideologicheskii posrednik,” in
Tsena nenavisti:
 
 Natsionalizm v Rossii i protivodeistvie rasistskim prestupleniiam
, ed. Aleksandr Verkhovskii (Moscow, 2005), 226–53; Marlène Laruelle, “Aleksandr Dugin. A Russian Version of the EuropeanRadical Right?,”
 Kennan Institute Occasional Papers
294 (2006) (also available at www.wilsoncenter.org/news/docs/OP294.pdf); idem, “(Neo)evraziitsy i politika: ‘Vkhozhdenie’ v gosstruktury i bezrazlichie k obshchestvennomu mneniiu?”
Vestnik Evrazii – Acta Eurasica
1(31) (2006): 30–43; idem, “(Neo-)Eurasianistsand Politics: ‘Penetration’ of State Structures and Indifference to Public Opinion?”
 Russian Politics and Law
47:1 (2009): 90–101; Vladimir Ivanov,
 Alexander Dugin und die rechtsextremen Netzwerke: Fakten und  Hypothesen zu den internationalen Verflechtungen der russischen Neuen Rechten
(Stuttgart/Hannover, 2007);and Valerii Senderov, “Neo-Eurasianism: Realities, Dangers, Prospects,”
 Russian Politics and Law
47:1 (2009):24–46.
 
664
 Anton Shekhovtsov and Andreas Umland 
(1886–1951) and the metaphysician of Anglo-Ceylonese origin Ananda Coomaraswamy(1877–1974).
5
Integral Traditionalists repudiate all achievements of modernity and, instead,subscribe to a mythologized and idealized interpretation of humanity’s past. Traditionalists believe that a “perennial wisdom” or “primordial Tradition” was revealed to humanityduring a “Golden Age” (the Hindu
Satya Yuga
). As subsequent ages (
Yugas
) supersededeach other, the world slid into decadence, and “perennial wisdom,” as a single “spirituallanguage,” gradually disappeared from people’s life. In our current age—the so-called Eraof Vice (
 Kali Yuga
)—the ancient cultural foundations of human existence have degeneratedcompletely: only traces of the “primordial Tradition” remain, and they survive only incertain world religions that Traditionalists understood to be dialects of the lost single“spiritual language.” Thus, according to Integral Traditionalists, a single “perennial wisdom”lies at the heart of different religions, and a primary objective of Traditionalists is to findand preserve those religious teachings that retain remnants of the “primordial Tradition.”One characteristic of Integral Traditionalism, then, is a comprehensive pessimism, that is,an absolute confidence in the doomed nature of modern decadent society. At the sametime, Integral Traditionalism refutes any possibility of improving or altering the allegedlydegraded state of the contemporary world through political engagement—itself a profoundly“modern” and foolish human activity.Much has been published—in different languages—on the origins and developmentof Perennial Philosophy.
6
Publishing houses such as Sophia Perennis or World Wisdomspecialize in Integral Traditionalist themes, and the number of Traditionalist websites ishigh. In Russia, the teachings of Integral Traditionalists have only recently become well-known. The Russian academic journal
Voprosy filosofii
first introduced Soviet readers toPerennial Philosophy in a 1991 article on René Guénon and Traditionalism that was written by the philosopher and translator Iurii Stefanov.
7
The next few years witnessed an avalancheof articles, essays and translations of different quality published in magazines, journals,and websites. And some of the first essays to appear were published in Dugin’s periodicals
Milyi Angel 
and
 Elementy
. With this brief sketch of the Traditionalist school, we can nowturn to a comparison of Perennial Philosophy with Dugin’s so-called “neo-Eurasianism.”
FROM GUÉNON VIA EVOLA TO DUGIN?
Throughout the 1990s, Dugin repeatedly claimed Guénon as his teacher, and at one time hedreamt of naming Rostov State University, to which he has some relation, after the French
5
Marco Pallis, “A Fateful Meeting of Minds: A. K. Coomaraswamy and R. Guénon,” in
The Essential Ananda K. Coomaraswamy
, ed. Rama P. Coomaraswamy (Bloomington, 2004), 7–20.
6
For thorough overviews of the philosophical school see, first and foremost, William W. Quinn, Jr.,
The OnlyTradition
(Albany, 1997); and Harry Oldmeadow,
Traditionalism: Religion in the Light of the Perennial  Philosophy
(Colombo, 2000). For a comprehensive study of Coomaraswamy see Roger Lipsey,
Coomaraswamy
,Vol. 3,
His Life and Work 
(Princeton, 1977). On Guénon see Paul Chacornac,
The Simple Life of René Guénon
(New York, 2001); Xavier Accart,
Guénon, ou, Le renversement des clartés: Influence d’un métaphysicien sur la vie littéraire et intellectuelle française (1920–1970)
(Paris, 2005); and Robin E. Waterfield,
 René Guénonand the Future of the West: The Life and Writings of a 20th-Century Metaphysician
(Wellingborough, 1987).
7
Iurii Stefanov, “Rene Genon i filosofiia traditsionalizma,”
Voprosy filosofii
, 1991, no. 4:31–42.

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