How Putin’s propaganda turned Dugina and Eurasianism into a cause

The killing of Darya Dugina, daughter of Russian ultra-nationalist Alexander Dugin, in a car explosion over the weekend prompted some Russian nationalists to call for more strikes in Ukraine. Russia has blamed Ukrainians for Dugina’s death, while Ukraine has suggested that it might have resulted from NRA-led Russian infighting.

Initially, Eurasians were a movement among young Russian émigré intellectuals in the 1920s and early 1930s. The founder of their doctrine was Prince Nikolai Trubetskoi (1890-1938). The Eurasian manifesto Exodus to the East (Iskhod k vostoku) was published in Prague in 1922.

Whereby Aleksandr Dugin (who translated the occultist works of Julius Evola into Russian) is perhaps best known as the leading exponent of Neo-Eurasianism

Dugin’s worldview fuses a revived pan-Slavism (Romantic Slavophilism gave way to Pan-Slavism) with more cosmopolitan fascist currents, particularly the so-called Traditionalism of René Guénon and Julius Evola

Victor Shnirelman wrote that Dugin’s constructions are based on esoteric and geopolitical views of the “sacred past,” which are far from academic methodology. He sticks to essentialist views of “race” and “ethnicity,” which build up a pseudo-scholarly basis for xenophobia in the form of “new (cultural) racism.” Dugin is not embarrassed by inconsistencies and contradictions of his constructs because he applies to emotions rather than reason.

However, Eurasianism was not a phase to grow out of, like Goth makeup or nose piercings. This week, unvarnished fascist aesthetics were on full display in the wake of journalist Darya Dugina, Dugin’s daughter and fellow Eurasianist. She was assassinated on Aug. 20 in a car bombing near Moscow. The Kremlin, never in a hurry to uncover other high-profile killings, immediately blamed a Ukrainian plot and pushed its unlikely narrative across all the usual channels. At the wake, honor guards and pallbearers wearing red-and-black armbands stood at attention. Lapel pins brandished the “Z,” the semi-official symbol of Russia’s invasion, whose strokes come uncomfortably close to a swastika. Speakers demanded merciless retribution for “the blood of the martyr.” And to top it all off, the leader of Russia’s far-right Liberal Democratic Party, Leonid Slutsky, finished his eulogy with a slogan that echoes the 1930s Berlin: “One country! One president! One victory!”

Eurasianism, as shown above, is too eclectic to fit into a neat ideological category. It combines vast imperialist appetites with a vicious hatred of the West and an openly fascist embrace of authoritarianism and Russian supremacy. Because it idealizes Russia’s people as a unified mass, it has elements of left-wing collectivism. It also elevates Russian Orthodoxy to a heavenly mandate for the Kremlin to liberate Eurasia from those they consider Western heathens. Eurasianism is anti-Western—and especially anti-American—at its core: The Eurasian Youth Union’s “catechism” states that the United States “is the beginning and end of our hatred.” The movement’s view of the United States as an empire of corruption and degeneracy has won them sympathetic ears among Western right-wing populists and far-left political parties. Dugina was actively cultivating relationships with European politicians for the Eurasian movement at the time of her death, meeting with associates of Kremlin-friendly far-right leaders, such as France’s Marine le Pen and former Italian Deputy Prime Minister Matteo Salvini.

Dugina, born just eight years before Vladimir Putin first became Russia’s president, at first seemed to show little interest in her father’s ideology. Her former college friends recall her as an exceptionally bright philosophy student, and she would later adopt the pen name “Platonova” in honor of the Greek philosopher. When she fully embraced Eurasianism later, she became its voice as her father’s press officer, the Eurasian Youth Union leader, and the movement’s envoy abroad.

Dugina’s father is often styled as “Putin’s brain” by the Western media—but in Russia, he’s little known. By all accounts, Putin has never met him personally or quoted his works. (Putin’s favorite ideologue appears to be openly fascist philosopher Ivan Ilyin, who died in exile in 1954—even if Putin only quotes Ilyin’s blander statements about Russian greatness.) The only official Russian institution with “Eurasia” in its name is the Eurasian Economic Union, which has no direct connection to Dugin’s ideas. Photographs of Dugin’s lecture on “traditional values,” which he held only a few hours before his daughter’s death, show only a few dozen people huddled in front of a small tent.

For all his notoriety in the West, Dugin lacked the connections and influence to hang on to his academic job in the sociology department at Lomonosov Moscow State University, which fired him in 2014 after he exhorted Russians to “kill, kill, kill” Ukrainians on a pro-Kremlin YouTube channel. Given the normalization of genocidal anti-Ukrainian rhetoric in Russia today, it’s doubtful the statement would be a firing offense now—more likely, the person doing the firing would come under suspicion. Back then, it was not yet an acceptable behavior for a state university professor.

Dugina’s so-called martyrdom has much more value to the Russian state than her life. She is being woven into an elaborate narrative that, in a typical case of psychological projection, attempts to paint Ukraine, not Russia, as a terrorist state that murders unarmed civilians—in this case. Hence, the narrative goes, a young woman who publicly celebrated her patriotism for Russia. Not only did Putin send his condolences, but he also posthumously awarded her the Order of Courage, which is usually given only to military and security personnel for remarkably selfless acts. The Russian security service’s claim barely a day after the assassination that the culprit is a Ukrainian mother traveling with her 12-year-old child—conveniently leaving her identity card behind as a clue—beggars belief.

Putin’s propaganda machine has turned Dugina—and vengeance for her death—into a cause. There is little in her biography that would explain the volume and ferocity of all the calls for bloody revenge that her death has inspired. On pro-Kremlin Telegram channels, there are photos of military vehicles and artillery shells inscribed with Dugina’s name for Ukrainian targets. News anchors and pundits on Russian television are openly calling for murdering not only Ukrainians but also any Russians who refuse to worship Dugina as the martyr the Kremlin insists she is. In life, Dugina never got even a tiny fraction of this attention. She represented an obscure movement that could barely muster a couple of dozen people to its rallies. In Russian public life, she was a C-list television personality repeating Kremlin talking points, such as the allegation that the Russian massacre of civilians in Bucha, Ukraine, was a staged event.

In death, Dugina became what Putin himself once called a “sacred sacrifice.” As propaganda fodder, her corpse now serves as a national symbol of one’s highest patriotic duty—and of the Ukrainians’ supposed perfidy. Naturally, there can be no excuse, only ruthless punishment.

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