Alexandr Dugin, the disturbing ideologue behind Putin
At least from the outside, the descendant of the KGB is still ruling the Kremlin, making it hard to compare modern Russia with the Soviet Union.
One of the problematic aspects of such a comparison would be the seeming lack of ideology behind modern Moscow. In the 20th century, it was clear that your local communist party office was also a spying unit. Nowadays, with no evident ideological war, Russia appears to be simply one of many pluralist countries. In the global world, Russian intelligence, just like any other, may influence any political movement–regardless of their standpoints–as long as it furthers the interests of the Federation. Putinist Russia uses neo-imperialist double-headed eagles, mixes the Tsarist and Soviet symbols and has a nonchalant attitude to any contradictions in this approach. A postmodern country that recently lost all its stories–and with people trained to disregard the objective truth–may end up having companies named “The Tsarist Crown” produce ice cream called “The Soviet Union”–to nobody’s surprise. In this case, how can anyone (righteously, may I add) compare Putin to Hitler? The latter had a clear ideology and symbolism, and was upfront about what his totalitarian regime stood for.
The modern Rasputin
A man that goes by the name of Alexandr Dugin, today considered the main ideologue of the Kremlin, created a disturbing–and not necessarily consistent–cocktail of Orthodox traditionalism, geopolitical theories of Eurasianism, and his own brand of mysticism. He calls for a world of more than one geopolitical center, and for the Orthodox Christians of Eurasia to unite against Western liberalism understood both economically and socially. He wants to create an alternate way of living for the Eastern Slavs, in a single-nation post-Soviet state without the consumerism brought about by unnecessarily free markets and without inappropriate displays of sex in public life. However, his main narrative is driven by the negation of anything perceived as Western, and by the envy of the Anglo-Saxon position on the global chessboard.
His calls to restore Moscow in its “righteous” place on the power grid are totalitarian to the core–with the assumption that human behavior is by necessity dictated by the all-encompassing ideology of the state.
According to Dugin, the former Soviet Union belongs to Moscow, closely followed by the puppet regime of Belarus. Ukraine – in Putin’s and Dugin’s eyes – was supposed to take the same route by having a President who reports to the KGB directly. When in 2014 Viktor Yanukovych was ejected from the President’s office, much in accordance with the will of the Ukrainian people, Putin started his attack on both energy and informational fronts. It is then that Dugin openly called for killing Ukrainians.
In the speech Putin prepared for his victory over Kiev, he stated that Ukraine will never belong to the West. That 1991, the fall of the Soviet Union, was a geopolitical tragedy, but now the order would be restored. This is how Putin wants to be remembered – as the man who reversed the tragic fall of the Soviet Union. Even Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, asked Volodymyr Zelenskyy to apologize to Moscow, effectively saying: how dare you dream of being a sovereign state.
The information war
The information war waged against Ukraine is a Soviet-style textbook case. As the cult of the 1941–1945 war, the “The Great Patriotic War,” endures in Russia, accusing the opponent of all sorts of fascism or Nazism is a standard propaganda technique, immediately understood and recognized throughout the Eastern Bloc. The same accusation, for instance, was thrown at the soldiers of the Polish Home Army, who in the early 1940s fought Hitler, and in the late 1940s, Stalin. Their crime? Not subjecting themselves to Moscow’s control.
After 2014 it is easy to obtain shelling footage: the war is continuous in the eastern part of the country, with casualties on both sides of the conflict. Add to it the symbolism of the one Azov Battalion, create “journalists” that came from nowhere and only report on Eastern Ukraine, and you can easily sell the idea of Ukrainian genocide. What is baffling is that many people do believe such stories.
As a side note–a troubling phenomenon, and a disturbing success of Dugin’s agenda–many conservatives seem to be falling for another brand of Russian propaganda that touches the so-called “family values” problem. They believe Russia could counter what they describe as Western cultural Marxism. Meanwhile, the abortion rate in Russia is globally the highest, European Russians rarely have more than one child, and the country also ranks top in homicide (in Europe) and suicide (globally). Two-thirds of Russians declare themselves atheists–as opposed to only one third in the US. It is a troubled, traumatized country, with far less respect for human life than can be found in the West. And yet, some conservatives seem to be so uncomfortable with the modern displays of sexual freedom that they think they can look up to Russia. In reality, they have merely succumbed to some of the false dichotomies conceived by Alexandr Dugin. Yes, you would not find gay parades, aggressive American-style liberal agitation, or the general criticism of regular family life in Russia–but that is because you would hardly find any kind of freedom of expression there (moreover, gays are either beaten or–if they have the misfortune to live in Kadyrov’s Chechnya–tortured and killed).
Evidently, it is easy to praise what you do not know if you only know what you criticize. It is also worth noting that a lot of what falls under the stylish term of cultural Marxism has been slowly introduced to Western institutions and pop culture by none other than KGB influence agents – a clear example of manipulation by division and fabricating conflict.
We need to remember that while narratives may change, the mechanisms of propaganda and the interests of Moscow – for now – remain similar to those of the last century. And before we examine a claim, we should always ask the question of who benefits from it.