Marlene Laruelle: Russian Eurasianism: An Ideology of Empire. Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson Press/Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008, 288 p.
Alexander Höllwerth: Das sakrale eurasische Imperium des Aleksandr Dugin. Eine Diskursanalyse zum postsowjetischen Rechtsextremismus. Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society, Vol. 59. Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag 2007. 735 p.
Different strands of Russian Eurasianism (Laruelle, part 1)
Marlene Laruelle, a young but prolific French-American scholar, who has already published books about the classic Eurasianism and about its precursor in the 19th century, has now written “Russian Eurasianism. An ideology of Empire”, one of the first comprehensive academic studies of Neo-Eurasianism, or at least in the West. In difference to other works of this kind, the author sticks to her principles of impartiality, which does not mean that she does not present her own theories about history and function of Eurasianism as an “ideology of Empire”, but, in her own words “this book analyzes Neo-Eurasianism without judging it, for two reasons. First, I do not think one may, either methodologically or ethically, judge and analyze at the same time. Knowledge is a prerequisite of argument, but the former must precede the latter. Second, as Pierre-André Taguieff has remarked, ‘There is no need to put words into an author’s mouth or demonize him in order to critically examine theses that one believes must be opposed.’” (Laruelle, p. 13)
After a brief introduction in which she points to the relevance of the subject, her different approach (as mentioned), and the specific weight of the personalities she choose for presentation, the first chapter is devoted to the original Eurasianism from 1920-1930. This is a rather brief outline, as she has already written a book on the subject (L’Idéologie eurasiste russe ou comment penser l’empire, Paris 1999) , and brings not many new or original informations about a movement, which was the “conservative revolution” á la Russe, borrowing from Fascism and Bolshevism, but denouncing their short-comings and “Western” features. Two things though seem to be central for Laruelle’s understanding of the Eurasianists: the notion of a “geographic identity” for Russians, instead of the Western self-understanding of a “historic” and therefore progressive understanding of the identity of nations (which of course was transferred as “historical materialism” to Russia, and also was promoted by liberals and – inverted – by nostalgic monarchists). Therefore the geographic orientation of Eurasianism lies at the core of the movement, but was paradoxically developed in the Western exile: “The Eurasianist doctrine must be grasped in its fundamentally provocative character. It was born of the malaise of young nationalists who were reluctant to integrate into the host culture and who refused to resign themselves to the thought that links with homeland were definitely broken. Their rejection of Europe can only be understood if we remember that it was elaborated in the West by those Russians who, culturally speaking, were the most Europeanized.” (p. 25) While it is undeniable true, that Eurasianism as self-affirmation could only become self-knowledge in the encounter and subsequently (at least partial) rejection of Western ideologies, Laruelle shows a tendency to psychologize the phenomenon: “(Eurasianism) attempts to theorize what is above all an experience and a feeling: the experience of young men in exile who feel humiliated by the defeat of the Whites and try to understand the reality of the motherland and stay in touch with it.” (p. 47)
Another paradox or ambiguity can be found in the Eurasianist re-evaluation of the Far Eastern part of Russian history and culture, the Mongolic and Islamic one. „(…) before Eurasianism in the 1920s, no Russian intellectual movement displayed a real openness to the Turko-Mongol world. Asia was only ever highlighted under the aspects of Aryanism; it was a mere detour to reinforced claims of Europeaness.“ (p. 4) While this heritage was now used by the Eurasianists as an argument for the distinction of Russia not only to Western Europe but also to Pan-Slavism, the religions and cultures of Buddhism and Islam as such were denigrated in favor of a militant Orthodox Christianity. As the final parts of this book are dedicated to the relation between (neo-)Eurasianism and Islam, this question has not to be answered at this point.
After this brief, not very differentiated presentation of the original Eurasianists, Laruelle looks more in detail in the thinking of the three most influential neo-Eurasianists. These are, in her words “the theories of ethnogenesis elaborated by the Orientalist Lev N. Gumilëv (1912-92); the fascistic geopolitics of the fashionable theorist Aleksandr Dugin (1962-); the philosopher Aleksandr Panarin’s (1940-2003) defense of a multipolar world.” (p. 2)
Lev Gumilëv, the missing link – or rather: not missing link – between “old” and “new” Eurasianism enjoys nearly universal popularity in Russia. His theories of Ethnogenesis are generally excepted and taught in schools and universities, often without reference to the Eurasianist Weltanschauung, although they are deeply connected with their organic understanding of peoples and societies. While Gumilëv shares with the Eurasianists the idea that the individual draws the meaning from the totality, Gumilëv’s theory of ethnos is definitively on the more biologistic and deterministic side of possible variations of this idea. One that, as I must say, does not fit well with the ideas of an supra-natural origin of culture, which is the normal religious concept, and also especially stressed by the representatives of integral traditionalism (René Guénon, Julius Evola, and others), whose ideas were introduced to neo-Eurasianism by Aleksandr Dugin and Geidar Dzhemal. As Laruelle writes, “he [Gumilëv] takes up the original Eurasianists’ organicism and radicalizes it, using numerous biological or even genetic metaphors with far-reaching political implications”, although “he does not, strictly speaking, develop a political theory; and […| he cannot be considered a partisan of conservative revolution.” (p. 82) Instead he stressed (as must remembered: in the time of Soviet stagnation of the Brezhnev era) very social conservative norms: endogamy, family life, respect for the elderly, the nation, and rejection of any challenge to the powers that be, all necessary for the survival of the ethnos. Laruelle considers him – understandably – “the least intellectually relevant and the least original (Neo-)Eurasianist.” (p. 82) As Gumilëv was neither in touch with Western intellectuals nor in tune with Soviet science , “his thought, the product of intellectual solitude, was fundamentally autistic” (p. 82), This result, if true, is by the way in striking contradiction to his notion of the supremacy of the collective ethnos as a sovereign whole, and also a total contrast to the very mercurial and alert ideologue of Neo-Eurasianism, Aleksandr Dugin, well-known in the West and very present in Russian media.
Before devoting space to Dugin, Laruelle discusses Aleksandr Panarin, whom she clearly favors. She calls him intellectually superior to Dugin and Gumilëv, or to be exact: she writes that “many”, but unnamed “Russian scholars” (p. 86) did consider him to be. Be this at it may, Panarin was in the Yeltsin era a promoter of “people’s capitalism” (p. 87) and in the Putin era an advocate of “the restoration of both Orthodox spirituality and Stalinist statehood.” (p. 88) Maybe he could be considered as flexible or opportunist as Dugin? Nevertheless he presented a “civilized Eurasianism”, “civilized” here being the indicator of “the exact opposite to Dugin’s variety.” (p. 88) Nevertheless Panarin became a member of the Central Council of Dugin’s Eurasian Party in 2002, and planned to write a foreword to a book by Dugin, but as Laruelle writes, “death put an end to this unlikely cooperation.” (p. 89) Panarin’s work was marked by the search for a third way, “between the West’s egalitarian universalism and the ethnic particularism of the non-European world.” (p. 93) Panarin’s model for an Eurasian Empire in his words, as quoted by Laruelle: “The principle of cultural pluralism, as well as attention and tolerance for different ethnocultural experiences are combined with a monist political authority that tolerates no opposition.” (p. 97) One of the intriguing but also problematic ideas of Panarin was the need for a combination of the Eurasian religions into something, what he calls the “Great Tradition” (p. 98), especially a fusion between Orthodox Christianity and Islam. In his quoted words: “We need a new, powerful world-saving idea that would ensure a consensus between Orthodox and Muslim culture for the benefit of a common higher goal.” (p. 99) Later he seemed to have abandoned this attempt in favor of an Orthodox supremacism and a renewed pan-Slavism, according to Laruelle in reaction to the NATO bombardment of Serbia. (p. 100)
The chapter on Aleksandr Dugin in titled “Aleksandr Dugin: A Russian Version of the European Radical Right?“ and was published before as a study by the Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington, DC. While the title indicates the direction and the somewhat limited approach to the multi-faceted Dugin, it can be said that this attempt to analyze the influences of the New Right and the „Traditionalist school“ on Dugin’s theories is of much superior quality than the ramblings of the ubiquous Andreas Umland and his school of Dugin bashing. Like the New Right in Western Europe Dugin has attempted to adopt the teachings of Carl Schmitt, Karl Haushofer, Ernst Niekisch and Moeller van den Bruck, the so-called “Conservative Revolution” in Germany’s Weimar period, to the present situation of Russia, which largely means the attempted forced Westernization through Globalization and the counter-measures of the re-establishment of state power. This “conservative revolution” intellectual heritage is accompanied by two more currents, the New Right or rather: Nouvelle Droite, and the „integral Tradition“, both not so much of German but French and Italian origins, although the thinking of Alain de Benoist not only has a strong „Conservative Revolutionary“ foundation, but was also influenced by Armin Mohler, the personal link between Ernst Jünger and Carl Schmitt, and Alain de Benoist. Additionally and largely unrelated to Benoist was the Belgian European activist Jean Thirirat, whose model of an „European nation“ has preformed Dugin’s „Eurasian nation“ as much as the French Nouvelle Droite’s think tank GRECE and their meta-political approach did for the somehow fluctuating style of Dugin’s intellectual enterprises. Therefore Laruelle is not mislead, when she writes: “Dugin distinguishes himself from other figures in the Russian nationalist movements precisely through his militant Europeanism, his exaltation of the Western Middle Ages, and his admiration for Germany. All these ideological features contrast strongly with the ethnocentrism of his competitors.“ (p. 128)
Even more on the point is her acknowledgment of the influence of René Guénon and Julius Evola, and their minor intellectual allies and successors, on Dugin. She calls „Traditionalism“ the „foundation of Dugin’s thoughts“. While it can correctly be said, that the notion of a primordial Tradition as the common origin of all the religious-cultural traditions of Eurasia, can not be found in the writings of the „founding fathers“ of Eurasianism and was directly alien to some of their ideas – the rambling against the „Roman-Germanic civilization“ – , nevertheless Dugin could find only here the organic and integral solution to some of the most urgent problems of Russia’s Eurasian (com)position between Orthodoxy, Islam, Buddhism and other more minor elements: the transcendent – esoteric – unity of the exoteric different heirs of one primordial Tradition. Which is why – in our not Laruelle’s view – and without considering possible personal idiosyncrasy and political opportunism, his brand of neo-Eurasianism must be considered superior to those of his „competitors“, take for example the ill-fated attempt of Panarin’s Islam/Orthodoxy „melting pot“. Dugin’s claim of post-Guénonism because of his attempt to „Russify“ Guénon and to criticize the lack of references to Orthodox Christianity (p. 123), should be seen rather as a complementary effort. Similar is his attempt to reconcile Evolian „paganism“ (p. 123), or rather Aryanism, with Russian Christianity, with its strong national element. And not only of theoretically value is the distinction between Traditional Islam – as represented in the Sufi traditions and in Shiite Iran – and the Western-allied Wahhabite branch. In this context Laruelle makes reference to the important symposium “Islamic Threat or Threat against Islam?” (p. 118) which intended to establish a Russian-Muslim strategic partnership.
A „discourse analysis“ of Aleksandr Dugin (Höllwerth)
Alexander Höllwerth’s doctor thesis in Salzburg (Austria) on the „sacred Eurasian empire of Alexander Dugin“ impresses by it sheer quantity of more than 700 pages. The reader expects to gain access to fundamental texts of Russian neo-Eurasianism, otherwise only available in Russian. This expectation is fulfilled only partially because the author does give way to much space to his own objections, considerations and assumptions. A part called „contextualisations“, which brings nothing new, but gives an oversight of the historical Eurasianist movement, follows the book’s methodological reflections (reaching from Foucault’s discourse notion to Buruma’s occidentalism model).
Höllwerth then summarizes the literature from Stephen Shenfield („Russian Fascism“) to Andreas Umland (who is the editor of this volume and wrote its preface) on the biography of Aleksandr Dugin. He gives his estimation of the relationship between the subject of the book and the current Russian regime. Höllwerth states that Dugin is one of the few prominent intellectuals in Russia whom it is allowed to criticize the Kremlin without being banned from public discourse into the small niches of opposition media (which are rather the domain of Dugin’s enemies, the Western orientated liberals). Dugin has written in 2005 that the “acting of Putin can be evaluated as an artificially masked continuation of the pro-American, liberal, pro-oligarch strategy of Yeltsin, as a camouflage of the decline of Russia and its geopolitical spheres of influence.” (Höllwerth, p. 182) But this harsh assessment was followed by a phase of “reconciliation”. One could consider this as an evaluation of differing politics by a principled intellectual, the changes being on the side of the Kremlin and not on the side of the commentator. Höllwerth tends to mystify this point of view, but with the help of Dugin himself or rather his edition of Jean Parvulesco’s book “Putin and the Eurasian Empire” which differentiates between “Putin-1”, the real Putin, and “Putin-2”, the metaphysical Putin, the “mysterious builder of the Great Eurasian Empire of the End” (p. 184), the agent or tool of the great Eurasian conspiracy, a vulgarized or at least popularized variation of the initiation as described by René Guénon, but assuming in the sketch of Parvulesco rather counter-initiative features.
But what is the real and not “metaphysical” influence of Aleksandr Dugin, according to Höllwerth? “The attempt to estimate the ‘real political influence’ of Dugin is confronted with the difficulty to separate the plane of staging from the plane of factuality. This difficulty, with which the external scholar is confronted, seems to be part of a conscious strategy: the meaning of Dugin’s staging does, metaphorically put, not be to let the viewer look behind the scenery of the staging, but to focus his attention on the staging itself. (…) ‘Behind the scenery’ activities in connection with the Dugin phenomenon (secret services, political string-pullers, etc.) can not be excluded, are even probable, but should not lead to ambitious speculations based on few evidences.” (p. 194 f.) By the way, a sensationalist piece of work, based on such “ambitious speculations based on few evidences” was published by the same publishing house, which did not dare to include it in their scientific series and did flank it with cautious remarks. (Vladimir Ivanov: Alexander Dugin und die rechtsextremen Netzwerke. Fakten und Hypothesen zu den internationalen Verflechtungen der russischen Neuen Rechten. Stuttgart: Ibidem Verlag, 2007) And of course also with a preface by the inevitable Andreas Umland. A work to be put on the same shelve with Jean Parvulesco’s political fiction, but one has to admit that it has better entertainment value than Höllwerth’s rather sour work.
With page 197 starts the real discourse-theoretical body of the book, being also the real achievement of Höllwerth: „Dugin’s construction of world and reality“. Which is itself parted into three: Space, Order, Time, or also: Geopolitics, State, and History. But through these 500 pages goes one leitmotif: Höllwerth tries to reduce the complexity of Dugin’s system of synthesis and distinction to simple dualisms; we and the other, Eurasia (=Russia) against the West, Empire against democracy, etc., which are in return recognized as redundant repetitions of one and only mantra of power. After Dugin’s philosophy and policy has passed through Höllwerth’s mechanism of discourse analysis we arrive at exactly the same result, a more temporizing genius like Andreas Umland did achieve with one piece of paper and only two quotes of Dugin out of context: the exposure of a dangerous enemy of freedom and democracy. Vade retro, Dugin! But with Höllwerth’s help the Western reader can uplift himself by dining from a broad protruding self-affirmation of Western values with a more than saturating scientific apparatus.
The most compelling aspect of Höllwerth’s de- and reconstruction of Dugin’s discourse is its stringent structure. Also the obvious inclusion of the most important Western and Eastern authors must be noted. The confrontation with the matadors of Western liberalism (Jürgen Habermas, Sir Karl Popper, Bassam Tibi, Jean-François Lyotard) could be seen as helpful. But the extensive reproduced arguments of Dugin’s counter-parts are put on the same level of discourse with Dugin, even where Höllwerth notes the metaphysical character of Dugin’s traditionalists argument. The resulting impossibility of a dialogue between equals is construed by Höllwerth as a deficit of Dugin’s discourse.
Another example of Höllwerth’s inadequate approach: Höllwerth did indeed – and this is rather remark- and laudable – read the French metaphysician René Guénon. But only to point out the deviations of Dugin from the Guénon traditionalist “standard”, which is rather pointless, because Höllwerth himself has already classified Dugin correctly as Russian Evolianist (p. 355 ff.) and most of Höllwerth’s arguments seemingly advocating Guénon could also been directed against Julius Evola, and on this subject a large intra-traditionalist discussion could be cited. More than once Höllwerth argues that Dugin postulates a metaphysical dichotomy of East and West, while Guénon did stress the common original unity and only accepted a difference East-West since the decline of the West beginning with the modern era. But the West is the Occident, the sphere of sunset, by definition, and essential before the temporal decline began. So Dugin and Guénon are both correct, if they are read correctly!
Not unrelated is another important objection, which may indeed be problematic if true. This is the dependency of Dugin not only from Western authors in general, but also in his understanding of Eastern, meaning mainly Russian-Orthodox authors. Höllwerth tries to argue this in detail in some examples (for example: p. 664 ff.), this unfortunately cannot be assessed by me, due to my lack of knowledge of the Russian sources. But one thing is clear, this argument of Western influence can cut in two directions. Höllwerth points out that in one of Dugin’s best known texts “The metaphysics of national-bolshevism” Dugin does refer to Sir Karl Popper’s view of Platon, (p. 320 ff.) but everything the ideologue of the “open society” does characterize negatively is affirmed by Dugin, therefore he arrives at the holistic, total state of the philosophical rulers and the caste of watchers, this not through an adequate study of Platon, but as the reverse of an one-sided caricature made by Popper. If we see the Western history of philosophy not as a footnote to Platon, as was famously said, but as the decline from Platon to Popper, which really was the case, we can still see a partial truth in Höllwerth’s criticism of Western dependency by Dugin, but we have also to recast it into a much greater blame against the West, not to have remained true to its origin.
The adherence of Dugin to a kind – and which kind – of nationalism or a nation-transcending form of Eurasianism would be another question which would need a deeper consideration than Höllwerth provides. The question of nation can in the East not be separated from the confession. From the point of view of metaphysics and tradition (in the sense of René Guénon) most of the values attributed to the Russian nation should be rather connected with the Russian-Orthodox church. The formulation of the “angels of peoples” by the great Russian philosophers and theologians are thought from the premise of the identity nation=religion and correct for all authentic traditions but certainly not for nations in the modern Western sense, where Evola’s and Guénon’s critique of nationalism is totally applicable. Höllwerth’s attempt to find a contradiction between Dugin and the different strands of thought which convene in his own – traditionalist, conservative revolutionary, Orthodox and Russian – can therefore not be followed so easy.
Russia’s Eurasian mission, which lies in the simple fact to be Eurasia in the excellent sense (there is a incomplete Eurasia possible without China or India or Western Europe, but without Russia it makes to sense to speak from Eurasia), is not necessarily a chauvinism of thinking of itself as the hub of the world, but a fact of geopolitics, which can be confirmed by a look at the world map. If the space called Russia would be not be populated by Russians, there would be another people populating this space, and it would have to adopt to the stated property of large space, and would become exactly “Russian” in this way. Thus it becomes clear, why Höllwerth can quote Dugin’s definition of the being (Wesen) of the Russians as space (extension) (p. 401). All this is to keep in mind, when Höllwerth agitates himself on Dugin’s corresponding affirmation, that Russia is the whole (of Eurasia).
The difference between land (Eurasia) and sea (Anglo-America), coincident with rise and decline, Orient and Occident (in the afore mentioned sense of temporal difference by same origin in the metaphysical North, p. 212 ff.) would demand another thorough study. Höllwerth makes a lot out of the seemingly different use of the term “Nomos of the earth” (Nomos der Erde) by Carl Schmitt and Aleksandr Dugin. While Schmitt did mean the search for a new principle of international law for the whole globe, Dugin exclusively uses the phrase as synonym with “Nomos of the land” as contrasted with “Nomos of the sea” (p. 249). This dichotomy of laws according to the different Nomos is not the only problem of mediation, the intra-Eurasian and therefore more urgent is the juristic mediation of the different tradition, when according to Dugin the law is not universal but traditional (for each tradition) (p. 475 ff.). The “integral traditionalism” is exactly the only possible foundation to preserve the differences of the traditions while acknowledging their common and in this sense universal origin (the primordial Tradition). The “universalism” of traditionalism allows to stress the discerned internally and the common ground externally. Especially Hindu tradition and Islam have traditionally absolutely no problems in recognizing the other traditions as varieties of the one Tradition. (But Dugin may not evaluate these two as much as would be desirable, especially in their function of beginning and closing the cycle of mankind.) Finally it becomes absurd when Höllwerth in his “discourse analysis” regards the universalism of all traditions as structurally equivalent to the arrogant “universalism” of Western liberalism. On the one hand, favored by Dugin, the land-bound traditions take all part in the whole of Tradition (analogue to the classic model of idea by Platon), on the other hand, the Western universalism, championed by Höllwerth, is nothing more than a particular, very late development deviation from one specific tradition, the rejection of Western Christianity in its own boundary, and its violent expansion on the way of the world’s seas, postulating itself as the only valuable, and this exactly because it is anti-traditional (“enlightened”)!
Coping with Dugin’s philosophical and geopolitical notion of sacredness, Höllwerth seems to misled by a point of view, which he seems to have adopted from Mircea Eliade, a founder of the modern science of comparative religion (p. 209, p. 529 f.). A partial truth, the difference of profane and sacred, is been used as absolute segregation. There exist sacred places (and times), and on this the sacred geography (and sacred history) is founded, whose importance for Dugin’s geopolitics Höllwerth does carve out – much to his credit, as this level of argument is overlooked to often as pure rhetoric. But are there also in a strict sense profane things? “Come in, here do dwell Gods, too”, Heraclitus did say. Or, speaking with Guénon: there exists no profane thing, but only a profane point of view. Dugin seems to look at all questions also – certainly not only – in a metaphysical perspective, and in general he is able to explain why a certain political action is seen as necessary in this metaphysical perspective by him. This opens here the possibility of misuse through the sacralization of the profane, as on the other hand the profanization of the sacred in the West. The Western man is the one who takes the utilitarism as the measure for all things. The pure action – of which Julius Evola speaks – , which principle of not-clinging to the fruits of action has been affirmed by Dugin, the exact opposite of utilitarism, can only be seen as measure for the validity of Dugin’s decisions. To say, that he may not always be in the right in his metaphysical decisions is a different thing than saying he is guided by profane utility, as the sacred point of view does not make a saint. Höllwerth´s grasp of this problems is flawed because of his attempt to arrange the perceived oppositions into mirrored congruencies, instead of acknowledgment their structurally inequality, which would lead to the necessarily conclusion of the metaphysical superiority of the Eurasian tradition over its Western descent and rival.
Eurasianism and Islam (Laruelle, continuation)
In the last two chapters of her book Marlene Laruelle gives attention to the Muslim Eurasianists, first between the Muslim minorities of the Russian federation and then outside. This topic, though well-known by specialists, did not grasp the attention of a broader public as much as for example Dugin’s role in relation to the Kremlin. Therefore Laruelle’s retelling of the sometime short-lived organizational and personal development is very helpful, but can obviously not been retold in this review. In general there are two kinds of involvement of the Muslim minorities, one in specific Islamic Eurasianist parties, and the other the involvement of Islamic representatives in the general Eurasianist movement. There are two rival organizations representing the Muslim citizens of the Russian Federation, who were headed by two personal rivals, Mufti Talgat Tadzhuddin, who died shortly ago, and Mufti Ravil Gainutdin. The first was a member of Dugin’s party, close to the Kremlin, and a friend of the Russian patriarch Alexis II (p. 156), who coincidentally also died shortly ago. Gainutdin on the other hand keeps more distant to the Orthodox Church and the Kremlin (p. 158), and supports one of the more important Eurasianists rival of Aleksandr Dugin, Abdul-Vakhed V. Niizaov and his Eurasianist Party of Russia. (p. 161) The author summarizes the differences of the Muftis, which also reflect the differences of Dugin and Niizaov: “Tadzhuddin and Gainutdin embody two poles of traditional Russian Eurasianism: on the one hand, Russian nationalism and Orthodox messianism; and on the other hand, a more secular patriotism, which combines great-power ambitions with an acknowledgment of Russia’s multiethnic and multireligious character. Thus Eurasianism has become one of the crystallization points between the various Islamic representative bodies (…)” (p. 161 f.) Alongside these two mainstream bodies of Islam in Russia, there exist many smaller groups. One deserves special mention, the Islamic Commitee of Russia, lead by a former ally of Aleksandr Dugin, who broke with him on several issues, Geidar Dzhemal. The philosopher Dzhemal is an Azeri Shiite (Shiism being the dominant branch of Islam in Azerbaijan), with a close relation to the Islamic Republic of Iran, what separates Dzhemal from the other mentioned Muslim representatives. Strangely this fact is not mentioned by Laruelle. What she stresses, is the importance Dzhemal gives to Islam for securing Russia’s future: “Dzhemal […] states: ‘Russia’s only chance to avoid geopolitical disappearance is to become a Islamic state.’ Thus the movement remained on the borderline of Eurasianism, because it talked of conversion rather than cultural symbiosis ” (p. 147) Dugin’s apparently strong opposition to any conversions on the other hand is self-contradictory given his heavy reliance of his “Traditionalist” foundation on the teaching of René Guénon, also known as Sheikh Abd al-Wâhid Yahya. But it cannot neglected that the Orthodox-Islamic tension in the Eurasianist movement is as much ethnic as religious. The Turkic people can claim to represent “Eurasia” even more than Russians do. “In this view, the Russian people are European and party alien to Eurasia, as opposed to the Turkic people, who are considered to better illustrate the great meeting between Europe and Asia. Russia is no longer understood as a great power but as the most backward part of Europe, by contrast with the dynamism of the Far East and China.” (p. 169) A certain ambiguity in this question goes back to the classic Eurasianist movement of the Twenties of the last century, as Laruelle earlier in a different context has already stated: “Eurasianism’s place within the Russian nationalist spectrum has remained paradoxical due to the fact that it can be interpreted in either a ‘Russocentric’ or a ‘Turkocentric’ way. However, the paradox is not simply in the eye of the outside beholder; it has also divided the Neo-Eurasianists, who have accused each other of advocating the supremacy of one people over another.” (p. 5)
Naturally there is no question on which side the Eurasianist interpretation leans in the cases of Turkish Eurasianism outside of Russia, which is the final topic of this manifold book. In Kazakhstan one can state a “Eurasianism in Power” (p. 171), but a pragmatic Eurasianism this is, without any of the eschatological or traditionalist features of Dugin’s world-view. But Kazhakh Eurasianism as a whole is a multifaceted movement: “’Eurasianist’ Kazakh nationalism has several embodiments: a literary tradition introduced by Olzhas Suleimenov; a highly pragmatic variety used by the presidential administration; and a type of Eurasianist rhetoric that merely masks a much more traditional view of the nation and its right to exist, and mentions Russia only in the negative.” (p. 172) Suleimenov being a friend and ally of Lev Gumilëv (p. 175) and an apologist of “multiethnicity, tolerance, and diversity”, as characteristics of Eurasia. (p. 175) Also present in this intellectual Eurasianism seems to be a religious syncretism, “embracing all the religions that have ever (co)existed in the steppe. For example, the Kazakh Eurasianists make a great deal of archaeological traces of Nestorian Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, and Shamanism, trying to go beyond the classic Orthodox-Islamic dualism.” (p. 176) President Nazarbaev proposed a “Union of Eurasian States” already in 1994 (p. 177) and embodies a mainly “economically based Eurasianism, whose integrationists ideas are popular among those who have suffered from the breakdown of links between the former Soviet republics.” (p. 177) But Nazarbaev is nothing less than an ideology-free technocrat, he has written even a book “In the stream of history”, in which he claims the Aryan and sedentary origin of Kazakhstan, predating the Mongol nomadic arrival. (p. 186) Additionally, the country’s Muslim character of the country is stressed, and Nazarbaev is proud of the global Islamic relevance Muslim scholars of Kazhakh origin like Al-Farabi and Al-Buruni.
Finally the only example of Eurasianism beyond the border of the former Soviet Union, studied by Laruelle, is the case of Turkey. Here the Eurasianist claim of the Turkish people goes along with the implication, “that Russia and Turkey are no longer competing for the mythical territory of Inner Asia – which both Eurasianists and pan-Turkists claim as their people’s ancestral homeland – but are Eurasian allies.” (p. 171) Laruelle starts by postulating common ideological roots of Eurasianism and Turkism, the “official Turkish state discourse on the nation’s identity” (p. 193), in romanticism and “Pan-“Ideologies (p. 188), but this seems to be rather a feature of Pan-Slavism than of Eurasianism with its re-evaluation of the non-Russian strands of the Empire. A similar development in the development from Turkism to Avrasyanism seems to be lacking. Rather it can be seen as a turning the back to the West, to which Mustafa Kemal, the so-called Atatürk (Father of the Turks), wanted to direct the aspirations of the Turks. The author states the original competition between the Turkish Avrasyian tendency and the Russian Eurasianist movements, similar to the natural antagonistic relation of nationalisms. But the interesting developments are the recently “attempts (…) to turn the two ‘Eurasias’ into allies rather than competitors” and parallel “a Dugin-style ideologization of the term in response to American adcendancy.” (p. 198) The few pages Laruelle dedicates to these developments are rather brief, and she has in the mean time published a more extensive study (Russo-Turkish Rapprochement through the Idea of Eurasia: Alexander Dugin’s Networks in Turkey, Jamestown Foundation, Occasional Paper, 2008), which itself has been overtaken by the dismantling of large parts of these „networks“ through the Ergenekon affair, but which is definitively outside the scope of this review.
The different manifestations of Eurasianism in this book leave the author and the reader with the question of the unity of Eurasianists idea. Laruelle states that Eurasianism is “a classic example of a flexible ideology. This explains its success, its diversity, and its breadth of coverage.” (p. 221) Without arguing about sheer words the author cannot be followed in her strict subsumption of Eurasianism under the term nationalism. At least a more nuanced view of nation in a more traditional sense, common to both Orthodox and Islamic thinking, in difference to the Western concept of nation-state (as I discussed in the part on Höllwerth) would have to be considerated instead of stating that the Eurasianists “concept of ‘civilization’ is only a euphemism for ‘nation’ and ‘empire.’” (p. 221)