Six months ago, at dawn on February 24 2022, Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation”in eastern Ukraine. A few hours later all of Ukraine, including the capital, Kyiv, was hit by air and missile attacks as Russian ground forces crossed the borders. Europe found itself at war.
The Russian-Ukrainian war, furthering a conflict that began in 2014, was not the blitzkrieg Putin had imagined. The president of the Soviet Federation underestimated the Ukrainians’ determination to fight, starting with President Zelensky, who has shown himself a resolute leader and above all capable of using the media in a “hybrid” conflict fought on different levels: military, economic, and propagandistic. Part of this “hybrid war” was the August 21 attack that claimed as its victim Darya Dugina, daughter of the Russian philosopher and political scientist Aleksandr Dugin. A bomb was placed under the driver’s seat and the car exploded on the outskirts of Moscow. It is not certain whether the attackers’ target was the young woman or her father, who at the last moment had decided to travel in another vehicle.
An anti-regime group of partisans in Russia claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Russian secret service identified as the alleged perpetrator of the murder the Ukrainian citizen Natalia Vokv, who would later flee to Estonia. The government of Kyiv has for its part denied any responsibility in the matter. In the obscure meanderings of a fight involving Russian and Western saboteurs, agents provocateurs, and spies, the real culprits may never be identified with absolute certainty, but what is certain is that the target of the terrorist act was symbolic, seeing that Dugin is the Russian intellectual who has shown the strongest support for Putin, calling for a “holy war” of Russia against the West.
Aleksander Dugin is not Putin’s only ideologue, but he is certainly the figure to whom the president of the Russian Federation has entrusted the mission of infiltrating the European conservative right and drawing to the Russkiy Mir, the “Russian universe,” all those who see Russia as a “moral holdout” against the depravity of the West. In any case his influence in Russia is profound and no other living Russian intellectual is as well known as he is. According to the Slavist Bengt Jangfeldt, Dugin’s book Osnovy geopolitiki (Fundamentals of Geopolitics) has had a greater impact on ideological development in Russia than any other political publication subsequent to the fall of the Soviet Union (L’idea russa. Da Dostoevskij a Putin, Neri Pozza, Vicenza 2022, p. 140), while Elena Kostioukovitch, in her essay Nella mente di Vladimir Putin (e-book, La Nave di Teseo, 2022), states that Dugin’s works are read by all of Putin’s colleagues, as well as being in the curricula of many universities.
Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin was born in Moscow in 1962, the son of a Soviet intelligence officer. After the fall of the USSR he worked with Gennady Zyuganov on the political program of the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, and in 1993 founded, with Eduard Limonov (1943-2020), the National Bolshevik Party. The goal of National Bolshevism was the creation of a great anti-American empire, from Gibraltar to Vladivostok, according to the utopia of the Belgian revolutionary nationalist Jean-François Thiriart (1922-1992).
In his intellectual evolution the Russian political scientist underwent further influences, from that of Lev Nikolayevich Gumilyov (1912-1992), from whom he drew the idea of “Eurasia,” to that of Alain de Benoist, founder of the neo-pagan Nouvelle Droite. His main point of reference, however, remains the philosopher-esotericist Julius Evola (1899-19744), whose works he has revisited in a Eurasian vein. This explains the success Dugin has had in certain circles of Italian neo-traditionalism. The neo-paganism of Evola and de Benoist offered a decisive contribution to the thought of Dugin, who considers the Catholic Church an archenemy. Dugin instead holds in high regard the Orthodox Patriarchate of Moscow and its calling to support Russia’s imperial mission against the West and against the universalist claim of the Catholic Church.
Luca Gori, an Italian diplomat well versed in Russian culture, has defined Dugin’s thought as the ideology of “atomic Orthodoxy,” meaning a doctrine based on the ability to unite the “red” (the atomic shield forged in the Soviet era) and the “white” (the shield of the Orthodox Church), in order to guarantee the country’s sovereignty (La Russia eterna. Origini e costruzione dell’ideologia post sovietica, Luiss University Press, Rome 2021, p. 112). According to Gori, this messianic concept of the Orthodox-atomic “double shield” also pervades Putin’s narrative.
The geopolitics of chaos we have heard about from many analysts is what Dugin seizes upon as a regenerating fire that will see the end of the West and the rebirth of Great Russia and its mission in the world. Russia must sow geopolitical chaos in the West, encouraging ethnic and social conflicts and using weapons like gas and oil. Military incursions, acts of sabotage, and attacks are part of this work of destabilization. For Dugin, as for Evola, it is only in anarchy that “the darkness gradually becomes clear and from the abyss of necessity there arises the terrible flower of the absolute individual” (J. Evola, Teoria dell’individuo assoluto, Bocca, Turin 1927, p. 304).
The author who has delved deepest into Dugin’s thought is Fr. Paolo Siano, in a concise study that summarizes his ideology in the effective formula of the “metaphysics of chaos.” In fact, Dugin theorizes the necessary and irreversible descent into the abyss of evil and the re-evaluation of Chaos as the primordial and eternal principle of the universe. These basic principles underlie the geopolitical vision of the Russian ideologue (Fr. Paolo Siano, La metafisica del caos di Aleksandr Dugin, Edizioni Fiducia, Rome 2022).
In his manifesto The Great War of the Continents (1991), Dugin contrasts the Eternal Rome (meaning Orthodox Russia) with the Eternal Carthage (the United States and the West). Borrowing from the German philosopher Karl Schmitt (1888-1985) the idea of Katéchon, the force that resists the Antichrist, Dugin affirms that Putin’s Russia, heir to Stalin and Genghis Khan, has the mission of “being the Katéchon,” “the one that withstands,” blocking the arrival of the final Evil in the world” (https://nemicidelsistema.blogspot.com/2021/03/alexander-dugin-il-grande-risveglio.html ).
In Dugin’s Eurasian plan, the Orthodox countries of the northern Balkans, in particular the historically pro-Russian Serbia and Bulgaria, constitute the south of Russia, which is destined to extend to the Caucasian and Turkish-speaking republics, all the way to Mongolia. Europe will have to pass from American strategic control to that of the Kremlin, which will also rely on the support of Iran and China.
All this is not political fiction. In fact, Moscow is seeking to increase its influence in the Balkans through its allies Serbia and Republika Srpska, one of the two entities into which Bosnia was divided by the Dayton Accords. Serbia, which has not forgiven NATO for the bombings it suffered in the Kosovo war, has refused to participate in Western sanctions against Russia, and its president, Aleksandar Vučić, has threatened military intervention to defend the Serbian minority in Kosovo. Bosnia is in turn exposed to the risk of a secession by the Serbs of its territory. In the hybrid war underway the Balkans represent a possible new theater of war, on which at any moment the curtain could be dramatically raised. The explosive force of the August 21 attack is situated in this scenario.