How Russian Neo-Eurasianism Justifies Moscow's War against Ukraine

April 12, 2024
How Russian-Ukrainian war is portrayed as an Anti-Western crusade?

If one were to describe today's Russia in one word, then that word "anti-Western" would be a good fit. At least, this is how the Kremlin likes to define the purpose of the "Russian world": to stop the "Western hegemony" and return to the bosom of tradition. But where is this tradition rooted? Is it really free from Western influences? Like many Russian concepts, the answer - no.

While state-sponsored propaganda is a formative factor for Russian society, the philosophical background of this propaganda, which is an explosive mixture of orthodoxy, Westernophobia, and Russian chauvinism, is largely influenced by the ideas of Aleksandr Dugin. Dugin a far-right Russian philosopher and propagandist, who supports the ideology of neo-Eurasianism and a lecturer at Russia's Military Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces, sees today's Russian culture as a result of the "overcoming of the West."

Dugin describes modern history as the end of the era of the West's sole hegemony and threatens the "collective West" with the emergence of new global architecture, clearly alluding to the so-called "multipolarity," which Russia proposes as an alternative to "Western unipolarity."

Calling multipolarity nothing more nor less than alternative philosophy, Dugin depicts Moscow as either a katechon (biblical and political concept of a subject restraining the rise of the Antichrist and the triumph of absolute evil) or the third Rome. His philosophy justifies Russian colonialism (which is traditionally portrayed as "anti-colonialism," as a counterforce to Western colonialism) and portrays Russia's war against Ukraine as a crusade against "satanic West."

The same thesis was also reflected in the program document of the 25th World Russian People's Council (a forum headed by Kirill, the Patriarch of Moscow), which describes the war as "sacred" and determines its purpose as the "inclusion of the entire territory of modern Ukraine in Russia's exclusive area of influence."

By blaming postmodernism for the plans of the total annihilation of the human species, Dugin sees orthodoxy and traditional values as the only hope for salvation. Also, he labels Western civilization as either a deviation or a Great Parody (coined by French philosopher René Guénon), condemning it for inverting hierarchy, power, and spirituality, which resulted in "satanism." The term "satanic civilization" is used to demonize all the concepts that are traditionally associated with the West: liberal democracy, tolerance, feminism, and inclusiveness as the stagnation of morality and turning the abnormal into the new normality.

Criticizing postmodernism as a sign of Western civilization, not only Dugin justifies today's Russian-Ukrainian war but also interprets it as emancipation from the Western paradigm - a Russian uprising against the confines of Western globalism. Moreover, he describes the war as "the end of Western dominance" and the establishment of a true Russian identity. Why does the Russian route need to be lined with the corpses of civilians? The question remains rhetorical.

Dugin, parasitizing on S. P. Huntington's concept of the clash of civilizations, discusses the confrontation between the Western globalist values and the traditional values of the so-called Islamic world. Similarly, he portrays the Russian-Ukrainian war as an inevitable conflict of civilizations and a geopolitical clash between Eurasianism and Atlanticism, which leaves no place both for Ukraine as a political subject and for the responsibility for Russian war crimes.

The idea of civilizational wars is also exploited by the Kremlin to portray orthodoxy-dominated Russia and Islam-dominated countries as actors of the one axis of geopolitical influence. However, such solidarity breaks down when it comes to Russian islamophobia and the FSB-conducted tortures of men accused of the Crocus City Hall terrorist attack.

Influenced by Italian traditionalist Julius Evola and German phenomenologist Martin Heidegger, Dugin's philosophy and propaganda (which are interconnected) are supplemented by Russian exceptionalism and so-called moral superiority. Thus, condemning the Western civilization for "rotting" and "degradation," the philosophy of the Russian world, shaped by Dugin, continues to parasitize Western tradition by endlessly denying it.

But what is the core of the Russian idea aside from chaos and denial? What is the core of Russian identity if not for murder and mass destruction in pursuit of neo-imperial ambitions? By blaming the "collective West" for postmodern optics with its moral relativism, Russian propaganda promotes the substitution of concepts, attempting to change the very concepts of good and evil.

Aggressive Russian messianism, with its justifications for suffering and humiliation, Russian chaos, and a demonstrative anti-Western sentiment, can no longer conceal Russian postmodernity, indicating the deep ideological crisis currently underway. We all know what Russia stands against, but what does it stand for?

Inna Polianska
Journalist/Analyst at Internews Ukraine