Streetwise Professor

August 21, 2022

No, Dugin Is Not Putin’s Brain: They Are Products of a Shared History

Filed under: History,Politics,Russia — cpirrong @ 12:40 pm

Yesterday Daria Dugin, the daughter of Russian philosopher and ideologist Alexander Dugin, was killed on a Moscow highway by the detonation of a car bomb. The bomb was apparently intended for her father, who decided at the last minute not to ride with her from an event.

The murder triggered an avalanche of ghoulish, creepy, and frankly disgusting celebration. The only regret that many expressed was that Dugin père was not vaporized. Better luck next time!

The commentary was littered with descriptions of Dugin including “Putin’s brain,” or “Putin’s Rasputin,” and “fascist.” The implication being that Dugin is and has long been Putin’s Svengali, and that Putin has been in Dugin’s thrall. Putin wouldn’t have considered seizing Crimea without Dugin’s suggesting it, dontcha know.

This is illogical, idiocy, and entirely at odds with actual historical facts.

In terms of logic, D saying X and P doing X does not imply that D’s words caused P’s actions.

More generally, to the extent that there are parallels between Dugin’s writings and public statements and Putin’s words and actions, this does not mean that Putin was an acolyte sitting at the master’s feet, an Alexander to Dugin’s Aristotle.

Instead, there is a common root. Dugin’s emphasis on Russian exceptionalism–especially Russians’ supposedly transcendental spiritual mission in existential opposition to a degraded materialist West–and Putin’s expression of similar ideas draws from a very common theme in Russian thought. Think Dostoevsky, for example, or Solzhenitsyn, or the veneration of the supposed “Russian soul.” The examples could be multiplied.

Putin has long sought ideological and philosophical justifications for his politics. Once upon a time–in the mid-2000s, basically–Dugin was the flavor of the month. He was just a fashion that Putin donned for a bit, before moving on. Dugin didn’t shape Putin’s thinking. Instead, Dugin’s thinking was useful to Putin at one time. But the dynamic of Putin’s actions and the logic underlying them are largely independent of Dugin’s writing, and to the extent that they are correlated, it is because they draw inspiration from a common historical source, or from geopolitical forces that Dugin wrote about but did not create. If anything, Putin used Dugin for a while, but Dugin has never used Putin.

Much of Dugin’s writing is rooted in the geopolitical, geographical theories of Mackinder, combined with a distinctly Russian, anti-Western, anti-Enlightenment civilizational perspective. One can explain a lot of what Putin has done, and does, as an expression of the geopolitical and civilizational forces that Dugin wrote about, that doesn’t mean that Putin wouldn’t have done the same thing if Dugin had never existed. In fact, it means the opposite.

In other words, both Dugin’s words and Putin’s actions are the products of common forces and a common history, not the creators thereof.

As for fascism, yes there are points of contact, regarding culture, idealism v. materialism, Romanticism, etc., but the very Russianness of Dugin’s thought makes comparisons to Mussolini let alone Hitler superficial at best, and highly misleading at worst. The historical palette of most American and European commentators is highly limited.

I think of Dugin as the Russian avatar of Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations–and Dugin would probably consider that flattering. The hatred directed at him, and his returning that with interest, reflects that clash.

In other words, like most intellectuals, Dugin isn’t all that important except as an expression and illustration of what produced him. If he had chosen to ride with his daughter yesterday, the future would not have differed a whit, just as he reflected but did not create the past.

If he doesn’t matter, why was he targeted? Well, I am arguing that he shouldn’t matter. That’s different from saying that some people think that he does. The ghoulish gloating and “Putin’s brain” idiocy demonstrates that many do.

Some have weirdly suggested that Putin wants him gone. Er, why? And Putin has found that he can silence opponents by jailing them or tormenting them with judicial processes. No need to create a martyr.

The most likely culprits are Ukrainian. Not necessarily (or even likely) the government. More likely Azov types.

Killing Dugin would perhaps be emotionally satisfying to Ukrainian nationalists, but it would not advance Ukrainian interests in the slightest. Indeed, it would quite likely have the opposite effect, because it would only make the conflict even more existential from the Russian perspective.

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  1. Agreed, Russia is where it is today as a result of a centuries of Russian history, almost regardless of the current actors in the Kremlin. A Russian Jefferson, like a Iraqi Muslim Jefferson, are unthinkable. Geography and history dominate Russia’s actions which are why Russia is the problem, not Putin, Dugin or other understudies in the wings. Peter and Catherine the Greats haunt us.

    That said, I’m inclined to suggest, Dugin’s assassination is a bubbling up of an internal “Mafia style” war among the factions in Moscow and how their interests are affected. Can’t get Putin, get somebody nearby.

    He was quoted as saying, “what doesn’t kill me, kills someone else”; how prescient.

    Comment by The Pilot — August 21, 2022 @ 1:22 pm

  2. @Professor

    “The most likely culprits are Ukrainian.”

    An analysis that might be followed by such a statement is conspicuously missing.

    “would not advance Ukrainian interests in the slightest”

    So you do understand this, but the Ukrainians, who supposedly did this, don’t?

    In a target-rich environment that Moscow is, why would “Azov types” risk their lives to take out someone that insignificant for the war effort? Thomas Sowell’s quip about intellectuals and absurd ideas comes to mind.

    On the other hand, if you ran an FSB operation code-named, say, “National Republican Army”, aimed at attracting (and then neutralizing) the few Russians ready to radically oppose the war, Dugin as a target would make sense as disposable and sufficiently well-known for the purpose.

    Comment by Ivan — August 21, 2022 @ 2:59 pm

  3. Pretty evident the attack was aimed at Dugin. I did see an interview with him way back when and he came across as a deeply unpleasant, unhinged character (what is it with these beardy-weirdy academics?), probably with a raft of enemies across Russia and beyond, so take your pick WRT possible suspects.

    Also I don’t understand the western media’s ongoing obsession with false flags. Russia literally needs no reason or justification to do anything the hell it wants. It’s operating in a completely different reality.

    Comment by David Mercer — August 22, 2022 @ 4:12 am

  4. @Ivan: Operation National Republican Army makes no sense either. You’d need to go way higher up the food chain to encourage such people to reveal their true colours, and even then would they? This is Russia, after all – they need to be told to revolt.

    If it were an FSB op it would more likely be called something like “Western News Cycle”, i.e. a story to rekindle our flagging interest in the war. Whether this is for us to encourage the Ukrainians to negotiate or fight on, who knows.

    Comment by David Mercer — August 22, 2022 @ 4:22 am

  5. It was a Russian anti-Putin group. It was an FSB false flag operation. It was the Uke goverment; it was a Uke freelance group; it was the CIA.
    It was a conspiracy by the Pope, the Rothschilds, and the Queen.

    Of course actually it was Donald Trump.

    Comment by dearieme — August 22, 2022 @ 9:25 am

  6. in agreement with you, SWP — Professor Motyl

    Comment by elmer — August 22, 2022 @ 2:03 pm

  7. I really dislike Dugin. He is always ready to support the most disgusting people in the world if they are anti- western and anti-liberal. He supported Mugabe, Assad, Maduro, Iranian leaders. But I think that murder of his daughter is disgusting because it’s always unacceptable to kill somebody just for holding some political views, even the despicable.

    Comment by mmt — August 22, 2022 @ 2:18 pm

  8. Professor, I also wanted to ask your opinion about views of other famous person – John Mearsheimer. Recently he published new article, where he warns about escalation in Ukraine. He was widely condemned and was called Putin’s apologist. Do you think it’s fair description of his views or not? Is there anything reasonable in his ideas about Russia, Ukraine and NATO?

    Comment by mmt — August 22, 2022 @ 2:21 pm

  9. report out of Ukraine that the “National Republican Army”, a secret organization in Russia, claims responsibility for the car bombing.

    based on their declaration on Telegram, via “rospartisan”

    Comment by elmer — August 22, 2022 @ 3:19 pm

  10. ‘This is illogical, idiocy, and entirely at odds with actual historical facts.’

    Just another day in Clown World.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — August 22, 2022 @ 5:08 pm

  11. ‘(what is it with these beardy-weirdy academics?)’

    He’s talking about you Prof.

    You just gonna let him say that stuff about you??

    ‘Fight! Fight! Fight!’ 😉

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — August 22, 2022 @ 5:09 pm

  12. @Ex: I didn’t know Craig sported a beard. He was clean shaven in the only pic I’ve ever seen of him on his uni profile (know your adversary…). I think it’s fair to say he looked ‘at odds’ with whoever took the pic.

    It’s a well-known fact that beards generally repel women. Probably goes a long way to explaining Dugin’s lifelong fury – no regular sex, you see.

    Comment by David Mercer — August 23, 2022 @ 3:26 am

  13. @mmt: Mearsheimer’s a tool – disregard. Everyone’s fretting about escalation yet realistically what can Russia do? Full-scale mobilisation is out of the question, and there’s zero prospect of them going nuclear, even if Crimea looked to be lost. NATO would step in conventionally and it would be game over in a matter of days.

    The status quo kind of suits Ukraine (and NATO) to a tee – they can pick off Russian assets, leadership, logistics etc with ease, with only minimal prospect of a serious reply. It will only be a matter of time before Russia’s position becomes untenable and they’re forced to negotiate.

    Comment by David Mercer — August 23, 2022 @ 4:33 am

  14. ‘It’s a well-known fact that beards generally repel women. Probably goes a long way to explaining Dugin’s lifelong fury – no regular sex, you see.’

    He’s saying you couldn’t get laid in a brothel Prof.

    Let him know you mean business. Fight Fight Fight! 😉

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — August 23, 2022 @ 5:10 am

  15. The concept of ‘beardy-weirdy academics’ is not relevant in this case.

    In Russia, beards have long been symbolic of Russian/Slavophile ideas vs European/Western ideas, and it would be more appropriate to compare Dugin’s beard to that of Solzhenitsyn rather than to those of Western academics. The style of Dugin’s and Solzhenitsyn’s beards is not similar to the style of most bearded Western academics’ beards.
    “All Orthodox monks and lay brothers closely followed the ancient tradition — and still do — since the wearing of long hair and beards traces back to the time of the desert hermits in the early years of Christianity. The main reason why ascetics did not shave their hair or their beards was as a way to avoid vanity, and therefore this old …”

    The history of such ‘ascetic’ beards in Russia as a symbol of orthodox Christianity and slavophilism is very clear from the time of the proactive Westernizer ‘Peter the Great’.
    “In 1698,[1] Emperor Peter I of Russia instituted a beard tax as part of an effort to bring Russian society in line with Western European models. To enforce the ban on beards, the tsar empowered police to forcibly and publicly shave those who refused to pay the tax.[2] Resistance to going clean shaven was widespread with many believing that it was a religious requirement for a man to wear a beard,[3] and the Russian Orthodox Church declared being clean-shaven as blasphemous.[4]”

    Comment by Osip — August 23, 2022 @ 8:36 am

  16. I’ve known several women who find beards attractive. My wife is one of them. She says there should be a law requiring men to grow beards.

    Radical feminists find beards unattractive because beards are a statement of masculinity. I find radical feminists unattractive.

    Women who find beards attractive are those who especially like men. Imagine that.

    Comment by Pat Frank — August 23, 2022 @ 9:25 am

  17. @15 Gee thanks for that – enlightening as always (wot, no papers to back up your claims?)

    Have to say the discussion has taken a turn for the weird. This is supposed to be a serious blog peeps! I blame Ex’s late night excesses (every hour is happy hour in Oz).

    Comment by David Mercer — August 23, 2022 @ 10:06 am

  18. Men who are going bald should grow a beard to restore their appearance (albeit somewhat upside down).

    Churchmen should always be bearded, to remind us of childhood pictures of Druids.

    Comment by dearieme — August 23, 2022 @ 10:14 am

  19. FFS people. @David–I’ve had a beard since the day I walked out of the Naval Academy decades ago. Your memory regarding my uni profile is obviously wrong. My kids told me never to shave my beard because then they would never recognize me.

    And look at the (dated) pic on my bio page.

    Re beardy-weirdy academics. It’s all in the eye of the beholder and even to the extent there is a correlation, it’s neither a necessary or sufficient condition.

    Re repelling women, well, I will just have to decline comment and leave that to prurient imaginations.

    Comment by cpirrong — August 23, 2022 @ 10:57 am

  20. @Ivan. Er, 1. I didn’t say the Ukrainian government did it. 2. Just as there are wacko elements in Russia, there are wacko elements in Ukraine who likely have a different view of Ukrainian interests than you and me. And many Azov types fall into the wacko category.

    Comment by cpirrong — August 23, 2022 @ 11:00 am

  21. @12, David Mercer introduced beards to the discussion: “I didn’t know Craig sported a beard. He was clean shaven in the only pic I’ve ever seen of him on his uni profile (know your adversary…). I think it’s fair to say he looked ‘at odds’ with whoever took the pic.

    It’s a well-known fact that beards generally repel women. Probably goes a long way to explaining Dugin’s lifelong fury – no regular sex, you see.

    @17, David Mercer repudiated his own turn to the beard, “Have to say the discussion has taken a turn for the weird. This is supposed to be a serious blog peeps! I blame Ex’s late night excesses (every hour is happy hour in Oz).

    The evidence is permanently in: no self-exculpation for you, David. Own your weird.

    Comment by Pat Frank — August 23, 2022 @ 12:17 pm

  22. Look, David’s entitled to his preference, and it seems he prefers his men without beards. Many such cases.

    Comment by Fyodor — August 23, 2022 @ 4:48 pm

  23. max seddon

    Russian senator Leonid Slutsky:

    “Whatever your political party, faith, or age, there is only one way. One country! One president! One victory!”

    If nothing else, the Russkies are going hard at LARPing Horst Wessel.

    Comment by Ivan — August 23, 2022 @ 6:04 pm

  24. History isn’t what happened. History is folk memory.

    Every nation has its mythic history. Code Napoleon, Scottish Enlightenment, Battle of Britain, Boston Tea Party, ancient Greece, glory of Persia and so on.

    It just so happens that the Russian founding myth is seriously phvked up beyond comprehension.

    Comment by philip — August 24, 2022 @ 4:17 pm

  25. It is about to turn significantly colder in Western Europe and gas and oil prices are already off the charts. Does the Streetwize professor think that Putin will use these circumstances to help prosecute (or favorably end) the war in Ukraine? Inquiring minds want to know.

    Comment by Abbe Faria — August 25, 2022 @ 2:40 am

  26. Putin has got a brain to think for himself, Biden ain’t…guess that’s why they wanted to call somebody else Putin’s brain…

    …a German ‘alternative’ journalist who lives in Russia recommended to read the website of the organisation Dugin is connected to,, to see for oneself that the ‘accusations’ of the West are not true…I did and read a few of Dugin’ articles…Man, that’s strange stuff, this man is overrated and guess, quite a lot of Russians don’t share his views. Alright, that article had over 300 comments and I’ve checked them: seems I was the only one who had actually read the Katehon articles…that’s why alternative journalism also won’t save the world…

    Now, as here the discussion was mostly about beards…the origin of the Russians is not in Kiew, they come from east of the Kaspian Sea, just like the Germanic and Celtic tribes, people that look like our Prof here…they travelled west and east from there…most of the early Buddhists in Asia were Caucasian, but that was the time they’ve got assimilated there, having been there thousands of years before…Look here such a Caucasian man with beard right in Xinjiang:

    Europe is Eurasian, and Europa was by the way a near Eastern princess, she wasn’t European. It’s that the usual stories ‘do have a beard’…

    Comment by Mike — August 25, 2022 @ 11:28 am

  27. I recommend that anyone tempted to utter the word fascism, wash their mouth out and go study the words and acts of Il Duce.

    The essence of fascism is not so much the ideological framework – which goes way over the heads of the populace anyway* – but the mobilization of the poopulace: getting people to join up and get busy in various labor, craft or other kinds of organizations and directing their activities (and thoughts) through them.
    The Nazis copied the idea with Deutsche Arbeitsfront, Nationalsozialistische Frauenschaft and Deutscher Frauenorden.

    Putin, au contraire, like his populace passive, acquiescent

    * Ask Joe Plumber what the difference is between patriotism and nationalism. I doubt there are a hundred people who can give you a coherent answer on any cool weekday.

    Comment by Simple Simon — August 28, 2022 @ 11:18 am

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