Russia’s Strawman Svengali Feels the West’s Wrath

Our ever-so-sensitive, ultra-woke punditry and law enforcers are zero-tolerant to “violence against women.” Very often, a falsely accused husband is evicted from his home and reduced to penury because “zero tolerance” for “toxic masculinity” easily becomes a deadly tool for scheming wives who have an axe to grind. The same applies to vindictive young women, ditched or just unstable, who have the power to get their former boyfriends not just expelled from college but ruined for life.

Such favoritism does not apply to all women, however. The liberals’ “morality” is situational. In other words, it is strictly dependent on an actor’s position within their value system. To wit, when the daughter of Russian political philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, Darya, was gruesomely murdered in a car bomb explosion outside Moscow on Saturday evening—probably by Ukrainian state-sponsored terrorists—there was no outrage and no demand for justice. Quite the contrary: it was clearly implied that she had it coming.

The real target, it can be safely assumed, was Dugin himself—not because he is truly important, but because he is a soft, unprotected civilian target. Unlike senior Russian officials and important associates of Vladimir Putin’s government, Dugin is not under the protection of the FSO (the Federal Protective Service) and never has been.

Nevertheless, in the aftermath of his daughter’s murder, much fact-free nonsense has been published in the Western media about Dugin’s being “Putin’s trusted advisor” or else “a close associate,” the chief ideologue of “Putinism” (whatever that means), and both the brain and the moving spirit behind the attack on Ukraine.

Those are all lies, literally so. As Edward Stawiarski noted in Chronicles three months ago, “Dugin is often depicted by Western media as a Rasputinesque figure with a dangerously eerie grip over Russia’s political and intellectual elite.” Indeed he is. Yet Dugin’s mystical brand of millenarian Eurasianism is not, and has never been, appreciated by Putin or by the boneheaded security forces around him. They regard Dugin as an eccentric whose ideas are neither useful nor even interesting.

The same can be said of the rest of the Russian society—left, right, or center. Liberals abhor Dugin’s critique of the deformed, self-hating West, while nationalists dislike his notable streak of Soviet nostalgia. Arguably, Dugin is better known among the media consumers in the West than among those in his own country—“known,” that is, as a maliciously misrepresented figure.

Here are some facts regarding Dugin. He has never met Putin or spoken to him. Putin has never mentioned Dugin, not once, until sending him a message of condolence after the car bombing. The authorities arranged for Dugin to be fired in late June of 2014 from his teaching post at Lomonosov (Moscow State University) because he complained loudly about what he saw as the Russian government’s timid response to the regime-change operation in Kiev in February and especially to the massacre in Odessa in May of the same year. For the ensuing eight years, he has not made a single appearance on state TV or even in the private media outlets close to the Kremlin. Throughout that period, he has been preaching to his small and powerless choir, without receiving a single ruble from the state.

The manner in which the Western media turned Dugin into a mix of Dr. Strangelove and Grigori Rasputin is grotesque, but it is not new. In the 1940s, a German professor named General Karl Ernst Haushofer was routinely accused by the media and even by scholarly journals in the United States of being the brain behind Hitler’s program of conquest. That was also nonsense: Haushofer, the father of German geopolitics and an astute analyst of his country’s global capabilities, wanted an alliance with Russia—the axis of Berlin-Moscow-Tokyo. He was never a Nazi (his wife was Jewish) and had no time for Hitler’s racial theorizing. He believed Germany’s vector of expansion should be in the Middle East and Africa, not in Eastern Europe.

By 1935, Haushofer was as marginalized in Berlin as Dugin has been in Moscow since 2014. He was despondent when Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, knowing as he did that Operation Barbarossa would end in Germany’s ruin. His son, Albrecht, was executed by the Nazis in April 1945, just as Dugin’s daughter Darya was likely murdered by their 21st-century heirs, 77 years later.

A balanced, historically based judgment on the role of Haushofer requires considering that he never had any influence on the formation of any aspect of the politics of the Reich and that he was never even respectful of Hitler. In fact, there is no evidence that Hitler’s ideas and rhetoric were influenced in any way by Haushofer, and it seems certain that Hitler would have come up with all his theories even if the old Bavarian had never existed.

The legend of Haushofer and the invented Institute for Geopolitics reminds us of the appeal there is in the search for simple answers to complex questions. The conflicting motives for Hitler’s savage approach to international relations require complex analysis. The story of Haushofer as Hitler’s tutor, born in the search of wartime propaganda for black-and-white contrasts and easy-to-understand explanations, nevertheless still survives.

As historian David Thomas Murphy has pointed out, accepted historical conventions surrounding the evolution of Hitler’s ideology continue to perpetuate a number of myths about the role played by geopolitics, or Geopolitik, and its best-known proponent:

Ever since the very first week of the Second World War, otherwise sound and carefully edited scholarly works have maintained that the retired general Haushofer ran a Nazi think-tank, the Institut für Geopolitik [IfG], at the University of Munich. These works credit Haushofer with introducing Hitler to the concept of Lebensraum and related geopolitical notions, and with convincing Hitler of the need for an aggressive German program of continental expansion. Both Haushofer and his supposed Institut have, through the same decades, been charged with exercising a decisive influence upon Hitler’s wartime strategy, an attribution . . . that can in no way be sustained by an objective consideration of the evidence. The result has been to perpetuate in the historical literature both a false representation of the career and influence of Karl Haushofer and, most importantly, a chronic misapprehension of the roots of Hitler’s ideology.

Even though no establishment called the Institut für Geopolitik ever existed and there was never any organization that did anything like what such an institute might do, the myth persists to our time.

It is an even bet that Dugin will be likewise remembered in the West as Putin’s Svengali long after they are both dead. Despite his lack of involvement of any kind with the Putin establishment, Dugin has been sanctioned by the United States. It is highly likely that if the U.S. authorities could get hold of him, they would put him on trial for inspiring the war in Ukraine and therefore being guilty of the resulting war crimes, real or invented.

That is what happened after the end of the Second World War to another major German intellectual, more important and influential than Haushofer. Carl Schmitt was accused in 1945 of somehow inciting Hitler’s aggression. He was arrested and kept in captivity for crimes he never committed. He was eventually released, as no evidence could be found against him.

In reality, Schmitt’s membership in the Nazi Party did not prevent him from warning against the ideological blinders that evidently guided the Reich to ruin. First published in 1942, at the height of the war, his Land and Sea: A World-Historical Meditation recounted Schmitt’s view of world history as a study of “the battles of sea powers against land powers and of land powers against sea powers.” To Schmitt, just like to Haushofer, Britain and America—the paradigmatic sea powers—were the natural and mortal enemies of Germany, and Russia Germany’s natural ally.

That clear verdict remains valid to this day. Dugin would agree with this realpolitik—and that is his unforgivable sin.

Image: Aleksandr Dugin (Fars Media Corporation / CC BY 4.0) and his daughter, Darya (1RNK / CC BY 3.0), via Wikimedia Commons.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.