“No longer hyperbolic” to call him one of the most dangerous ideologues

Professor Ronald Beiner of the University of Toronto discusses Alexander Dugin’s dangerousness in a guest post at Crooked Timber. I am reposting my comment, slightly edited.

I have always thought of Dugin as a buffoon and charlatan not worth discussing or debating – with the exception of a brief period when I suspected his verbal rave-fests might be a minor art form of their own. I cannot believe that he managed to produce a competent study of any subject, much less an esoteric one like Heidegger’s thought, at least without major help from a trained philosopher.

For the record, I lived in Moscow for most of the 1990s and the 2000s. On Russian discussion boards of the 1990s, Dugin was often quoted by educated young men and women who seemed to hold extremely illiberal views pour épater la bourgeoisie, that is to spite their liberal-minded, dissident-ish, anti-Soviet parents. Most of those quotes sounded like a hodgepodge of nonsense, “Arctogaia blah blah blah… René Guénon blah blah blah… Atlantis (or was it the Atlantic Ocean?) against the primordial Continent blah blah blah…” At best, a jabbering anti-Fukuyama on acid and steroids.

Some time around 2000, I heard Dugin on Ekho Moskvy, the respectable independent radio station, babbling through an all-night talk show. At times he sounded like an eccentric postmodern player: performance art was big with hip Russian intellectuals in the 1990s, names like Kulik, Osmolovsky and Brenner dropped as shibboleths in polite conversation. Dugin reminded me of Sergei Kuryokhin, the uncannily gifted avant-garde musician prone to outlandishness towards the end of his brief life in 1996, and a co-author of the “Lenin was a mushroom” meme – but Dugin had none of Kuryokhin’s artistic talent or achievement to his credit.

Fast forward to May 2014. Dugin is a professor at the Moscow University, department of sociology. A video of his interview appears with Dugin saying of Ukrainians, “Kill them, kill and kill! I’m telling you this as a professor.” Later on, the professor claims he meant “fascists” but it’s too late. The triple “kill” is indelible.

Update 1. The US has just added Dugin and his Eurasian Youth Union to the sanctioned entities list. On the one hand, it means he’s taken quite seriously; on the other, that’s exactly what he wants: look, I’m so important, I’m on the sanctions list!

Update 2. The concluding comment in the Crooked Timber thread, by Dominick Bartelme, a Berkeley PhD candidate in economics, sums up the discussion:

I find many of the comments on this thread to be utterly remarkable. I can see Dugin’s hoped-for coalition of fascists and socialists and other illiberal elements forming before my eyes. The level of disgust of many on the left with the U.S. dominated capitalist world order has rendered them unable to read a simple denunciation of a dangerous fascist ideologue without immediately reacting that he must be 100x better than our evil capitalist overlords. The logical (and short) next step is to make common cause with Dugin and his ilk in our struggle against the liberal order.


  1. Unfortunately, I find that behaviour more predictable than remarkable. It’s typical of the self-absorption that mars a lot of US political discourse, both left and right. After all, claiming your country is the worst in the world is just another form of boasting. It also appeals to the intellectually lazy, who never have to bother learning about the complexities of the wider world. I suspect Ron Paul-loving bonehead Eddie Snowden shared a similar mentality. He probably thought intelligence agencies didn’t get any more evil than the NSA, although I imagine experience has now taught him otherwise.

    Actually, a red-brown alliance against Western “imperialists” is nothing new. I don’t know if you still remember Nelson, the Brazilian journalist who used to blog about 10 years back. He once told me he became disgusted with the Left when, to his amazement, Brazilian Trotskyites and other leftists happily supported Argentina’s fascist regime over the Falklands War.

    • Nelson Ascher! I barely remembered the name but now I’ve dug up my own old posts linking to his blog, now deleted. He stopped blogging years ago but he is active as a poet. Thank you for bringing him up.

      “He probably thought intelligence agencies didn’t get any more evil than the NSA…” I’m afraid so: the NSA is the greatest threat to American liberty in these circles. There’s a Krylov fable where a mouse tells a rat that the Cat has been eaten by a tiger but the rat refuses to believe it because “no beast is mightier than the Cat.”

      • Good to hear he’s still around.

        Another thing I remember him telling me is perhaps even more relevant here. He said that Brazilian political journalism was a pretty pointless activity when it came down to it, because only those inside the elite circles really knew what was going on and they were not going to spill the beans to outsiders. Something which crossed my mind during Putin’s recent mysterious absence.

  2. Dear AK:
    I appreciated your contributions to the (otherwise largely insane) Crooked Timber thread. As regards your skepticism about Dugin being able to write competently, or more than competently, about Heidegger: yes, I fully concede to you that it is very hard to reconcile the clarity and relative sophistication of *Martin Heidegger: The Philosophy of Another Beginning* with the ideological ranting of other Dugin texts. Your implied suggestion that Dugin likely hired people to help him write it seems quite plausible to me. (That thought occurred to me even before I read your CT comment.) Again, many thanks.
    Ronald Beiner

    • Dear Professor Beiner,

      Many thanks for your comment. For a potential co-author of Dugin’s, I suspect Konstantin Krylov might be a suitable candidate. I have sent you an email with more details on this, too personal and niche-specific to be shared here.

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