In an article that caused quite a stir, famous Russian geopolitician Alexandre Dugin maintained, “Chechnya is at the center of contemporary Russian statehood” . This thought-provoking statement deserves a closer look at Dugin’s opinion of the Chechen question and his analyses of the processes underway in the North Caucasus.
Dugin is not without influence in certain Russian military and political circles. He was a member of the parliamentary commission investigating the Beslan tragedy, and since 2005, has collaborated on the writing of a work undertaken at the Russian Academy of Sciences entitled, Atlas of Geopolitical Problems of South Russia. A key objective of the book is to explain the connections between the territorialization of ethnic groups and the economic realities of the North-Caucasus (e.g. the pipelines) .
In numerous media appearances, such as the one in March 2005 at Vladikavkaz, Dugin has challenged the Kremlin on the Chechen question and called for the development of a comprehensive Russian geopolitical strategy for Chechnya, Ossetia, Dagestan and Kabardino-Balkaria . For him, the second war in Chechnya reveals three parallel phenomena.
First, he maintains that the Caucasus is at the heart of U.S. strategies to destroy Russia. According to him, Washington requires the Caucasian States to pursue anti-Russian policies so that they can carry out their project for a “Greater Middle East.” Since September 11, 2001, he claims, the policies of the United States and its Muslim allies have no longer been to support Sunni fundamentalists but instead, to organize “colored revolutions” in order to convert the States of the Near Abroad into intermediaries who carry western political influence to Russia’s doorstep. He alleges that whereas Azerbaijan is still undecided between Washington and Moscow and Armenia remains pro-Russian for the moment, Saakashvili’s Georgia, in seeking direct confrontation with Russia, is pursuing policies that originated in Washington. The upshot is that if it is to win over the Trans-Caucasus completely, the United States has every interest in supporting anti-Russian groups in the North Caucasus, including Chechen separatists. This analysis of the general geopolitical situation has prompted Dugin to adopt a more definitive position on the question of Islam in Russia.
Dugin’s second point is that traditional Islam in the Eurasian space is threatened by the spread of “Wahhabism.” Following the “Islamic Threat or Threat against Islam?” conference that his party, Evrazia, organized, Dugin and his close associates began repudiating fundamentalist movements, presenting them as a threat to traditional Islam. Dugin also compares what he believes are the inherently peaceful traditions in Sufi, Shiite and Orthodox Islam to Catholicism, Protestantism and Sunni Islamism, which he accuses of seeking conflict between civilizations. Creating such divisions has allowed him to propose the creation of a “strategic Russo-Muslim partnership” with traditional, non-politicized Islam and explains why he distinguishes Iran from the rest of the Muslim world. The presentation of Shiite Iran in his geopolitical theories is that of a model and an ally in the resistance against the United States, while the Sunni Muslim world is portrayed as having sold out to “Atlanticist” powers. He sees the so-called “clash of civilizations” as being no more than an invention of the West, one that is contrary to the dialogue of civilizations that would exist between Eurasian peoples. Analyzing the situation has thus enabled Dugin to present the “war on terror” as a product of Atlanticism, Muslim fundamentalism itself having been financed by the West in its fight against the Soviet Union. Such an analysis of Islam is also supported by Talgat Tadjuddin, the supreme mufti of the Muslim Central Spiritual Board of Russia.
The third aspect of the Chechen question for Dugin concerns the relationship between the center and the periphery. Beginning in the second half of the 1990s, and notably in his book The Foundations of Geopolitics (1997), he has called for a reorganization of the national republics in order to create unified national structures. The Kremlin is currently in the process of carrying out this reordering but Dugin wants the process to be taken much further. He believes that it is necessary to recentralize the Federation in order to avoid any attempts of nationalist separation. However, in doing so, he urges minorities to cultivate their own cultural (linguistic, religious, folkloric, etc.) differences. Such proposals have won Dugin the support of Kozh-Akhmed Nukhaev, regarded by many as one of the Chechen mafia leaders in Moscow, but who is also a traditionalist Islamist thinker of originality. Nukhaev is an advocate for the constitution of a Chechen Republic where local religious and cultural traditions would be made official and would have a status of semi-independence from Russia.
Just after Akhmad Kadyrov’s assassination in May 2004, Dugin published an article entitled, “The Chechen Path to Russian Statehood,” in which he argues that it is impossible to normalize Chechnya by force . For him, Chechnya reveals the gaping holes in Putin’s policies, which are based on the assumption that it is possible to enforce Moscow’s domination through technological and military means, while forgoing any consideration of the content of Russian statehood. Dugin urges Putin to engage in a new round of negotiations with the Chechen political elites and to rethink Russia’s values as a state and the type of relations it wishes to have with its republics. He proposes giving Chechnya substantial autonomy and advises against a unified political regime, which would be contrary to what he calls the “clannish tradition” of the region. Instead, he espouses giving support to Ramzan Kadyrov’s government, so that it might succeed in integrating combatants and be perceived by the Chechen population as representative of its interests. Russia, Dugin argues, must propose to the peoples of the Caucasus “a Eurasian model of development that makes it possible to refuse accelerated modernism and the standards of present-day Russia, and enables the specificities of traditional society to be conserved” . As such, he urges for cooperation with the representatives of traditional Islam and principally with the Sufi brotherhoods. The hope here is to spread an image of Russia as a state that defends the “traditional societies” of the Caucasus against Americanization and globalization.
By objecting to the Kremlin-led policy while simultaneously calling for a strengthening of Russian power and state recentralization, Dugin has proposed an original solution to the Chechen question. His proposals are likely to find support both among those close to Ramzan Kadyrov and in the institutions representing Chechen Islam, which extol the virtues of “re-traditionalizing” society and calls on Moscow to respect its traditions (e.g. the reestablishment of Sharia tribunals for certain juridical questions) but does not demand political independence for the republic.
It is difficult to determine the real influence that Dugin’s ideas have on the Kremlin. His Center for Geopolitical Expertise claims to be working for the Presidential Administration, the government, the Federation Council and the Duma. Dugin may have also written analytical briefs and contributed to the development of Russia’s national security doctrine. He appears to have ties to Kremlin “strategist” and Presidential Administration Advisor Gleb Pavlovski. Therefore, it is possible that his stance on Chechnya has been adopted by certain individuals within the Kremlin. Indeed, his convictions on how the federal structure should be reorganized correspond to the changes being implemented by Putin (e.g. reducing the autonomy given to national republics by merging them into larger regional unities; reaffirming Chechen society’s right to religious and cultural but not to political autonomy). However, Dugin is not the only one to have considered these questions. Yevgeny Primakov, for example, has expressed a desire for rapprochement with Asian countries, and, in particular, with the India-China-Iran triangle. This desire itself harks back to former Soviet traditions still present, for example, in Russian Orientalist milieus. So although Dugin holds views on this subject similar to those expressed by Primakov, the latter is inspired by a “great power” Soviet culture, not by Dugin. It is therefore probable that the “polit-technologs” of the Presidential Administration are also inspired by such Soviet traditions internal to Party and State apparatuses and not simply by Dugin himself.
1. A. Dugin. “O skitaniakh vetchnyx i o Chechne,” Km.ru, July 21, 2006, online at https://www.evrazia.org/modules.php?name=News&file=article&sid=3193.
4. A. Dugin. “The Chechen Path to Russian Statehood,” Russia in Global Affairs, vol. 2, No. 3, 2004, pp. 89-92.
5. A. Dugin. “Geopolitika kak effektivnyi metod sovremennoi rossiiskoi politicheskoi teorii i praktiki,” https://www.kavkazonline.ru/csrip/elibrary/uro/uro_30/uro_30_03.htm.