by Katherine Bayford
Monday, 22
August 2022
Analysis
11:42

Alexander Dugin was never Putin’s brain

His attempted assassination shows how little understood Russia is
by Katherine Bayford

At 9.30pm on Saturday 20th August, Alexander Dugin’s daughter Darya was assassinated by a car bomb. Her father was likely the intended target — he should have been travelling in the car that Darya died in. No-one has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Speculation on why Dugin was targeted has varied. Ukraine vehemently denied involvement with the strike on a television broadcast: “Ukraine has absolutely nothing to do with this, because we are not a criminal state like Russia, or a terrorist one at that”, an advisor to Zelensky insisted yesterday evening.

According to The Independent, Alexander Dugin is best described as Putin’s “spiritual guide”. The Sun labelled him the “mastermind” behind the invasion of Ukraine. MailOnline went a step further — Dugin is no less than Putin’s “closest aid”.

Each article is illustrated with individual photos of the philosopher, and individual photos of the president. There are no photos of Putin and Dugin together, because the two have never met. 

The Russian state has a cool relationship with Dugin, whom they have used only occasionally when he can be useful. In 2014, the thinker’s Foundations of Geopolitics was introduced to the reading list of the Academy of the General Staff — but by the time Putin had decided against an outright annexation of the ‘People’s Republics’, Dugin’s brand of mystical expansionism was no longer helpful to the cause, and he swiftly fell out of what little favour and influence he had previously accumulated.

By 2017, Dugin was openly critical of the president — in an interview that year, he derided Putin for holding an incoherent worldview: “I think that even he doesn’t understand what he’s saying because now he’s a liberal, now a conservative; now he’s for sovereignty, now for globalism, and now against globalism.” As of 2022, Dugin has no personal or professional links to the Kremlin. “Those who think that I stand on the periphery of power are correct.” Dugin stated a few years ago. “I have no influence. I don’t know anybody, have never seen anyone, I just write my books, and am a Russian thinker, nothing more. I write books, somebody reads them.”

If Dugin’s influence over Kremlin thought is minimal, his influence on their current war effort is nonexistent. Is Dugin supportive of the invasion? Absolutely. But to think he is dictating it — that it is happening at his will, or inspired by his writings — is absurd. Dugin’s hold over the actual workings and policy of the Kremlin is nonexistent, and claims that he operates as a Rasputin-type figure, dictating Putin’s foreign policy, are fantasies. Most Russians will not have heard of the thinker until his daughter was killed in front of him.

Dugin has gained far more traction in online, alt-right circles than he ever did as a mainstream Russian commentator, currently occupying a role more comparable to Nick Land than Henry Kissinger. To suggest that Dugin is dictating Russia’s foreign policy is the equivalent of claiming that Curtis Yarvin is secretly advising Rishi Sunak.

The West’s understanding of Russia has degraded to the point of being almost worthless. Without a clear appreciation of what Russia is, and what (and who) it believes, we cannot formulate a clear strategy in regards to it. With so little known information about who has tried to kill Dugin, and so many conflicting possible justifications, perhaps the safest place to begin is with what he is not.

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Andrew Wise
Andrew Wise
1 month ago

There are no photos of Putin and Dugin together, because the two have never met. 

Well I’ll be jiggered – the press jumping to ill informed conclusions, who’d have thought it?
Thanks for an excellent eye opening article

robert weston
robert weston
1 month ago

Really helpful to have this information Alexander. thank you very much indeed. I had read the mail online article and was obviously inclined to take what I read at face value about him being a close aide of Putin. Thank you.

Adam McDermont
Adam McDermont
1 month ago

Well done for a punchy article that detects the stupidity of the UK media over the last 24 hours. I noticed how they called Dugin far-right without qualifying the claim, such ridiculous “journalism” has long been standard fare. What I have found interesting about Dugin is his critique of sanctimonious Western elites who try to impose “liberal values” on everyone.

https://theheritagesite.substack.com/

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
1 month ago
Reply to  Adam McDermont

Yesterday, I watched a debate between Dugin and Bernard Henri Levy.
It was as you would expect. Levy flamboyantly calling Dugin a Nazi with the stench of decay and then berating him for not doing more to establish bridges between civilisations!!
Dugin doesn’t have the fluency with the English language that BHL has, but yet he came across as humble, courteous and a touch mystical.
Levy came across as the type of man enraptured with the smell of his own farts.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x70z5QWC9qs

Dominic A
Dominic A
1 month ago

So why the assassination- was it a mind manifestation of the Western MSM?

Bill Gilmour
Bill Gilmour
1 month ago

Who will rid me of this troublesome priest?

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago

I’m sorry, but the statement that “the West’s understanding of Russia has degraded to the point of being almost worthless” is simply not backed up by anything in this article. Where is the evidence for this opinion ? And how is the Dugin affair at all relevant to this ?
This statement itself is “almost worthless” unless you can back it up.
Frankly, I’m tired of sloppy UnHerd articles shoe-horning assertions like these into articles without any evidence or support – and indeed where they do not belong. We had much the same thing with some Professor writing an error-ridden piece about Birmingham only yesterday.
No one writing here knows with any certainty what really happened in this Dugin affair. Everything is just speculation. Speculation implies nothing about understanding – it is guesswork.
Furthermore, none of this has – or should have – any real bearing on the West’s policy to Russia and Ukraine.
I really do not think we need to “understand Russia” to know what the correct response to the Russian invasion or Ukraine needs to be. Nor to understand what our responsibilities to our NATO allies bordering Russia are. Note: I am writing this from Cracow in Poland. A city that is thriving now Poland is free from Russian colonisation.

julie mangoes
julie mangoes
1 month ago
Reply to  Peter B

First of all, ALL governments responding to the Russian invasion of Ukraine need to understand Russia and its motivations both in this particular instance and in the global political arena in general. After all, we are talking about a country which not only covers 11% of the globe’s land mass but also holds a significant position in the world politically and economically. Therefore, it would be very unwise of the world’s governments to take ANY action without an understanding of Russia as they would need to anticipate consequences. That said, I do not think that Western governments, particularly the US and the UK, fail to understand Russia. It is the Western public and some media organisations which are ‘guilty’ of such ignorance. This is because we are constantly fed propaganda in both very obvious as well as more nuanced ways — add the social media echo chamber to the mix and it is simply impossible to perceive Russia as anything more than a despotic aggressor.
Second, your city and country are thriving because of Poland’s strategic importance to the US and, as pointed out by US policy advisor George Friedman, because it is one of the few countries in Europe and NATO that has been historically willing to actively stand against Russia. Not to mention, it is THE largest beneficiary of EU funding. Both economic and military growth in Poland can be attributed to significant support and protection from the US, EU and NATO. The economic growth and modernisation of Poland are not a natural outcome of being freed from Russian colonisation.
note: I am not Russian, I am an Eastern European living in Western Europe.

Peter B
Peter B
1 month ago
Reply to  julie mangoes

Thanks – interesting reply. I am not Polish – I’m a Western European who happened to be travelling in Eastern Europe.
The recovery of Eastern Europe after 40 wasted years under Communism and Soviet colonisation is not only about US and EU support. It is also about releasing the entrepreneurial potential of these countries. Remember that before WWII, Czechoslovakia was as rich as Western European countries. Their wealth and growth were suppressed by the Warsaw Pact era.
So I absolutely dispute your claim that “The economic growth and modernisation of Poland are not a natural outcome of being freed from Russian colonisation“. You give the Polish people no credit for their own part in their success.
Back to the original point – if Russia has a delusional version of its own “needs” and status (in my view it does – and I mean the Russian ruling class in particular), we need only understand that it is delusional and unrealistic. We absolutely should not accept or encourage such thinking or behaviour. It is my judgement that after over 100 years of systematically lying to themselves about their own (and European) history, the Russians are in no fit state to have a realistic outlook about much at all (if you are Eastern European you will know exactly the bizarre and distorted version of history taught between 1950 and 1989). They clearly do not yet understand their diminished world role nor the fact that their empire is over. If ever a country needed to check itself in for therapy, it’s Russia.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 month ago

Evidence please…

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago

The left that runs the US is fond of saying “the adults” are in charge. This is only true in the Joe Biden sense of adulthood, which is not dissimilar from second childhood. The anonymous figures making the decisions for him don’t know anything, as a Biden crony said of the White House press corps, because their years in college were a waste of time.

Liam O'Mahony
Liam O'Mahony
1 month ago

From this article itooks much more likely it was a Russian assassination for 3 reasons:
1: He had fallen out with Putin: always a tricky proposition if you wanna stay above ground.
2. Russia has form in this type of “problem resolution”.
3: the attempt was bungled!
Not that Ukraine is too pure to carry out such atrocities: a plague on both their houses I say.
And it’s about time the UK stopped shipping arms to exacerbate the killing of innocents: and saved its money for food, fuel and sewage treatment plants and other fire domestic needs!

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Tell me, what innocents have been harmed by the UKs arms shipments to Ukraine, seeing as they’ve been used exclusively by Ukrainian soldiers to defend their country from an invading army?

M Lux
M Lux
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well seeing as CBS (an American broadcaster) recently reported that only about 30% of the weapons the Ukrainians receive land in the hands of it’s intended recipients, I’d imagine quite a few, especially since at least some portion of the missing equipment ends up being sold to the Russians. Add to this the fact that the Ukrainians have been embedding themselves in civilian buildings such as schools and hospitals (as reported by Amnesty international) to either hide themselves from Russian artillery or sacrifice the people they should be protecting for the sake of PR to sell to the west and it paints a pretty bleak picture.
It boggles my mind that this conflict gets presented as some kind of titanic struggle of good versus evil, when it is just another war being waged between the (not so great) powers, just a bit closer to home this time around.
So in a roundabout way, UK-weaponry has possibly killed quite a few Ukrainians, which I assume is who you refer to as “innocents”, while Russian civilians (in Crimea and the Donbass) have also been targeted, though you seem to imply they are fair game.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
1 month ago
Reply to  M Lux

It says 30% of aid reached the Ukrainians, not 30% of weapons. With most charities that’s a fairly standard number, with a sizeable chunk always being taken by administrative costs and logistics

M Lux
M Lux
1 month ago
Reply to  Billy Bob

Well that’s just a lie. It specifically says “military aid” (i.e. weapons, ammo and other equipment) on the CBS website – it’s literally the first result if you google it.
Also, the US and UK governments aren’t charities, so that’s a pointless observation. Trying to avoid uncomfortable facts are we?

Zygmunt Jaslowski
Zygmunt Jaslowski
1 month ago
Reply to  Liam O'Mahony

Killings and atrocities go on,both side. Ukraine is not a democracy as it claims, or holy, free of sins of Nazism. Quite contrary, in the course of WWII they slaughtered over 200 000 civilians on the Polish territories annexed in 1939 by Soviets, and occupied later by Germans. Bandera, Schuchwych, Dontsev are the faces of Ukrainian Nazism, they have monuments in every majpor Ukrainian city. Could you imagine monuments for Hitler, Himmler O Goebells in Germany or Austrai today? Sad,

Margaret TC
Margaret TC
1 month ago

A detail but maybe indicative of the superficiality of this piece: Dugin’s daughter was NOT killed in front of him. He was to be seen holding his head in his hands on the scene well after the event. There has benn much more coverage of Dugin in the French press, including a video in which, referrring to the Ukranians, he urges intently ‘kill, kill killl’ adding ‘I speak this as a professor’. His daughter has been shown carefully explaining to French and English speaking journalists that the Russians are cleaning up Ukraine to bring social justice.
The word that comes to mind is ‘karma’.

Zygmunt Jaslowski
Zygmunt Jaslowski
1 month ago

Alexander Dugin was never Putin’s brain“. Yes, he was, and for many years. Yes, there are pictures of Putin with Dugin. Dugin is the chief creator/writer of the Euroasian doctrine. He has been a staunch supporter of Putin for long time. He got into trouble with him when he advocated aggressive military intervention in Donbas instead signing Minsk protocols, which guaranteed autonomy for two rebel republics. For this criticism Dugin lost his position as professor of Moscow State University, and banned from mainstream media. He shows himself on Tsargard, Russian Orthodox-Nationalist Television. He criticizes Putin for calling current conflict “special operation”, whereas it should be open, total war with West and the Ukraine. Much more to it. Dugn’s doctrine enables Putin to transform his KGB, communist image into that of Russian Orthodox father of the nation, potentially future tsar. Dugin doctrine is robust, and even when Putin is no more, the doctrine is here, New Putins will be easily found.
,

Jason Ó HIcidhe
Jason Ó HIcidhe
1 month ago

I’m looking at a picture of the two of them now together so that’s a straight up lie, but I guess everything from Russia with Lies.

martin logan
martin logan
1 month ago

It’s still important to keep an eye on lunatics like Dugin and Strelkov. Not because they influence Putin, but because radical nationalists may well come to power once the war really goes south.
Putin is now twisting in the wind. He can make no more territorial gains. (There’s a bounty of $840 for each soldier who advances a single kilometer–but it’s doubtful if any future gains will bankrupt Russia).
A similar situation prevailed with Nikolai II. He was overthrown because of failures on the battlefield. Kerensky was supposed to revitalize the Russian war effort in 1917. Instead it brought on the collapse of Russia.
And once the nut cases get in the Kremlin, the whole rotten structure may well implode.

Ian Johnston
Ian Johnston
1 month ago
Reply to  martin logan

Over 80% of Russians support the SMO.
What evidence do you have that it’s only the Putin cult of personality that’s holding it all together?

Perry de Havilland
Perry de Havilland
1 month ago

My theory is FSB (perhaps) is bumping off Russkiy Mir “true believers” who have been increasingly saying Putin’s failure to win in Ukraine months ago show Putin is weak.

M. Gatt
M. Gatt
1 month ago

If only that Curtis Yarvin was advising Sunak….

Last edited 1 month ago by M. Gatt
Mike Smith
Mike Smith
1 month ago

For the author of this article, an anti-Putin outfit called the New Republican Army within Russia have claimed they carried out the hit, and Gugin himself was not the target. https://youtu.be/7ydgjekMr1c
So, you don’t seem to be very up to date.

julie mangoes
julie mangoes
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Smith

The statement seems to be made with the purpose of weakening the kremlin in the eyes of the public and displaying a sense of strength for supporters of opposition groups. Why would you assume any statement by the Russian media is propaganda and this is not? For an educated perspective on these statements, you can see the comments made by international relations and security expert Mark Sleboda discrediting the possibility of anti-Putin groups having committed the assassination.