Understanding the Russian war against Ukraine provokes puzzling questions. It beats our reservoir of simplistic answers and it often seems totally irrational. On the other hand: understanding this war is indispensable for putting an end to it and finding a way to a lasting peace. Seeing the war as an outgrowth of the ideology of Eurasianism sheds a light on the Russian aggression and reveals at least a certain ‘logic’ in the ‘rape of Ukraine’.
Eurasianism is a political movement in Russia that states that Russia is not a nation, but a civilization. This civilization is not ‘European’ or ‘Asian’. Instead the geopolitical concept of Eurasia is making Russia, according tot Eurasianist as Alexander Dugin, a standalone civilization.
Eurasianism has its origins in the Russian émigré community in the 1920s. The Eurasianists believed that the Soviet Regime after the October Revolution could evolve into a new, non-European Orthodox Christian government. Early proponents of Eurasianism argued that control of the Eurasian heartland was the key to geopolitical dominance. Along several lines Eurasianism developed after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 in Neo-Eurasianism. It considers Russia to be culturally closer to Asia than to Western Europe. This ideology was influenced by political theorist Aleksandr Dugin to publish in 1997 Foundations of Geopolitics. Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianism is according to some analysts a fascist ideology centred on the idea of revolutionising the Russian society an building a totalitarian, Russia-dominated Eurasian Empire. This ideology was used to justify the Kremlin’s War in Ukraine.
In this episode of Don’t Give Up Ukraine! we discuss Eurasianism with Andreas Umland and Hubert Smeets. Andreas Umland is poltical scientist studying contemporary Russian and Ukrainian history as well as regime transitions. He published among others on the post-Soviet extreme right, Ukranian and Russian nationalism and the Donbas and Crimea conflicts. He is Senior Expert at the Ukrainian Institute for the Future well as a Research Fellow at the Swedish Institute for International Affairs in Stockholm. Andreas Umland also teaches as Associate Professor of Politics at the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy. Hubert Smeets is a Dutch journalist and historian. He is one of the founders of the knowledge and analysis platform Raam op Rusland (Window on Russia). Hubert Smeets is a prominent commentator on the war in Ukraine. He worked for the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad. From 2003 to 2007 he was editor-in-chief of the Dutch opinion weekly De Groene Amsterdammer. In 2015 he published his book De wraak van Poetin (The revenge of Putin).