By: Dr. Matthew Raphael Johnson
he recent flurry of writing on Russian politics, nationalism and Alexander Dugin shows the contemptible inability of western savants to apprehend any idea beyond the cliche’s of stagnant neo-liberalism. Worse, “Russia specialists” in academia are now tripping over themselves trying to “analyze” Dugin and the Eurasianist idea. Bereft of the vocabulary to understand the concept, they merely apply fashionable labels from western political thought onto Russia in a pathetic and pretentious attempt to show how “dangerous” such ideas are to “European values.”
Reading A. Toynbee, especially Volumes IV-VI of his Study of History, lead one to question both the “civilizational” fundament and, later, his “higher religion.” The problems are not that, at such a level of analysis, he is inaccurate. Such an epic level of perspective cannot be held to the sharp standards of accuracy that a study of, say, the state of New Hampshire might be subject. The very nature of such a sweeping history means that, in the main, he might be seen as “more or less” on the right track. That is as far as one can go. However, that begs the question, since the very concept of such an epic orientation is open to doubt.
Equally sweeping is the general criticism of P. Sorokin and others, namely, that such a view of history is problematic because it isolates a few variables from the rest, making them extremely important. This means that others are minimized. This criticism gains force to the extent that one sees the knowledge required for any epic vista of history to work at all. One cannot know that much about global history to come to such conclusions. Those specializing in an element of a civilization (such as Hellenistic aesthetics) will easily annihilate sweeping generalizations. Hegel’s desire to label entire epochs of history with one word means that such an approach cannot be true; unless one is willing to reduce epochs of civilization to slogans about them.
In the case of this present author, the concern has been to refuse such grand historical panoramas and focus instead on a single nation, or elements within a nation that lend themselves to detailed study. There, the actual living conditions of real people can be analyzed. The sweep of Toynbee, Hegel or Marx is interesting, but if the result is to then force all societies to follow that general model, then they should be left unread. Few deny the ability of Eric Voegelin, but again, outside of specialized studies on Plato or Marx, Voegelin’s sweep is such as to make it interesting, but a fatal temptation to the study of actual historical life.
This preface is needed because the Eurasians fall into the same problem. They too, deal in civilizational norms, though their interest is very specific: defining the Atlantian civilization as against the Russian one. At the level of elite society, this is useful. Western elites, generally speaking, are of one mind in their commitment to science, secularism, individualism (in theory), capitalism, positivism and empire. There is nothing strange about this. Toynbee, in areas in which he is well schooled (such as Greek antiquity), becomes extremely important. When he generalizes this experience to medieval Hindustan, however, he becomes less tenable.
Identity and foreign policy go hand in hand. Domestic and foreign policies are closely linked. In Russia’s case, her sense of corporate selfhood has changed radically since the fall of the Marxist empire in the early 1990s. Russia’s foreign policy has changed as her global status has changed, and the debate among the different factions of Russian life has dominated her foreign policy. The purpose in this paper is to define, in specific terms, the nature of a Russian, Eurasianist foreign policy. Eurasianism is a popular foreign policy idea in elite Russian circles and therefore, must be taken very seriously by scholars (Shlapentokh, 2007).