Contemporary Russian philosopher and Eurasianist Aleksandr Dugin is no stranger to controversy. He’s been labelled by the Western media as “Putin’s brain” as well as vilified as a “fascist,” a claim especially ironic given that Washington is actively supporting self-described fascists in Ukraine to advance its strategic agenda in Eurasia and considering the fact that his book, The Fourth Political Theory, explicitly renounces fascism (along with communism and liberalism). According to establishment commentators, anyone who rejects Enlightenment liberalism is somehow a dark-age fascist, except, of course, for jihadists in Syria and the Right Sector in Ukraine – they’re freedom fighters, we’re told. Far from exhibiting any “craziness,” Dugin’s following analysis is both incisive and sympathetic, showing a deep understanding of the gradations to be found in questions of identity between Russia and Ukraine. Translation by Nina Kouprianova.
In order to analyze a series of new tendencies in politics linked to the growth of the identity factor more accurately, I suggest the following methodological approach, which explains the three levels of collective identity in societies.
1. Diffuse identity. The overwhelming majority of society’s members possess this type of an identity as a vague and, most often, subconscious perception of one’s unity, belonging to a people, history, state, language, and religion. Diffuse identity almost never dominates daily life, being secondary or even tertiary as compared to an individual’s identity. For the carriers of diffuse identity, it is characteristic to prioritize one’s “I,” comfort, feelings, sentiments, and safety, followed by one’s family and friends. Only afterward comes vague comprehension of belonging to specifically this (and no other) society, people, etc. Under normal circumstances, diffuse identity does not call for any special actions, is perceived weakly, and its carriers may not even have any idea about its contents and structures. It awakens only in exceptional cases: wars, conflicts, political cataclysms, or, at times, in the form of successes in sporting events on the part of one’s homeland or some other significant achievements. Diffuse identity does not encourage one to belong to a certain party and can describe those with very different worldviews and ideologies.
2. Extreme identity. This form is characteristic of those that are focused on collective identity as a priority. They do not simply feel it acutely, but also attempt to grasp it and give it shape. The carriers of extreme identity form patriotic or nationalistic (identitarian) ideologies turning identity into the greatest value, use it as the basis for political programs and projects. Extreme identity is constructed over the diffuse version, but emphasizes only certain parts thereof in a rather exaggerated, intense form. Therefore, the carriers of diffuse identity often fail to recognize themselves in the carriers of its extreme variant: the structures are different in both cases. By exacerbating certain aspects of diffuse identity, the carriers of extreme identity (“nationalists”) often lose sight of other aspects thereof or distort them. Diffuse identity is natural and organic, whereas extreme identity is artificial, constructed, and mechanical. Extreme identity is more common during the times of collective stress, national catastrophes, war, and so on.
3. Deep-rooted identity. The third form of collective identity is a conscious intellectual paradigm of the kind of an identity that undergoes diffusion during its projection onto the masses. If diffuse identity is a product of dissemination, then deep-rooted identity is that which undergoes dissemination, the core of a people’s spirit, hieroglyph of history, existential center of a people’s and society’s Being. This deep-rooted identity may be discovered by philosophers, myths, prophets, focused not on construction, projection, and political manipulation (like the carriers of extreme identity), but on finding, releasing, and expressing a people’s spirit per se rather than the way it is imagined. Therefore, deep-rooted identity is not a structure over diffuse identity, but rather its basis, root (radix), its foundation. Deep-rooted identity is an Idea making a particular society into what it is, a people into what they are, a culture into a culture, and a civilization into a civilization. It fans out diffusely through generations and masses, always maintaining its uniqueness and freshness. Extreme identity is always relative, individual, and conditional. Deep-rooted identity is absolute, universal—within the framework of a particular society—and does not depend on individual expression. Extreme identity is a particular product of diffuse identity. Deep-rooted identity precedes diffuse identity and functions as a spiritual power constituting it.
This analysis is extremely relevant for developing an accurate comprehension of the growth of nationalism in today’s world.
In Russia, diffuse identity (patriotism) is currently on the rise. It is focused on the state and Putin, specifically, especially after Crimea. The Olympics helped cultivate and revitalize these particular forms.
A broad range of Russian nationalist movements represents extreme identity. They are disparate, offer their own particular formulation of nationalism, led by vain and incoherent leaders, fighting among themselves and having no support from those who possess diffuse identity.
Deep-rooted identity is at the center for those who are sincerely occupied by searching for the Russian Idea not as an artificial ideological construct but as a deeply spiritual foundation.
What we see in Ukraine is the opposite, i.e., the growth of extreme identity in the caricatured “Banderite” Western Ukrainian form. This model distorts natural diffuse identity completely—ignoring deep-rooted identity and attempting to impose this artificial construct onto all Ukrainians—despite the fact that the structures of diffuse identity and deep-rooted identity at its base have little in common with it. This remark prioritizes the following question: what is the Ukrainian Idea? It is not a Banderite caricature, not vague, diffuse nationalism, but neither is it the Great Russian Orthodox-Imperial or nostalgic Soviet understanding of the Ukrainian problem. In the face of the catastrophic events and the ongoing schism in Ukraine, this may seem like an excessively abstract observation. The search for the deep-rooted identity in Ukraine, the comprehension of the Ukrainian Idea, its “evocation” are, on the contrary, a paramount challenge.
The same applies to Europe, in which we witness the rise of the identitarian wave. Diffuse nationalism of European communities is growing despite the anti-national Liberal politics of European elites. As a result, there is also a rise in extreme identity represented by nationalist and, at times, openly neo-Nazi groups and movements. But amid all this, we cannot overlook the greatest problem: the question of Europe’s deep-rooted identity. After all, Ukraine revealed an entire series of problems, questions, and challenges of colossal historic importance. They stand far beyond the framework of Ukraine’s situation specifically or Russian-Ukrainian relations.
Today, it is identity that is at the center of all most acute contemporary problems in Europe and beyond.