There has been a dangerous ideological trend developing on the fringes of Russian intellectual society ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Going by the rather bland name of ‘Eurasianism’, it is a geopolitical approach that stresses the division of the world into a number of spheres that are historically and inherently opposed to one another. The central antagonism in this system is, not surprisingly, between the liberal and cosmopolitan West against the ‘rootedness’ of traditional Russian society. In this world view, sea and land are the defining features of these two competing geographical entities.
The most well-known proponent of this theory is the philosopher Aleksandr Dugin, whose views are a combination of Russian nationalism and authoritarianism, and the esoteric philosophies of the 20th century European far-right (Evola, Schmitt). Until a few years ago, Dugin was a close ally to Eduard Limonov, the leader of the pseudo-fascist National Bolshevik party. While eventually they broke ties, this seems to have been for personal rather than ideological reasons.
National Bolshevism is a curious ideology in itself. Its roots lie in the 1918-1920 period when the Bolshevik party was attempting to export the Revolution to the west, particularly Germany. Arising from the German dissatisfaction of being occupied by the French after World War One, certain nationalist thinkers were eager to accept a communist revolution on the condition that it abandoned its international ambitions. Karl Radek also saw National Bolshevism as a way of promoting the Revolution further, even if it meant appropriating communism to a nationalist setting. It is interesting to note that the appearance of this movement coincided with the Weimar period in Germany, much as how many observers put forth a notion of a ‘Weimar Russia’ during the 1990s as an unstable democracy liable to fall back into authoritarianism at any moment.
While these movements currently remain on the fringes of Russian society, there has been evidence that Russian nationalism is on the rise, especially since it is being promoted by Putin’s clique in the Kremlin as official state doctrine. At present it is hard to see a coalition between the current one-party state and a radical movement like the National Bolsheviks, who are banned. Yet this radical undercurrent remains and grows, fueled by the general atmosphere of xenophobia and nationalist chauvinism that has reappeared in Russian society since the 1990s.