This article illustrates a worrisome
tendency in post-Soviet academia: the interpenetration between the
social sciences and neo-fascist intellectualism. It details recent
developments in the Sociology faculty of Moscow State University, which
has appointed the obscurantist pseudo-scholar and propagator of
extremely anti-Western ideas Aleksandr Dugin--a figure familiar to Russia
watchers--as the director of the Faculty's Center for Conservative
Studies and an acting Chair. Dugin has repeatedly acknowledged his
closeness to the ideas of, among other fascist ideologies, Nazism, and
uses the term "conservatism" as a cover for the spread of a
revolutionary ultranationalist and neo-imperialist ideology. In recent
years, he has built up a network of supporters in Moscow's higher
echelons of power and established considerable foreign ties. If his
behavior remains unchecked, Dugin could easily use the reputation of
Moscow State University for further extension of his reach into Russian
"Ideas do matter!" announced Aleksandr Dugin,
leader of the International Eurasian Movement, at a small gathering of
academics and students in Moscow, on September 16, 2008(1). Dugin spoke
at the oldest higher education institution in Russia--Moscow State
University named after Lomonosov--where Dugin had just been elected head
of the sociology faculty's Center for Conservative Studies. Moscow
State's new professor was quoting American neoconservatives who, as
Dugin reported, had once been merely a small circle of intellectuals,
but who now rule the US--and, in fact, the entire world. Dugin announced
that he saw the function of the Center as not merely involving the
"introduction of conservative studies to the academic sphere," but also
in "furthering dialogue between intellectuals and scholars with power
structures," promoting "conservative" cadres to leading positions in the
state apparatus, and creating a unified "conservative" intellectual
sphere in Russia. He presented the Conservative Studies Center as being
in competition with such bulwarks of liberal thought in Russia as
Moscow's Higher School of Economics. In Dugin's view, it was only
logical that his new think-tank had been attached to Lomonosov
University in as far as Western intellectual-political centers too are
located at prestigious academic establishments--like Harvard or Johns
Hopkins, the Olin and Hudson Institutes, or the Hoover Institution (2).
of post-Soviet academic life will not be surprised by this new
development at one of the oldest, and, with 2,000 registered students,
largest sociology faculties in Russia (3). Moscow State University's
sociology faculty has for some time been internationally known less for
its research than for its various scandals. Thus, in 1998, the faculty's
Learned Council passed the political pamphlet "The Past, Present and
Future of the Russian People," submitted by ultra-nationalist State Duma
deputy Vladimir Zhirinovsky as a dissertation, for the acquisition of a
Doctor of Science title. This was, taken individually, nothing special:
In recent years, many prominent Russian politicians--from Prime Minister
Vladimir Putin to Communist Party chairman Gennady Zyuganov--have
managed to obtain high research degrees from reasonably prestigious
Russian universities during their active service in the legislative or
executive branches of power. More often than not, they have done so
under dubious circumstances (and with their theses, one sometimes
suspects, having been produced by ghostwriters).
What was still
peculiar in Zhirinovsky's successful bid to become a Doctor of Science
was that the well-known parliamentarian did not have, and still does not
have, a Candidate of Science degree--usually a precondition to be
admitted to a doctoral program. That Moscow State's Sociology faculty
registered a prominent politician without a Candidate degree as a
doctoral student was, even in the specific circumstances of post-Soviet
academia, something rare. Nevertheless, Zhirinovsky successfully passed
the doctoral examination, and was, after some complications, registered
by Russia's Highest Attestation Commission. Today he calls himself a
"Doctor of Science" and can pride himself on having received this title
from one of Russia's two or three most esteemed universities--as well as
one of the country's oldest sociology faculties.
In 2002, a
principal lecturer from the same sociology faculty at Moscow State
University, Professor A'lbert I. Kravchenko, was found guilty of
plagiarism by a Moscow court concerning his text book Politologiya
(Political Science), published by Academia Press in 2001. Kravchenko
was sentenced to pay the author of the book that he had plagiarized
1,000 rubles (approximately $40). In addition, the publisher was forced
to put a note in Russia's leading publishers' journal Knizhnoe obozrenie
(Books Survey) admitting the derivative character of Kravchenko's study
(4). In spite of this verdict, Kravchenko not only continued to teach
at Russia's top college, but also went on to produce further partially
plagiarized textbooks that, moreover, are officially recommended as
teaching tools by the Russian Ministry of Education. For some of these
books, Kravchenko's immediate superior, the dean of the sociology
faculty of Moscow State University and president of the Russian
Sociological Foundation (as well as holder of many other prestigious
posts), Vladimir I. Dobren'kov, functioned as a co-author. One of the
books plagiarized by Dobren'kov and Kravchenko was published in the 2007
multivolume-edition Classical University Text Book
, issued in honor of the 250th anniversary of the foundation of Moscow State University.
in 2007, the faculty gained further notoriety when a group of students
publicly protested against the situation in Dobren'kov's department. The
protesters turned to the Russian and international press, not only
pointing out the sociology faculty's dubious publishing activities, but
also complaining about its lack of international contacts and its dated
curricula (5). The students, in addition, reported that the dean's
office had been distributing brochures that affirmatively quoted the
infamous antisemitic pamphlet The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Confronted with these and other allegations, Dobren'kov labelled the
students "extremists," and allowed some of them to be arrested by the
police. However, as the conflict became widely reported by various
Russian and Western outlets, in April 2007 the Public Chamber of the
Russian Federation, a government-organized gathering of representatives
of Russia's civil society, discussed the scandal. The Public Chamber
formed a Working Group consisting of prominent sociologists from Moscow
and St. Petersburg that launched an official investigation into the
situation at the Sociology Faculty.
In the summer of 2007, the Working
Group issued a first resolution on its findings, in which it stated
that, among other points:
* the literature that students were recommended to read was "a rather tendentious selection of writings by Russian authors,"
* the contents of textbooks by Dobren'kov and Kravchenko were "to a
considerable degree duplicate other texts, in most cases, without proper
acknowledgements of this fact, in the footnotes," and
* in general, the textbooks by Dobren'kov and Kravchenko were "of a low quality." (6)
Working Group informed the university and Ministry of Education that it
would, in correspondence with further similar findings on textbooks
issued by the faculty, apply for withdrawing the recommendation by the
Ministry of Education from these books.
In December 2007, the
Working Group presented the final conclusions from its investigation.
Here, it noted, among other things, a lack of cooperation from the
faculty during the investigation. A number of final theses accepted by
the faculty's chairs were "deeply ideological" and written "in a spirit
of intolerance towards other cultures, and of isolationism."(7) Students
who had at their examinations been unable to recall the names of
internationally known sociologists nonetheless received high marks.
faculty's scholars have not published in leading Russian or
international journals nor taken part in international conferences--a
situation leading the Working Group to speak of "self-isolation" by the
faculty. Instead, the report stated, the faculty aimed to educate its
students in the field of "Orthodox-Christian sociology." Based on these
and other findings, the Working Group recommended, among other
alterations, changing the faculty's dean and its professorial staff (8).
spite of the publicity that the investigation and its results received,
none of the more substantial recommendations of the Public Chamber's
Working Group have thus far been implemented (9). To be sure, the
faculty's leadership did introduce some innovations. For instance, in
2008, it seemingly took a step against international isolation and
hosted the American academic Paul Cameron, a tarnished pseudo-scholar
known for publishing biased papers on homosexuals (10). Cameron's
publications had been of such a nature that, among other reactions by
scholarly organizations, the American Sociological Association, in 1986,
felt it necessary to officially announce that "Paul Cameron is not a
sociologist."(11) In 2009, the sociology faculty, in connection with the
20th anniversary of its foundation on June 5, took an even more bizarre
action aimed at countering the impression of its international
isolation. The faculty website published a fake letter by the president
of the International Sociological Association, Michel Wieviorka--who had
earlier expressed his sympathy for the protesting students--allegedly
congratulating the faculty on its anniversary (12). In response,
Wieviorka wrote a letter to the rector of Moscow State University
demanding the removal of the letter (13).
An earlier reaction of
the faculty to the critique by the Public Chamber was the activation of
its ties to nationalist politicians and publicists in Russia. A group of
students, with the help of the dean's office, founded a Socio-Political
Club (14) that hosted, among other public figures, the famous Russian
anti-American TV commentator Mikhail Leont'ev (15) and prominent
nationalist politician-scholar Natalia Narochnitskaia (16). Later, the
Sociology Faculty hosted, among similar public figures, the
ultranationalist politician Sergei Baburin (17). These invitations were
seemingly part of a scheme by Dean Dobren'kov to build up political
support in Moscow's echelons of power. In as far as all state
universities of Russia are part of an integrated system under the
control of government, important appointments, academic policies or
institutional changes at Russia's higher education institutions are
matters of political pork and patronage.
When in 2008, Moscow
State's sociology faculty founded its new Conservative Studies Center
with Dugin as its head, it apparently followed similar aims regarding
Dugin's appointment--hardly beneficial to the academic reputation of the
faculty. Though Dugin was born and has lived all of his life in Moscow, a
city home to several prestigious universities, he received his
education in provincial colleges. Dugin earned his Bachelor's degree
equivalent in philosophy from the Novocherkassk State Melioration
Academy, his Candidate of Science degree from the North-Caucasian Higher
School Scientific Center at Rostov-on-the-Don, and his Doctor of
Science degree from the Juridical Institute attached to the Ministry of
Interior of the Russian Federation at Rostov. Even many Russians may
have never heard of these South Russian educational institutions.
Nevertheless, in 2010, Dugin became acting Chair of Sociology of
International Relations at Dobren'kov's faculty thus becoming also an
official professor (and not only researcher) at Russia's leading
In the 1990s, Dugin--then still a relatively marginal
figure--first attracted public attention with a number of esoteric
publications in which he presented varied apologies for European fascism
and proclaimed himself a follower of the "Third Road" and the German
"Conservative Revolution."(18) In his first articles, Dugin
re-interpreted world history as an eternal and deadly struggle between
two antagonistic civilizations: liberal "Atlanticist" sea powers on one
side and hierarchical "Eurasianist" land powers on the other (19). As
Russia's undisputed leader of "neo-Eurasianism," Dugin did not hesitate
to call the SS-Obergruppenfuhrer and organizer of the Holocaust Reinhard Heydrich a "convinced Eurasian," and the Waffen-SS,
as a whole, an "intellectual oasis" within the Third Reich (20). In
another of his early articles named "Fascism -- Borderless and Red,"
Dugin expressed excitement about the fact that, after the unsuccessful
implementation of fascist ideology in Italy and Germany, there was now a
truly "fascist fascism" rising in Russia (21). More recently, to be
sure, he has become more cautious, and now refers to himself as an
"anti-fascist." Nevertheless, as late as 2006, he admitted publicly that
his ideas were close to those of the inter-war German Strasser
brothers, who Dugin presented as parts of the German resistance against
Hitler. Dugin failed to mention that, while Otto and Gregor Strasser
indeed became opponents of Hitler in the early 1930s, they did so after
having been leading functionaries and having played an important role in
the surge of Hitler's National Socialist German Workers Party during
the late 1920s (22).
In spite of Dugin's many violations of
Russian political correctness throughout the 1990s, the leader of the
International Eurasian Movement has, in recent years, become an
influential political publicist and pundit. In 1998, Dugin first
surprised students of the Russian extreme right when he managed to
become an official advisor of Gennady Seleznev, then speaker of the
lower house of the Russian parliament, the State Duma. There have been
also rumors that, during the 1990s, Dugin had links to one of Putin's
closest KGB buddies, Viktor Cherkesov. In 2001, Dugin became a full
member of Moscow's political establishment when he created his Eurasia
Movement (later the International Eurasian Movement), the founding of
which was widely reported in the Russian media. Since then, Dugin has
been temporarilly linked to many prominent Russian public figures,
including Russia's former Minister of Culture Aleksandr Sokolov and the
former head of the ideology department of Putin's United Russia party--
as well as a current officer in the Russian presidential
administration--Ivan Demidov (23).
It could well be that these and
other connections in the upper echelons of Russia's political hierarchy
have made Dugin a politically attractive figure able to provide
Dobren'kov with protection. It appears that the sociology faculty's Dean
wants to make Moscow State University's Conservative Studies Center the
focal point of anti-Western "metapolitical" activity in Russia, and to
create, in this way, a constituency of support for himself and his
colleagues among the powers that be.
Dugin too benefits from the
appointment. His new position at Russia's leading classical university
gives him academic clout--the absence of which has, until recently, been
hindering the acceptance of his rabidly anti-American history and
politics text books at Russian schools and colleges (24). Moscow State
University's sociology faculty provides the chief "neo-Eurasianist" with
a prestigious site for workshops, press conferences, and interviews.
has been working for years to shift Russian elite discourse to the
right (25). He and similarly oriented figures have succeeded in
inserting into the mainstream the idea that the US is Russia's main
problem and that "the Americans" are responsible for the various mishaps
in recent Russian domestic and foreign politics, including the Orange
Revolution and the 2008 conflict with Georgia (26). Dugin is now working
toward establishing his "neo-Eurasianist" ideology as Russia's new
foreign policy doctrine (27). In doing so, he uses the term
"conservatism" as a cover for the spread of an actually revolutionary
neo-imperialist program that amounts to a blueprint for an armed
confrontation with Russia's neighbours and the West. The Conservative
Study Center will help Dugin to further smuggle neo-fascist ideas into
the Russian mainstream.
1. "Konservativnyi 'think-tank'," Fond imeni Pitirima Sorokina
, available at http://www.sorokinfond.ru/index.php?id
=474 (accessed February 24, 2011).
2. For an in-depth analysis of Dugin's ideology, see Alexander Höllwerth, Das
sakrale eurasische Imperium des Aleksandr Dugin: Eine Diskursanalyse
zum postsowjetischen russischen Rechtsextremismus. Soviet and
Post-Soviet Politics and Society
59 (Stuttgart & Hannover: ibidem-Verlag, 2007).
Mikhail Sokolov, "Reformiruem li Sotsfak MGU? Institutsional'nye
bar'ery na puti k studencheskoi revolyutsii," Polit.ru, May 25, 2007,
4 Natalia Demina, "Nauka Copy-Paste: Kak Al'bert
Kravchenko iz'ial zapoved' 'Ne ukradi' iz pravoslavnoi sotsiologii,"
Polit.ru, August 24, 2007, available at
5. C. J. Chivers, "University in Moscow to Investigate Student Claims," The New York Times
, March 22, 2007; Bryon Macwilliams, "Protest at a Russian University Attracts International Attention," The Chronicle of Higher Education
, March 30, 2007.
"Rezoliutsiia Rabochei gruppy Komissii Obshchestvennoi palaty RF po
voprosam intellektual'nogo potentsiala natsii: O situatsii na
Sotsiologicheskom fakul'tete MGU," Polit.ru, July 13, 2007, available
7. "Ekspertnoe zakliuchenie Rabochei gruppy
Obshchestvennoi palaty RF po situatsii na Sotsiologicheskim fakul'tete
MGU," Obshchestvennaia palata RF, available at
(accessed February 24,
8. Johanna Olexy, "Student Protesters Successful at Moscow State University," Footnotes: Newsletter of The American Sociological Association
35, no. 6 (2007), available at http://www2.asanet.org/footnotes/fn4.html.
9. For a detailed chronology of this whole story, see "Konflikt na sotsliogicheskom fakul'tete MGU: khronologiia," Laboratorium
1, no. 1 (2009): 305-309, available at
(accessed February 24, 2011).
10. Jim Burroway, "Paul Cameron's World," Box Turtle Bulletin
, May 27, 2007, available at http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/Articles/000
,020.htm (accessed November 24, 2009).
11. For further details see: "Council Acts on Cameron Case," Footnotes: Newsletter of The American Sociological Association
15, no. 1 (1987): 4, http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/1987/ASA.01.1987.pdf
(accessed November 24, 2009).
"Sotsfak popalsya na sfabrikovannom pozdravlenii ot litsa prezidenta
Mezhdunarodnoi sotsiologicheskoi assotsiatsii," Polit.ru, June 10, 2009.
Wieviorka's letter can be found here:
(accessed November 24, 2009).
=studlife&p=sklub 2110530 (accessed November 24, 2009).
"V glavnom vuze strany poiavilsia 'Obshchestvenno-politicheskii klub'.
Pervyi gost' - Mikhail Leont'ev," Nakanune.ru, February 20, 2008,
available at http://www.nakanune.ru/news/2011/01/22/2110530
November 24, 2009).
16. "Rossiia i russkie v mirovoi istorii," Fond
imeni Pitirima Sorokina, available at
=210 (accessed November 24,
17. "Vialotekushchi vozvrat k stabil'nosti," Fond imeni
Pitirima Sorokina, available at
=352 (accessed November 24, 2009).
18. Leonid Luks, "Der 'Dritte Weg' der 'neo-eurasischen' Zeitschrift Elementy -- zuruck ins Dritte Reich?" Studies in East European Thought
52, no. 1-2 (2000): 49-71; Markus Mathyl, "The National-Bolshevik Party
and Arctogaia: two neo-fascist groupuscules in the post-Soviet
political space," Patterns of Prejudice
36, no. 3 (2002): 62-76.
19. Leonid Luks, "Eurasien aus neototalitärer Sicht -- Zur Renaissance einer Ideologie im heutigen Russland," Totalitarianism and Democracy
1, no. 1 (2004): 63-76.
20. Aleksandr Dugin, "Velikaya voina kontinentov [The Great War of the Continents]," in Konspirologiya
] (Moscow: Arktogeya, 1992), 91-131, available at http://my.arcto.ru/public/consp/consp1.htm
; Aleksandr Dugin, Konservativnaya Revolyutsiya
[Conservative Revolution] (Moscow: Arktogeya, 1994), http://my.arcto.ru/public/konsrev/3way.htm.
21. Aleksandr Dugin, "Fashizm bezgranichnyi i krasnyi [Fascism -- Borderless and Red]," in Tampliery Proletariata: Natsional-bol"shevizm i initsiatsiya
[The Templars of the Proletariat: National Bolshevism and Initiation
(Moscow: Arktogeya, 1997 [WWW version]), available at
, 9-16. For an
English translation of this article as well as a controversial
discussion of Dugin's influence and fascism, see my exchange with Prof.
A. James Gregor in Roger Griffin, Werner Loh and Andreas Umland, eds., Fascism
Past and Present, West and East: An International Debate on Concepts
and Cases in the Comparative Study of the Extreme Right
. With a
foreword by Walter Laqueur. Soviet and Post-Soviet Politics and Society
35 (Stuttgart & Hannover: ibidem-Verlag, 2006).
22. For additional references documenting Dugin's fascism, see Andreas Umland, "Faschismus a la Dugin," Blätter fur deutsche und internationale Politik
, no. 12 (2007): 1432-1435, http://www.blaetter.de/artikel.php?pr
Ivan Demidov, "Russkomu narodu neobkhodimo postavit' sebe tsel',"
Evrazia.org, November 4, 2007, available at
=164; Andreas Umland, "Moscow's
Rising Influence Peddler," The Globe and Mail
, March 17, 2008.
24. See, on this issue, Mikhail Sokolov, "New Right-Wing Intellectuals in Russia: Strategies of Legitimization," Russian Politics and Law
47, no. 1 (2009): 47-75.
For the social context and specifics of Dugin"s various activities, see
Andreas Umland, "Toward an Uncivil Society? Contextualizing the Recent
Decline of Extremely Right-Wing Parties in Russia," Weatherhead Center
for International Affairs Working Paper
, no. 3 (2002), available at
(accessed November 24, 2009); Vladimir Ivanov, Alexander Dugin und
die rechtsextremen Netzwerke: Fakten und Hypothesen zu den
internationalen Verflechtungen der russischen Neuen Rechten
(Stuttgart & Hannover: ibidem-Verlag, 2007); Andreas Umland,
"Alexander Dugin, the Issue of Post-Soviet Fascism, and Russian
Political Discourse Today," Russian Analytical Digest
, no. 14
(2007): 2-4, available at
26. See, for instance, Andreas Umland, "Putin"s 'Jackals'," The Wall Street Journal
, November 30, 2007.
For diverging views and additional discussion of Dugin's ideas and
relevance, see Leonid Luks, "Zum "geopolitischen' Programm Aleksandr
Dugins und der Zeitschrift Elementy -- eine manichäische Versuchung?" Forum fur osteuropäische Ideen- und Zeitgeschichte
6, no. 1 (2002): 43-58; Marlene Laruelle, "Aleksandr Dugin: A Russian
Version of the European Radical Right?" Kennan Institute Occasional
Paper, no. 294 (2006), available at
(accessed November 24,
2009); Dmitry Shlapentokh, "Dugin Eurasianism: A Window on the Minds of
the Russian Elite or an Intellectual Ploy?," Studies in East European Thought
59 (2007): 215-236; Anton Shekhovtsov, "The Palingenetic Thrust of
Russian Neo-Eurasianism: Ideas of Rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin's
Worldview," Totalitarian Movements and Political Religions
9, no. 4 (2008): 491-506.
(First published in Demokratizatsiya: The Journal of Post-Soviet Democratization
[web edition], Spring 2011. click here