Who are the most famous Russian philosophers

In Putin's head

In January 2014, the governors of the regions, the important civil servants and the cadres of the ruling United Russia party received a special New Year's gift from the presidential administration - philosophical works: "Our Tasks" by Ivan Ilyin, "The Philosophy of Inequality" by Nikolai Berdjajew or also “The Justification of the Good” by Vladimir Soloviev, all of them Russian thinkers of the 19th and 20th centuries. One wished that a new Gogol would come and describe how these imposing dignitaries, more used to outrageously expensive restaurants, beautiful cars and luxury watches, were now sweating over reading pages full of Sibylline speculations. The beloved and feared President himself quoted these authors several times in his speeches. You have to bring yourself up to date ...

Putin, a philosopher? Let's not exaggerate. But after rereading the philosophical classics mentioned and questioning several commentators well versed in "Kremlin ideology" it becomes clear that Vladimir Vladimirovich's thinking is based on three pillars: an old-style conservative doctrine for internal use, one of them Slavophiles inherited theory of the “Russian Way” and finally the project of a Eurasian future. This threefold doctrine promises a rather troubled future for the rest of the world. Against the background of the extensive Russian actions in the Ukraine as well as the entire former Soviet zone, a doctrine is being revealed that has been vaguely suspected for a number of years, but has not yet been able to put it into words.

The "old style conservatives" in power

It was Nikita Mikhalkov, the famous (and very close to the President) director of “Black Eyes”, who opened up new philosophical horizons for Putin. In 2005, Putin received private funds from him to bring back the remains of Ivan Ilyin (1883-1954), an obscure Russian philosopher who emigrated to Western Europe in the early 1920s and was now buried with great pomp in the cemetery of Moscow's Donskoy Monastery . Since then, Putin has regularly resurrected Ilyin on the most solemn occasions. From this outstanding Hegel specialist and bitter opponent of Tolstoy’s non-violence, the Russian elites know above all a collection of programmatic articles entitled “Our Tasks”. These two volumes, reissued in 1993 and first published in Paris in 1956, with their strict black covers are now on the bedside table of Putin's high-ranking officials. What do you read in it? The anti-communist Ilyin refuses to choose between “totalitarianism, be it from the left, from the right or from the center”, and “the path of Western European democracy, that of 'formal democracy'”. He dreams of a “democratic dictatorship”, imagines what will happen if communist power collapses, and announces that after “several years of chaos”, violent clashes and “efforts to separate from foreign powers” ​​the “national Dictatorship “will bring salvation and elections will no longer play an important role. One can easily imagine what went on in the minds of Mikhalkov and Putin while reading these lines ... And that is by no means all, because Ilyin is still hoping for a “leader” who “knows what to do”. He concludes: “The leader serves rather than making a career; fights instead of playing an extra role; beats the enemy instead of uttering empty words; instead of selling itself abroad. "

References to Ilyin, still discreet during his first two terms in office, have intensified and broadened since Vladimir Putin's return to office in 2012. On December 12, 2013, the 20th anniversary of the post-Soviet constitution, Putin summed up his thinking in a grand speech to representatives of the nation. With a clear allusion to the laws that defend homosexual rights in the world, he explains: “Today in many countries the norms of morality and manners are being re-examined, national traditions are being erased as well as the distinctions between nations and cultures. Society no longer only lays claim to the direct recognition of the right of everyone to freedom of belief, political opinion and private life, but also, strange as that may seem, the compulsory recognition of the equality of good and bad, which are mutually exclusive by pretending to embody the struggle against this supposed tendency, Putin calls for the “defense of traditional values” and admits: “Of course this is a conservative point of view.” Russia's “task” in the succession Iljins is clear: the country should become a center of attraction for anti-modernists all over the world.

The return of the Russian way

This conservatism is based on the conviction that Russia has a special mission. Simply put, Russian thought has been divided into two major, opposing currents since the beginning of the 19th century. On the one hand, the Westerners, including Pyotr Tschaadajew and Alexander Herzen, take the view that Russia is called to become part of Europe, which is a departure from imperial arbitrariness, serfdom, censorship, and adherence to an exclusively Orthodox one Presupposes identity. On the other hand, the Slavophiles, influenced by German idealism, want to promote a spirit of Russia's own that is based on its religious worldview, the virtues of its people or the peculiarities of its social organization. This dualism structures the intellectual field of Russia to this day. The fault line existed even within the Politburo, the highest authority ... but Putin has now chosen his camp. Just as Ilyin asserts in a pathos not uncommon among Slavophiles: “Europe does not know us, does not understand us and does not love us” and is so jealous of the “Russian mission” that it has mistrusted Russia since the end of the 17th century fear, as Putin assured during his “victory speech” on March 18, 2014: “The policy of containment of Russia, which continued in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, continues today. People are still trying to push us back into a corner because we take an independent point of view. ”In addition, new terms such as“ Russian civilization ”or“ civilizational code ”have appeared in the president's vocabulary since 2012 - suggesting that a culture is a living organism that has its own genetic code.

To pursue this thesis further, we went to an interview with the most famous contemporary representative of Russian nationalist messianism. Every Russian television viewer and radio listener knows Alexander Prokhanov, a lyrical and vocal writer and journalist, born in 1938. In the post-Soviet period he founded the daily Sawtra (Morgen), which is still the mouthpiece of the extremely anti-Western ultra-conservatives. Prokhanov is convinced that his ideas, laid down for example in his work “The Fifth Empire”, “are beginning to have an effect” among the advisers to the President. According to Prokhanov, the “Russian idea” is based on three axioms. According to the first, Russia "is inherently an empire whose borders breathe". “If Putin has not yet pronounced the term empire, he is just beginning to put it into practice. It began with the 2008 war against Georgia (which allowed South Ossetia and Abkhazia to split off from pro-western Georgia). The events in Ukraine and Crimea are the continuation of this. ”According to the second axiom, Russia“ has always obeyed the idea of ​​divine justice ”:“ There is a Russian messianism and thus a not only strategic but also a spiritual opposition between Orient and Occident. ”Finally, the third axiom reads:“ The conservative values ​​represented by Putin with regard to the individual, the family and the relationship to nature are head on against Western modernism. ”According to Prokhanov,“ the confrontation with the West will therefore continue and aggravate. Russia will turn more and more to China and India to build an anti-Western front. Two enemy camps are forming and we are heading for a new world war. God will decide his outcome. "

Eurasia or nothing at all

So the word “empire” is on everyone's lips again. But what form will it take? It is considered certain that at the end of the 1990s Putin regularly attended a study group devoted to the work of a special thinker, Lev Gumilev (1912-1992), the son of the poet couple Nikolai Gumilev and Anna Akhmatova. In his writings, this ethnologist and historian, as the last representative of the Eurasian movement, worked out a theory of the life energy of human groups within the framework of the Eurasian area - to which he includes Russia and Central Asia. His central concept is that of the “passionarity” or “inner energy” of the Russian people. Eurasianism emerged in the 1920s among the philosophers who fled Soviet Russia and is now very popular in Russia.

This school differs significantly from the ones listed so far. Contrary to the Westerners, the Eurasians criticize the arrogant "European centrism" of the Occident. In contrast to the Slavophiles, they believe that the Tatar-Mongolian yoke in Russia, which lasted from the 13th to the 15th centuries, should not be viewed as a national catastrophe, but as a factor in progress. The Tatar hordes would have brought a lot to Russia in terms of economic, financial and political administration.

Incidentally, in his speech in December 2013 last year, Putin described the development of Siberia and the Russian Far East as “a national priority for the entire 21st century”. In addition, his recent advances towards China can be interpreted as an oriental turn in foreign policy. Finally, and above all, Putin wants to launch a “Eurasian Union” in 2015. "We are entering the crucial stage in the preparation of the Eurasian Economic Union Agreement," he affirmed. The first members will be Belarus and Kazakhstan, in the hope of "involving Kyrgyzstan and Armenia in it" and suggesting that Ukraine bind itself more closely to them. In the meantime, new export routes for gas reserves are being negotiated with China. So Putin's strategy is to use conservatism to close ranks around the leader and "traditional values", to wave the banner of the "Russian way" to guide the masses in the coming conflict with the West mobilize, and then manage the future empire thanks to Eurasian ideology, which extols the multiethnic nature of the Eurasian “super culture”.

To find out more about the dream of a new continental empire, we spoke to Alexander Dugin, the most famous exponent of the neo-Eurasian current. According to Dugin, “the Eurasian doctrine touches the deepest nerve in Russian history. In this sense, it unites what there is in common in the white and red, monarchical and socialist history of the country. Nowadays it is fully topical in the growing confrontation between Eurasia and the Atlanticist West ”(which he regards as“ the absolute evil ”). According to him, Putin mixes several ideological ingredients in a very personal and harmonious way: a typical Soviet worldview; an Ilyin-inspired imperial and conservative Russian imperialism, "a banal and primitive way of thinking for primitive people," as Dugin sums it up; a Eurasian geopolitical conception; a vision of continental Europe, inspired by the utopia of the Russian thinker Vladimir Solovyov, as a "Union of Christian kingdoms under strategic control of Russia" directed against American influence, and finally a fundamental realism that rejects the idea of ​​a law overstating the sovereignty of states.

On a political and strategic level, Putin “wants to construct a Eurasian empire” that is able to compete with the empire of the Atlantic. Dugin predicts that the president will put this program into action in a relatively short period of time ("between three weeks and three years"). He will seize part of Ukraine, the part on the right bank of the Dnieper. The other half, including Kiev, will be a kind of amusement park, a “folkloric zone of Ukrainian identity, but without any power”. He will also expand his influence on those European political movements that are inclined to conservative values ​​and a Christian Europe, for example by supporting the rise of Marine Le Pen in France. Putin wants “to remind Europe of its own Greco-Roman values”. In this sense, according to Alexander Dugin, Russia is the future of Europe.

Which empire for Putin?

What will be the next steps for the Russian President? All of our interlocutors affirm that he will not stop at Crimea and not even Eastern Ukraine. But the scenarios diverge. Will he follow a Pan-Slavic program and want to gather all the “Slavic Brethren”? Certainly not, because there is no question of making advances to the Bulgarians, Serbs or Czechs. Is it aiming at the establishment of a Christian empire that would be united around the Orthodox faith? Not even that - even if he can strike this chord to lure Armenia - because the Russian Federation is already multi-denominational and all of the country's Muslim regions should not be lost. Does it follow the principle of uniting all Russians and / or Russian speakers? That is the argument used so far to justify the attack on Crimea and eastern Ukraine. But it is adapted to the respective circumstances. It should be remembered that South Ossetia and Abkhazia, "captured" in 2008, are not Russian territories. Embarking on an adventure in Latvia, where the number of Russian speakers is considerable and the intra-community conflicts are deeper than elsewhere, is out of the question because the Baltic Republic is a member of NATO and the European Union. In other regions, on the other hand, the alibi of the defense of the threatened Russian-speakers can work extremely well: in Belarus, of course, where the local dictator, Alexander Lukashenko, shows a certain nervousness; in northern Kazakhstan (the country has 23 percent Russians); in Transnistria and Gagauzia, autonomous parts of Moldova, which could easily be attached to Russia if southern Ukraine were seized. In the eyes of Alexander Morozov, one of Russia's leading opposition journalists, Putin is not a pure, visionary student of ideologues like Prokhanov or Dugin, “rather, his vision, in the words of Morozov, is an efficient and contemporary one based on a market economy to establish an imperial system. The national or religious factors are of secondary importance, and it is certainly not a red empire. ”In his view, Putin“ wants to set up a powerful economic union that will take on the character of a confederation of states, with the aim of being economic To compete with great powers of the world. Putin's basic philosophy remains economically moderate. He wants to acquire new resources in order to participate in global capitalism with new forces. But he does not propose an alternative doctrine to global financial capitalism. He doesn't want to destroy it or suggest anything else. ”The empire that Putin is trying to set up in a hurry would therefore be based on the expansion of the ruble, not on that of orthodoxy, neocommunism or the Russian people. But this whole thing will clearly be dominated by Moscow. The Eurasian ideology will therefore be indispensable to ensure peaceful coexistence of all these peoples.

Putin has therefore selected the most imperialist and anti-Western among the philosophers in his country. The European decision-makers would do well to have them given to them for the next vacation so that they can get to know their new opponents better. •