Staunton, March 24 – Despite the echoes of Eurasianist thought in the words of Vladimir Putin, Eurasianism as an intellectual and political movement is in deep decline not only in the Russian Federation but in Kazakhstan, Ukraine and elsewhere, Rustem Vakhitov says. It may come back in a decade or two but what it will look like then is anyone’s guess.
Vakhitov, an associate of the Gumilyev Center and a keeper of the flame of the second wave of Eurasianism (from the 1970s to the 2000s) says the belief that Russian civilization is self-standing and doesn’t belong to Europe or Asia had appeared to be on the way to becoming the ideology of many post-Soviet states (gumilev-center.ru/sudba-evrazijjskikh-idejj-v-postsovetskijj-period/).
In the first two decades after the collapse of the USSR, “the works of the classics of Eurasianism came out in impressive print runs, essays appeared in serious journals, Voprosy filosofii even organized a discussion on Eurasianism … and its ideas appeared in the programs of the most varied parties” not only in Russia but in Kazakhstan and Ukraine.
Fifteen years ago, several parties promoted Eurasianist ideas. Most of them are gone. Aleksandr Dugin’s movement has become passe. And Eurasianist Internet sites which once were active are now rarely updated or visited. Of the “old” Eurasian organizations, only two are worth mentioning: The Gumilyev Center and the New Scythian movement of Pavel Zarifullin.
The same is true in Kazakhstan and other former Soviet republics and for Eurasianist projects among them like the Eurasian Economic Union. As far as the latter is concerned, it is “hard to tell whether they are alive or dead, the Eurasianist writes, given that most participants speak with nationalist voices and look to alliances beyond Eurasia.’
According to Vakhitov, “there is only one bright spot on the map of post-Soviet Eurasia, where recently appeared Russophile Belarusian Eurasianism headed by Aleksey Dzermant, an interesting political thinker.” But that is about it, and Eurasianists more generally can hardly look to the future with much confidence.
“Why have Eurasianist ideas so obviously lost popularity?” the scholar and activist asks rhetorically. He suggests that there are several reasons: the growth of nationalism in all the countries of the post-Soviet space, the acceptance of 1991 as a given rather than a tragedy, and the rise of new generations which have little interest in reforming a Eurasian super power.
Vakhitov argues that in a decade or two, those who are now ethno-nationalists will come to see the limits of their agendas and turn back to some kind of Eurasianism. But this will be “an entirely different Eurasianism than that of Savitsky, Gumilyev or Panarin” and will be informed not only by new thinkers but by tectonic shifts in the population.
What makes Vakhitov’s essay noteworthy is his pessimism about Eurasianism at a time when Putin seems to have made it his program, albeit without many nods to the thinkers of this trend. One would expect someone at the Gumilyev Center to be far more optimistic. That he isn’t suggests just how far Putin may be from the reality he hopes to shape.