Lightning and the Sophistry: Aleksander Dugin’s Roots in Nazi Iconography and Esoteric Fascism

When speaking to an audience, he embodies the stereotypical figure of a philosopher; a wizened old man with a retreating hairline, a grim expression broken up by a pair of modest glasses and a bushy beard, using big words like ‘hegemony’ and ‘dialectics’. It wasn’t so long ago that Aleksander Dugin, the perfect embodiment of the European sage, spoke as Hans Shivers, a boisterous stage persona and reference to a Nazi war criminal, a Theater Kid composite of Sid Vicious and Dr. Strangelove. Call it performance magic, if you like. While he no longer stomps about the stage throwing Roman salutes, the illiberal beliefs some still associate with the swastika continue to take root at the base of his current ideology of Neo-Eurasianism. This becomes more apparent when you take into consideration his contemporaries; a black magic cult full of neo-nazis.

No, really.

Young Dugin, born to a GRU general and a doctor of medicine and freshly expelled from the Moscow Aviation Institute, found likened minds in the burgeoning bohemian underground of the Soviet Union. Called “tusovka”, the burgeoning subculture represented a dark inversion of the western hippie scene, anti-communist and increasingly reactionary in the most irreverent ways they could manage. While many stuck to the nonconformist art and poetry side of dissidence, the self-styled erudite Dugin fell in with the rebel philosophers, occultists and deviants that made up the Iuzhinskii (‘Yuzhinsky’) Circle, “the true masters of the Moscow esoteric elite” in his own words.

Founded by provocative novelist, originator of ‘metaphysical realism’ and future Pushkin Prize-winner Yuri Mamleev, what began as a collection of motley hipsters cramming into his small apartment to hear him read his newest work quickly bloomed into a clandestine reading group, pooling their collections of banned literature for ‘kitchen conversations’ — a soviet phrase where certain conversations would be held in kitchens with the tap flowing for some KGB-proof white noise. Mamleev would be replaced as leader (some sources say he left, others say forced out) by amateur musician and ‘expert on the esoteric’ Evgeny “E.V.” Golovin, who by all accounts was hugely influential on the young Dugin when he joined in the early 1980s.

Members had a keen interest in intellectually subversive reading material, including works by philosophers like Julius Evola & Alain de Benoist, both popular with the residual claimants to nazidom. Dugin’s very first major literary work was, at the group’s behest, translating Evola’s “Pagan Imperialism” into Russian. Evola’s theories about spiritual racism and palingenesis were a considerable hit with the Circle, especially for Dugin. His first ever television appearance in 1990, part of a “Secrets of the Century” documentary series on mysticism, featured Dugin in an ill-fitting white tuxedo lecturing the viewer on the ‘misunderstood’ ideas of the Ahnenerbe, a pseudoscience propaganda organization formed directly by Heinrich Himmler and founded by occult scholar Hermann Wirth (who quickly became one of Dugin’s personal favorites). The group also drank deep from the works of Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, Mohler and Heidegger, in what was described as a “German turn” that reinforced traditionalism through the margins of European philosophy, rather than the expected asiatic mysticism.

While Mamleev was too focused with the scholarly aesthetics of the occult ideologies, Golovin was far more eager to embrace the particular sociopolitical aspects of western esotericism, the ones that were more publicly associated with the Germans. Under his leadership, the Circle, now dubbed “the SS Black Order”, would be gleefully encouraged to indulge in fascist theatrics. Golovin, proclaiming himself as the group’s ‘Reichfuhrer’, would demand members come to meetings wearing red armbands and Hugo Boss leather. He hung a portrait Hitler and led attendees in group Sieg Heil sessions. When not singing fascist praises, the group would conduct performative occult rituals, hosting seances to commune with Satan on top of the occasional sadomasochistic orgy, trying their hardest to ape the debauchery practiced by Alister Crowley, the satanist’s satanist.

This was all, they maintained, in the name of being transgressive, they claim. As former member and artist Igor Dudinsky clarified, ‘“There was nothing anti-semitic about it. There were lots of Jews at these gatherings. We would all shout “Sieg Heil” and “Heil Hitler” and all we meant was “down with Soviet Power!”’ Dugin himself, while all too eager to distance himself from this irreverent bout of public fascism and black magic, maintains he was the real victim, referring to it a “shamanic crisis of self-actualization […] I was completely normal in every sense: morally, rationally, psychologically. But the system around me was completely hostile to me.” In a vacuum, we might be able to take him at his word — surviving VHS footage of a goateed Dugin rattling off a tribute to Aleister Crowley while fellow group members flit about in mesh bodysuits is, certainly, disarming — but that would be in spite of everything that came after.

At Golovin’s urging, Dugin and his close friend/fellow circle member Geydar Dzhemal (the late “Godfather of Russian converts to Islam” and, oddly enough, eventual cofounder of the Left Front) joined a newly-formed political party, quickly climbing the ranks to its Central Council. That party was Pamyat (Russian for ‘Memory’), also known as the People’s National-Patriotic Orthodox Christian movement, and the forebears of Russian far-right nationalism. The pair had, per religious traditionalism scholar Mark Sedgwick, “hoped to influence Pamyat toward Traditionalism, rather as Julius Evola had hoped to use the Fascists, the Herrenclub, & the SS.” The comparison was apt; Dugin’s time on the central council coincided with the first appearance of Nazi symbols within the Russian nationalist scene. Unfortunately for Golovin’s machinations, Pamyat’s leader Dmitri Vasilyev would learn about their links to what was ostensibly a black magic cult and kick them out in 1988, accusing them of practicing satanism worst of all, zionism. Dugin, somewhat bitterly, would later claim Pamyat was only successful due to unwitting manipulation by embedded KGB agents (who’d he’d later claim were also covertly acting for the United States).

To date, Dugin has written multiple books on the subject of Hyperborea, the long-touted ancestral homeland of the magic-practicing, semi-extraterrestrial “Nordic-Arctic” race, the lynchpin of fascist occult thought-leaders like Madame Helena Blavatsky and Rudolf Steiner. These include “Mysteries of Eurasia” (1991), “Conspirology” (1992) and the less subtle “Hyperborean Theory” (1993). While published for the sake of analysis, with his work being cited as the ‘most comprehensive’ coverage of Wirth’s ideas on record, Dugin seemed to only speak positively of Wirth’s ideas, folding the scholar’s theories about lost continents of magic white people into his own mythos.

Instead of the Germans, however, Dugin suggested in “Mysteries of Eurasia” that Siberia, and subsequently, Russia, was ‘the original cradle of the Aryans’, as well as the magical center of the world, feeding into his ramblings about geographical magic and tectonic significance. He substantiates these claims using the works of René Guénon, who said Hyperborean civilisation was up in the Eastern arctic region, and Wirth, who insisted most human language & religious traditions are derived from a primordial Caucasoid race, long since genetically muddied by Semitic and Hamitic peoples from elsewhere. As Dugin elaborated; “Thousands of years ago, our land welcomed the descendants of the Arctic, the founders of the Hindu and Iranian civilisations. We (especially as Orthodox Christians) are the most direct heirs of the Arctic, of its ancient traditions.

Dugin’s first publishing house “Arktogeia”, founded in 1996, borrowed its name from the Ariosophy of Guido von List, noted Hyperborean scholar and predecessor to Wirth’s theories. These themes of the Aryan homeland, again, appeared during his stint on the editorial board of Den’ (Russian for ‘Day’), a right-wing newspaper in the 1990s, though his manifesto urging the formation of an ultranationalist project failed to appeal to the paper’s Soviet-sympathetic readership. His second attempt at politics proved just as successful, co-founding the National Bolshevik party — a contradictory mix of economic nationalization and cultural conservatism — with poet Eduard Limonov until 1998, when the theft of 248 rubles from his jacket at party headquarters proved to be the last straw between Dugin’s traditionalist faction and Limonov’s growing left-wing. Now he has firmly planted himself on Eurasianism, a concept popularized by Nazi policy darlings Karl Haushofer or Carl Schmitt. Professor of Russian History Susan Smith-Peter summarized it best; “His life’s work has basically been to take fascist ideas and modify them for a Russian audience so that they kind of have this Russian veneer.

As Dugin’s ideology is a synthesis, it makes sense to view his vision of Novorossiya within the context of his political history. It’d be severely lacking in dialectics if we were to take his ostensibly anti-imperialist, anti-west and anti-modernist positions devoid of critical analysis. In many ways, Dugin’s radical ideas have distilled over decades, while in others, they remain almost in lockstep to the esoteric patronage that gave us the Third Reich. What he represents now, his distinctive Putinist brand of Neo-Eurasianism, heralds the metaphysical destiny of the descendants of a magic-practicing white master race forming a traditionalist, neopagan and ultranationalist Russian empire, stretching from Dublin to Vladivostok, uniting all peoples under the Russian Ethnos (another patented Dugin concept where regional peoples are cultural monoliths) to defeat the evil barbarian nations of the Atlanticist West, the evil epicenter of modernity, or as his favorite authors might prefer, degeneracy. 

Evidently, Dugin has kept hold of his crib notes.

Further reading:
  • Charles Clover (2022), “Black Wind, White Snow: The rise of Russia’s New Nationalism.”
  • Mark Sedgwick (2004). “Against the modern world: Traditionalism and The secret intellectual history of the twentieth century.” 
  • Marlene Laruelle, (2015) “The Iuzhinskii Circle: Far-Right Metaphysics in the Soviet Underground and Its Legacy Today.” (The Russian Review) 
  • Aleksandr Sherman (1999), “Vstupim v real’nost’ stol’ udivitel’nuyu, chto malo ne pokazhetsya. Intervyu s Aleksandrom Duginym”
  • Kirill Miliutin (2022), “Books Instead of Lineage: Mystic Underground in the USSR (1960s–1980s)”
  • Andreas Umland (2010). “Aleksandr Dugin’s transformation from a lunatic fringe figure into a mainstream political publicist” (Journal of Eurasian Studies)
  • Jonathan Rushbrook (2015), “Against the Thalassocracy: Sacred Geography, Nationhood and Perennial Traditionalism in Alexander Dugin’s Neo-Eurasianist Philosophy”
  • Anton Shekhovtsov (2008), “The Palingenetic Thrust of Russian Neo-Eurasianism: Ideas of Rebirth in Aleksandr Dugin’s Worldview.”



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