Book Review: The American Empire Should Be Destroyed: Alexander Dugin and the Perils of Immanentized Eschatology

Published: May 4, 2024
Updated: May 26, 2024

When there is only one power which decides who is right and who is wrong, and who should be punished and who not, we have a form of global dictatorship. This is not acceptable. Therefore, we should fight against it. If someone deprives us of our freedom, we have to react. And we will react. The American Empire should be destroyed. And at one point it will be . . .

Spiritually, globalisation is a creation of a grand parody, the kingdom of the Antichrist. And the United States is the centre of its expansion.” - Alexander Dugin

James D. Heiser’s book, written after the annexation of Crimea, opens with this quote from Alexander Dugin, dubbed by many in Western media, “Putin’s brain.”

This book offers the layman an introduction to some of the sources of Dugin's worldview. Heiser quotes from scholars familiar with Dugin's work (like Marlène Laruelle of George Washington University and Anastasia V. Mitrofanova of the University of Tartu) and quotes liberally from Dugin himself.

At 126 pages, you can easily read it in one sitting.

The author is a scholar of the Lutheran church. His views surface briefly toward the end of the book.

Pragmatic + Enigmatic #

At first glance, Dugin comes off as both pragmatic and enigmatic. His deep roots in esoterica and Russian Orthodoxy seem to signal an ‘other-worldly’ metaphysics. He can appear both congenial (as in some interviews with Westerners) and obscure, as when he cites the “Last Revolution — the work of an acephalous, headless bearer of the cross, hammer, and sickle, crowned by the eternal fylfot of the sun.” Not exactly an ice-breaker, that.

Dugin doesn’t want for friends or followers though. In addition to a growing international influence, he’s developed his own Eurasia Party (as we read in the book’s first chapter).

Heiser recounts how the Eurasian Youth Union (a wing of Dugin’s party) was allegedly behind destabilization plots in March 2014 in Ukraine. These plans included acquisition of Molotov cocktails and equipment for “storming government buildings” so as to “disrupt the presidential election.”

In a recent interview, Dugin noted: “The streets of Kharkiv in 2014 were covered with flyers containing my statements and quotes, my portraits were plastered on the premises of the city administration.”

Clearly, Dugin’s ideas are designed to be put into action, not to stay in the rarified atmosphere of intellectual conversation.

Anti-Globalism Networker #

I came away pegging Dugin’s worldview as consonant with utopian anti-globalist movements that have been spawned on both left and right in the 21st century.

These movements promise to right the world and usher in a “new man” and “new dawn” by defeating the ‘fount of all evil’: the liberal West with its capitalist/consumerist society.

Just like marketers who use urgency to push you down the sales pipeline, these revolutionaries warn the end is nigh and you’ve got to act now! (Spoiler: you won’t get a free set of Ginsu knives.)

In the book The Struggle for the World: Liberation Movements for the 21st Century authors Charles Lindholm and José Pedro Zúquete call such revolutions “aurora” movements because they promise to bring “a liberating new dawn” and end “dark injustices.”

Dugin is arguably far more eclectic than ‘aurora’ movement founders, synthesizing an amalgam that spans alchemy, Marsilio Ficino’s neo-platonism, chaos magic (whose symbol he has adopted); Russian Orthodoxy, a slew of Eastern and Western cultural traditions and religions, and philosophers as varied as Heraclitus and Heidegger.

(Marlène Laruelle points out that rather than being a phenomenon of Dugin’s evolution, this eclecticism was present from the 1990s..)

As Laruelle puts it, it’s a “weird mix” combining “fascist doctrines coming from Europe in the interwar period” and “more classic Russian Orthodox messianisms.” (Dugin describes his criticism of liberalism as being “anti-fascist” and “anti-communist.”)

Seeming Contradictions #

Dugin wields many seeming contradictions:

I found myself wondering whether the eclecticism and contradictions serve — at least in part — a ‘missionary’ purpose:

Unlike other aurora movements, Dugin’s worldview has some degree of influence in Russia and, according to Western journalists, is a big influence on Putin. This latter point appears to me to be unsupported.

That’s not to say that Dugin is not impactful, though. For example, Laruelle indicates that he exercises a “quasi-monopoly” over a “certain part of the current Russian ideological spectrum” and is “the only major theoretician among this Russian radical right. He is simultaneously on the fringe and at the center of the Russian nationalist phenomenon.”

This new, imagined world has Russia as the center, Putin as its prince, and Dugin as its mystic-philosopher, unencumbered by material reality.

Heiser’s book is a basic introduction to Dugin’s worldview. A 126-page book won’t suffice to provide a robust understanding of Dugin’s thought but this one does provide a useful orientation to his sources and influence in contemporary Russia (and beyond).

Heiser’s sources provide some starting points for reading more. [For starters, I’m currently reading Marlène Laruelle’s Russian Nationalism: Imaginaries, Doctrines, and Political Battlefields and some of her online papers.]

Is Dugin “Putin’s Brain”? #

As I read this book I became increasingly interested in the question, “What exactly is the evidence that Dugin is ‘Putin’s Brain’?” I found no credible answers.

Dugin as Putin’s whisperer appears to be a Western invention, sprung from a click-bait title adorning a Foreign Affairs article.

Marlène Laruelle writing in Unherd, explains that it’s not so simple as there being “a sort of Rasputin figure” and “There is no one “guru”. The reality is more complex: there are multiple ideological sources who have blended to cause the disastrous invasion .”

On Dugin specifically, she adds:

But Dugin does not have the ear of the Kremlin. He is too radical in his formulations, too obscurely esoteric and cultivates a level of “high” intellectual references to the European far-right classics that cannot meet the needs of the Putin administration. He was one of the original promoters of a geopolitical notion of Eurasia and of Russia as a distinctive civilisation in the Nineties, but these themes became mainstream apart from and even against Dugin’s use of them in the following decades. He was never a member of any of the many co-opted civil society organisations, even if he was able to cultivate to some patrons in the military-industrial and security services circles.

It seems that the claim that Dugin is “Putin’s Brain” spread from Foreign Affairs magazine to countless other outlets including CBS News, NPR, the L.A. Times, The Washington Post, and more.

Worse, some of these journalists found a few areas of commonality between Putin’s statements and Dugin’s thought and use that as proof of an intimate connection even though many of these ideas have existed for decades — or centuries — in dozens of Russian movements. (See Leslie Stahl’s 60 Minutes interview with Dugin.)

(This reminds me of medieval scribes - if they introduced an error, it would soon be copied by all the other scribes . . . )

Suffice it to say that Dugin has gained a significant amount of press coverage in the West due to this seeming misconception. In this way, the press seems to be – ironically – functioning as a PR arm for Dugin and, as a result, setting unforeseen events in motion.

Resources on Dugin #

To read Dugin in his own words, see his book The Great Awakening vs. the Great Reset. There’s always value in reading an author’s own work, vs. solely relying on what others say about him or her.

This particular book is one of Dugin’s most accessible reads.

A peek inside the book

While Dugin has some interesting insights in the book, American Christians eager to see common ground with Dugin should read the chapter: "Capitalism: The First Phase." This should be eye-opening for those imagining that they inhabit substantial common ground with Dugin. The claims here are remarkably off-base and not rooted in historical facts or the Bible for that matter.

* ". . . The collective identity of the Church, as understood by Catholicism (and even more so by Orthodoxy), was replaced by Protestants as individuals who could henceforth interpret Scripture based on their reasoning alone and rejecting any tradition. Thus many aspects of Christianity -- the sacraments, miracles, angels, reward after death, the end of the world, etc. -- have been reconsidered and discarded as not meeting "rational criteria."

* "The church as the 'mystical body of Christ' was destroyed and replaced by hobby clubs created by free consent from below."

* ". . . the most rabid Protestants rushed to the New World and established their own society there."

* Dugin laments that the "social hierarchy of priests, aristocracy, and peasants was replaced by undefined 'townspeople' . . ." and the "supranational unity of the Papal See and Western Roman Empire-- as another expression of 'collective identity'--was also abolished."

* "So, we are challenging neither the West nor modernity: we are challening Western modernity, And that's a kind of form based on the anti-Christian, anti-spiritual, anti-traditional, anti-sacred turn in Western history that coincided--not by chance--with colonialism, the beginning of the Enlightenment, and so on. This modern era of the scientific, materialistic, colonialist period of Western history is the evil; this is the problem"

* As quoted below, Dugin has said "“For us, Christianity is the Russian Orthodox Church, and no one else."

* Marlène Laruelle weighs in, in the Unherd video above, on the decades-long revivial of Russian Orthodoxy: "It's a very cultural revival. It's not about religion. People are not really believers. People don't go to church. Russia has a level of religious practice that is one of the lowest in Europe, it's like 2-6% going to church. Many people present themselves as Orthodox and when you ask if they believe in God they say 'No.'"

Also see Black Wind, White Snow: Russia’s New Nationalism. Author Charles Clover includes interviews with Dugin.

One quote, from Akhmed Nukhaev, described as a “Chechen criminal mastermind,” stands out: “Eurasianism means the alliance of Orthodoxy and Islam on the grounds of confrontation against the West.”

Both Dugin and numerous Islamist groups call for unified battle against Dajjal, i.e. America, the devil or antichrist. provides translations of some of Dugin’s statements made after the 2022 Russia-Ukraine war began, such as this one:

“For us, Christianity is the Russian Orthodox Church, and no one else. We are conducting an eschatological military operation, a special operation held at the vertical plane between Light and Darkness at the background of an end-time situation.”

Also see Marlène Laruelle’s work including the downloadable PDF “Aleksandr Dugin: A Russian Version of the European Radical Right?

1. See Black Wind, White Snow: Russia's New Nationalism.

2. See Black Wind, White Snow: Russia’s New Nationalism