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“Putin’s Brain,” the Darling of Iran’s Hardliners

November 14, 2017
Reza HaghighatNejad
6 min read
“Putin’s Brain,” the Darling of Iran’s Hardliners

Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin is relatively well known in Iran. According to him, he has been in and out of Iran for the last 20 years, and for at least the last eight years, Iran’s conservative principlist media have been busy promoting him as a powerful intellectual force.

Dugin, 55, is an Orthodox Christian whose father was a general in the Soviet military intelligence (GRU). Many in the international media have labeled him as dangerous, a rabble-rouser, a warmonger, and a promoter of Fascism and Nazism. In 2014, he lost his job as the head of the sociology department at Moscow State University after he was accused of encouraging genocide in Ukraine by exhorting pro-Russian separatists to “kill, kill, kill.” The US Treasury Department used the same reason to blacklist him.

But in Iran, he is presented as, among other things, “Putin’s brain” and a great Russian philosopher. He is the leader of the Eurasia Movement, a revival of an early 20th-century ideology that rejects the modern western worldview and democracy in favor of an autocratic and Russia-centered civilization, and sees Russian cultural heritage to be more closely aligned with Asia than Western Europe. In his 2009 book Fourth Political Theory, he argues that liberalism, Fascism, and socialism have been deligitimized and sets out a new political ideology for the future, and particularly for the future of Russia as it champions Eurasian dominance.

But, more than anything else, it is Dugin’s influence on Putin that holds currency in Iran. For instance, the website Mashregh News published an article that claimed that “any research for understanding Putin must start by understanding Dugin.”

Mohammad Kazem Anbarlui, an editorialist at the pro-Mahmoud Ahmadinejad newspaper Resalat, has called Dugin a fruit of the “pure seeds” that Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini planted in Russia when he wrote to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in 1989. ''It is clear to everyone that Communism should henceforth be sought in world museums of political history,'' said the letter. ''Materialism cannot save humanity from the crisis of disbelief in spirituality, which is the basic affliction of human societies in the West and the East.'' He encouraged Gorbachev to study Islam and learn from it.


The Second Coming

Iranian hardliners love to quote Dugin. Just a few days ago, one ultra-conservative wrote that, according to Dugin, Arbaeen — which marks the end of the 40-day mourning period for Imam Hussein, who Caliph Yazid's forces murdered in the seventh century — is a sign of the “End of Time” and the “Second Coming.” Two years ago, the journalist and filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh, who directed the Iran-made movie The Messiah, quoted Dugin saying he wished Khomeini could write to Russian leaders again, implying that the country needed it at the moment.

In recent years, Dugin has been invited to visit Iran regularly, usually by hardliners and entities associated with the Revolutionary Guards, such as the newspaper Javan, the state-run Ofogh (“Horizon”) television channel and Raja News. In early 2015, Talebzadeh invited Dugin to Tehran as a special guest at the Third New Horizon Conference on “US Police Brutality against African-Americans.”

Journalist and religious scholar Mehdi Nasiri is also a fan of Dugin. Nasiri, who holds similar worldviews to Talebzadeh, has presented himself as “anti-philosophy,” or at least against traditional ideas of philosophy, on the grounds that it is against sharia because it focuses on the concept of the self rather than God. During Dugin’s 2015 trip to Tehran, Nasiri had long talks with Dugin. And Nasiri and Talebzadeh walked alongside Dugin through the streets of Tehran as they all took part in an Arbaeen commemorative march in the capital.  


The “House of Satan”

During his trip, Dugin also met with Ayatollah Mohammad Mehdi Mir Bagheri, head of the Islamic Sciences Academy in Qom. During the meeting, Dugin referred to modernity as “Satan”, the West as “the hereditary house of Satan,” and Iran as “the main base of war against modernity.” He said that Russia must follow Iran as “the model for returning to tradition.” He proposed the construction of a “bridge” between Iranian religious thinkers and Russian traditionalists. And he promoted reading anti-western literature written by westerners themselves and recommended that Iranians start translating these anti-western works by western scientists into Persian as he himself had been doing into Russian.

But what Durgin loves to talk about most is “Eurasia,” the concept of building a coalition of Russia, Turkey, China, India, Iran and Eastern European countries to confront the US and the European Union. His goal is clear: To build a powerful Russia, even more powerful than the Soviet Union was. And he has ideas for Iran, too. “Considering that countries like Turkey and Saudi Arabia are regional tools of the United States,” he told the paper Javan on March 17, 2010, “Iran can become an ally of Russia.”

At first Durgin considered Vladimir Putin to be a prophet who had come to realize his vision of Eurasia. However, little by little, he has begun to lose some of his faith. “Half of Putin is with us and the other half is not,” he said in 2015 while in Tehran. “A great crusade between Good and Evil is going on inside Putin and we, on the outside, support his side of justice and light.”

At the same time, he professes to have gained more faith in Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Khamenei. He believes that sanctions imposed on Iran have proved that Ahmadinejad was on the right path. “I like Ahmadinejad for his conservatism and for being anti-Western,” he said. “I believe that most of what he did on the international scene was right and proper. When he was president I proposed to the Iranian ambassador to Moscow that a book should be written about Ahmadinejad — with a long interview with him and with a set of geopolitical and political conclusions at the end...Of course, in my view the Supreme Leader has a stronger insight.”


“God’s Will at Work”

Dugin believes that Ayatollah Khamenei is the “best solution” for confronting the west. “If he helps to defeat the West I am sure we will emerge from this arena victorious and proud,” he said, because “in the center of the Guardianship of [the Islamic] Jurist, God’s will is at work.”

Over the past two years — starting in mid-2015 — Dugin has gained more fans in Iran. His has taken on a more fawning attitude when discussing his ideas about the Guardianship of the Jurist, the “Hidden Imam” [the Shia Messiah] and the Islamic Republic. If before he talked about an alliance between Russia and Iran in the context of realizing his Eurasian vision, today he says that the Islamic Revolution is a global revolution, a “miracle” that “changes the path of humanity away from a deviant path” and “an inspiring model to follow.”

But while he wants Khamenei’s help in defeating the West, Dugin concedes that he has not been successful in bringing Iran and Russia closer. “I did not find a positive attitude towards Russia among Iranians,” he said in an interview in 2015 [Persian link]. “Young Iranians are not very interested in getting to know Russia. Perhaps we should search for a key to open this door between the two countries. I have worked toward this goal for the past 20 years but I must confess that I have not been very successful.”

Of course, he is sure the blame lies with liberals. “Liberal forces that support the West...say: ‘Do not trust Russia.’ These are the words of the enemies of Iran and Russia. [Their] fifth column aims to destroy this coalition for the End of Times.”




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