“We must cut Chechnya off from politics altogether”
In prefacing this interview we feel it may not be superfluous to point out that the editors proceed on the basis of the inviolability of all democratic principles, especially those relating to the equality of peoples, races and nations. While sharing none of the sentiments and assessments of Alexander Dugin, we nevertheless consider it extremely important to let him speak. The ideas he expresses contain a reflection of moods that are widespread among many people in Russia today. Moreover, on certain points he divines several real problems that confront Chechen society.
Prague Watchdog: You often say and write that the Chechens’ tribal way of life has created a special type of culture and social behaviour that conflicts with the social and political structure of the modern Chechen Republic. Why?
Alexander Dugin: Chechnya is structured in a very specific way. It’s a society founded on tribal democracy in which there is a very strong influence of clans – the Chechen word is teips. And this creates a unique balance of forces where government and influence are concerned. Clan-based democracy in this complete form is a purely Chechen phenomenon. The historical characteristic of this clan-based democracy is that it doesn’t acknowledge any one single leader of all the Chechens. In other words, Chechen society is polycentric by definition, by its very nature. This hierarchical model, in which movement from below ascends not to one point at the top of the pyramid, but to many – to clan leaders, and also by way of duplication to representatives of the vird or Sufi hierarchy – forms a sort of parallel inter-clan structure which has no single vertical axis.
At present, however, what has been created in Chechnya is a model of the monarchic type – one that is more typical of Russia. In Russia a governor is a prince, while a president is a monarch, and the vertical of power is bound to be held up by a single figure at both the local and the global level. Among Chechens, everything is arranged the opposite way. An organic feature of their social structure is, as I’ve already said, the presence at the top of a large number of respected elders who settle complex issues together by means that are either very delicate or very brutal.
But the present structure, which was initiated with Akhmad Kadyrov and has continued with his son Ramzan, is a projection onto Chechen society of the Russian model of autocracy. While Akhmad Kadyrov was able to deal with this in a tactical manner, his son, who, of course has insufficient experience of life and lacks historical vision, who has continued to receive tremendous support from the Kremlin, has actually created an autocracy in Chechnya which is by now a permanently active system of government. So far, it’s working. He has managed to get rid of all his opponents and adversaries, though the model of power he uses is an extremely fragile one. Chechen traditionalism cannot be eradicated. It successfully resisted both Imperial Russia, which did not really try to extirpate it, and the Soviet government, which tried quite hard to so.
PW: Tribal relations, military democracy, the absence of an aristocracy… None of the features listed by researchers in describing the Chechen society of past centuries are unique. There have been similar periods in the lives of many peoples which have successfully undergone modernization. It may be true that in trying to solve the problem of colonization, Imperial Russia only engaged in modernization up to a certain point. But the Soviet government was able to alter the social structure of Chechen society beyond recognition. After all, the Chechens had to absorb the lessons of autocracy for at least seven decades, didn’t they?
AD: I don’t see it like that at all. The point is that the traditional structure of a society is far more fundamental than the periods of time that affect it, whether it be decades or centuries. You need to take account of the fact that the Russian collective unconscious, which for 300 years was subjected to an energetic, sustained, totalitarian-authoritarian process of modernization that began with Peter the Great and continued all the way to the Bolsheviks, has retained the fundamental features and parameters of monarchism, forcing everything into the mould dictated by this ancient Byzantine source, whether it was the secular Romanov dynasty, the general secretaries of the Soviet regime, or the presidents of a democratic order. For us Russians, they are all tsars. And this despite the enormous efforts that have been made to modernize us Russians, who in our turn have tried to modernize other peoples. It’s plain that no one has been able to bring the Russians to what is called modernity, since that is impossible. The collective unconscious is very deep.
But the Chechens were only very superficially affected by the experience of Tsarism and Soviet Communism. Their society is one that is rather pure and fresh. And again I repeat: in one society tradition or the collective unconscious may lead to a monarchic, centralized structure even where what is on offer is democracy; in another, where a centralist model is imposed, it’s polycentrism that will break through. As it broke through in the various Chechens who set off for the centre, but then scattered and went about creating their own networks.
The Chechen ethnos is a network. And this network nature it possesses, where a very fine, delicate balance of interests, administration, authorities, legislature, sentencing, enforcement, dexterity, confidence and mistrust combine together, has created something quite special. The Vainakhs are generally quite separate from what surrounds them: Chechens are different from Ingush, and the mountain Chechens are different from the Chechens of the plains. It’s a very complicated network psychology, which the Soviet experience hardly modified at all. Though it did possibly destroy something in that Chechen ethnos. Yes, some of the links were broken, but new ones grew in their place, like living molecules.
The Chechen ethnos and network fitted perfectly into the criminal world, though earlier the Chechens were not involved in the federal criminal community. They interacted with it, but kept themselves apart. In other words, that’s how the nature of the network manifests itself.
It’s not true that the Chechens didn’t have an aristocracy, they did. A clan aristocracy.
PW: And what sort of socio-political structure could be considered organic to the Chechens? The parliamentary republic, as many people were suggesting just a short time ago?
AD: It’s a complicated question. There is a model for the revival of traditional society in Chechnya.
PW: You mean Nukhayev’s proposals?
AD: Yes, those were very sound proposals, in my view. The fact that they came from our opponents is another matter. Though Nukhayev showed hesitation on this issue. At one time he inclined to the view that that restoration of the teip system was possible in alliance with Russia. I think we shall probably return to that option, not in an anti-Russian vein, but in a pro-Russian one.
Right now, when Chechen society is beginning to recover from the shock it received from the war, as it comes out of its trauma, it’s going back to its roots. I think that Kadyrov’s position and the federal centre model will gradually enter into conflict with each other. That is the inevitable outcome of the "thaw" within Chechen society. The more Chechens think about themselves and their identity, the more they will realize the inappropriateness of the rigid vertical of their identity. Therefore, I foresee a lot of conflict and I fear that Ramzan is simply not old enough, does not have sufficient political experience, to deal with this. He acts very harshly, and in situations where it would be worth his while to grow up a bit and realize that the diversity of the Chechen world, its multi-polar aspect, is something that can’t be crushed or abolished by means of government decrees, by harshness or by physical force.
Ramzan could be a curator of this process, which is a Eurasian, teip-based one . He is presently in a very strong position, and of all the current Chechen leaders, he is the most influential. But in order to consolidate his authority he will have to take some serious steps in the direction of his own tradition, his own people.
PW: You talked of the possibility that the Chechen tradition of multiple authority can be adapted to Russian needs and that this can be done in a perfectly friendly way. But how does that fit with Russia’s current political system? It’s a federation built on a rigid vertical of power, where the principle of subordination from the bottom up prevails throughout the entire country without any exceptions. How can a free society be attached to Russia, which is governed on entirely different principles?
AD: In my opinion, we must cut Chechnya and many other regions off from politics altogether. Supply them with managers, governors general of a sort, federal inspectors, who will resolve the global strategic issues.
And then grant autonomy to Chechen society simply at the level of local government, of municipal law. All this is written down in our Constitution, by the way. And in the absence of real, meaningful traditions (not democratic ones, please note), our Constitution allows us to interpret its provisions as we please. Therefore nothing needs to be changed in the law. Chechnya’s president should be a Russian, who doesn’t interfere in anything. And next to him there should an Assembly, headed by Ramzan Kadyrov. And there the elders of the teips will sit and go about their own business. They will, of course, have no right to make decisions on political issues, on leaving or entering the Russian federation. They will simply discuss who stole how many sheep, or how some fine young lad distinguished himself in horse riding or shashlyk at the annual national holiday. And they will all be very busy. For there will indeed be a huge number of problems to attend to. This village, that village. Let them resolve these issues among themselves in the Shariah courts
Politics must be banned in Chechnya. They are already banned in the form of "99 percent for United Russia". Now the next step needs to be taken. Chechnya must not be democratized along Russian-European lines which are incomprehensible to Russia itself, but must be pushed back to its own origins.
We Russians ourselves don’t know what to do with this democracy, and yet we go crawling to the West with our undigested recipes. And the West comes crawling to us. Everyone must be chased back to their own corner. Let the West stay in the West, the Chechens stay in Chechnya, and the Russians stay in Russia. The Chechens are under us. Excellent! That means they have no right to secede and make trouble. But apart from that, let them do what they want. The main thing is that they don’t propose any political projects: neither democratic nor shariah, nor national nor even “United Russia” ones. That is not their strong point. They just make a lot of confusion, and we ourselves don’t understand what it’s all about.
Everyone must be given back what belongs to them. Let the West deal with its own human rights. Let everyone there take part in gay parades, but they must stop on the borders of Russia. In exactly the same way, our monarchism, our individual bootlicking: "If you’re the boss – I’m a fool, if I’m the boss, you’re a fool” – must stop at the border with Chechnya. We must have but one representative – a President or Governor General, appointed by us, who will keep an eye on only one thing: making sure that no more than three Chechens ever gather at once, that they don’t invent any political projects, and that what they engage in at their traditional assembles and festivals is the performance of their ritual dances and the discussion of their ethnic problems. And those who want to read Pushkin – by all means! Open a special Russification University for them, so they can merge into the common federal space.
Aleksandr Gelyevich Dugin (born January 7, 1962) is a Russian political activist and ideological demogogue of the contemporary Russian school of geopolitics often known as "neo-Eurasianism".
(Translation by DM)