by Gordon M. Hahn
Russia is gradually installing an official ideology. The Russian Constitution rejects such, and both post-Soviet Russian presidents, including Vladimir Putin, have rejected publicly the need for one. Policy intellectuals have attempted on occasion to formulate one or at least a ‘Russian idea.’ In reality, both Boris Yeltsin and now Putin have toyed with such an idea and/or ideology, with the latter now moving slowly towards an official state ideology, if undeclared. Indeed, Putin appears to be moving towards the adoption of an official ideology somewhat reminiscent of Nicholas I’s ‘Official Nationality’ in terms of both the ideology’s motivation and content, consistent with Moscow’s turn from West to East and the ‘new cold war.’ Russia’s new ‘Official Ideology’ sits on four pillars: National Solidarity, Universal Traditionalism, Orthodoxy, and Greater Eurasia.
Democracy without Ideology
In the 1990’s Aleksandr Tsipko proposed the need for an official ideology, a ‘Russian idea.’ There was a secret attempt to formulate such an official ideology in the nascently democratic 1990s under President Boris Yeltsin. Inside the Kremlin two groups were created to develop ideas on sich an ideology. One group met in the former office of Stalin, and the groups appeard to be focused on developing a concept derived from Western ideas with some input from Russian history and values and specialist like Sergei Karaganov who participated and proposed an ideology rooted primarily in Russian traditions. This effort was abandoned with no results.
In fact, the Yeltsin era was woefully lacking in idea-building and symbol consecration that might have supported the expansion of democratic values in Russian political culture or defined a strategic ideology of the kind the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev promoted with the idea of a ‘common Eurpean home’ and a zone of post-Cold war comity and integration from ‘Vancouver to Vladivostok.’ No monuments or museums were devoted to Russian republicans like the 19th century thinker Aleksandr Radishchev, the reformist advisor of Tsar Aleksandr I, Mikhail Speranskii, the Decembrists republican elements, or the revolutionary era’s Christian liberals and Constitutional Democrats, though their writings returned to libraries, bookstores, university curricula, and the overall cultural discourse. No holidays or ceremonies promoted democratic-inspired historical events or symbols. The turn away from the West prompted by NATO expansion and color revolutionism on the West part’s gradually led to a re-traditionalization, re-authoritarianization, and soon a re-ideologization of Russian politics.
Putin originally rejected the need for an official ideology and initially expressed only a general but vague support of Russia’s continued democratization, but no serious effort to transform the discourse and culture occurred, not less an official search for a new Russian idea or ideology. With continuing NATO expansion, color revolution-promotion in and around Russia, the resulting turn away from the West, the formation of a Russian ideology gradually moved from passive or latent mode to active mode within the intelligentsia, bureaucracy, Kremlin, and Putin himself. Intellectuals seemed to generate the first push for and identify an anti-Western ideology that would be the foundation a new identity both for both Russia’s domestic order and place in the world. In the late 1990s, Russians like Aleksandr Panarin and Aleksandr Dugin began to revive and adapt the 19th century émigré` ideology of Eurasianism, which identified Russia as the core and unifier of a unique civilization neither European nor Asian but rooted in the open steppe of the great Eurasian continent’s plain or organized by Russian expansion and Orthodoxization through the continent’s river system. Russian Orthodox culture and identity were the basis of this Russian-Eurasian civilization, according to Eurasianists. Post-Soviet ‘neo-Eursianism’ adapted these ideas, often broadening Russia’s unifying mission to Eurasia writ large. From India to Eastern Europe, in some accounts, Russian could be the unifier of Confucian, Hindu, Slavic, and Orthodox civilizations and cultures to form a traditionalist and diverse antidote to Western liberal globalization and homogenization.
Some within the Kremlin and the broader elite in a search for a national idea, ideology and/or foreign policy strategy have adopted various aspects of Eurasianism or neo-Eurasianism depending on their political orientation, which ranges from ‘system liberals’ to security nationalists and traditionalists. Although neo-Eurasianists have put forward an ideology of sorts, it has never been adopted by Putin or the state as an ideology, no less an official one. Putin tended to limit himself to economic and security neo-Eurasianism, seeking to create economic unions in the form of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the increasingly though still only modestly securitized Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). However, neo-Eurasianist views have increasingly come to shape key elements of the Kremlin’s worldview and to inform elements of Russian foreign policy. Neo-Eursianism became the default orientation for many Russians after the collapse of communist ideology and global strategies and then post-Soviet disenchantment with the West. But more fundamental to the new Russian ideology is not the the return to Eurasianism in a new form but to pre-Soviet Russian culture and thought adapted to new conditions.
Russia’s Emerging Official Ideology
This search for a new ideology has become an almost collective, more concerted effort and is now coalescing around an anti-Western or at least non-Western Russian identity and ideology informed by pre-Soviet Russian traditionalism, Eurasianism, neo-Eurasianism, and other concepts. The new ‘Unofficial Ideology’ seems to be nearing official status, recently codified in official state documents in consistent and somewhat systematic fashion and consists of three basic elements: Russian Solidarity, Russian Tradition, and Eurasian Universalism. All three elements are reactions against Western hegemony, NATO expansion, and color revolutionism.
The first Putin era attempt to begin fashioning a new ideological orientation, though not yet a full-fledged official ideology was the founding of the new national holiday, November 4’s National Unity Day, as a symbol promoting national unity or solidarity. This move clearly represented a revival of and re-invoked the pre-Soviet Tsarist security vigilance from Western threats, external and internal, particularly the danger to national security represented by internal divisions. Intended to replace the early November holiday Russians had expected from the Soviet days’s November 7th holiday commemorating the Bolshviks’ October 1917 coup or ‘revolution,’ National Unity Day promotes the idea of national political, social, and cultural unity through commemoration of the partisan army that rose up against the Polish occupation of Moscow in 1612 during the Time of Troubles or ‘Smuta.’
The Smuta, as every Russian knows, was the consequence of numerous internal divisions that led to Vatican-backed Polish military intervention through a proxy pretender to the Russian throne—the so-called ‘false Dmitrii.’ Of course, some the division and dissent was driven by Ivan the Terrible’s cruelty and late insanity, but this is deemphasized by most in efforts build an ideology in less than democratic circumstances.
On the first National Unity Day in 2005, Putin noted:
Today we celebrate the Day of National Unity for the first time. While this is a new state holiday, its meaning and value have deep spiritual and historical roots. Almost four centuries ago, at the beginning of November 1612, Kuzma Minin and Prince Pozharskii led their home guard army to liberate Moscow from foreign invaders. This marked the end of the Time of Troubles in Russia, and of civil strife and conflicts connected with that period.
This was a victory of patriotic forces, a victory for a project of strengthening the state by uniting, centralizing and joining forces. These heroic events mark the beginning of the spiritual revival of the Fatherland and the creation of a great and sovereign power.
Undoubtedly, it was the people themselves that defended Russian statehood. They showed true civic consciousness and the greatest degree of responsibility. They acted not because they were compelled to by a higher authority, but because they followed their hearts. Thus, people of different ethnic origins and creeds united to determine their destiny and that of their Fatherland.
The call “all for one and one for all” by a citizen of Nizhny Novgorod, Kuzma Minin, reflects the best traits and qualities of the Russian national character.
In terms of domestic politics, this theme of solidarity or the need for national unity – whether political or ‘ontological’ (cultural and identity unity) – is perhaps the key element to traditional Russian political culture and now the emerging official ideology.
Domestic conditions and, more importantly, internal national solidarity are now central in Russia’s national security policy. Russia’s new July 2021 official National Security Strategy now puts maintaining internal unity near the top of the national security agenda. Dmitrii Trenin notes: “(T)he central feature of the strategy is its focus on Russia itself: its demographics, its political stability and sovereignty, national accord and harmony, economic development on the basis of new technologies, protection of the environment and adaptation to climate change, and—last but not least—the nation’s spiritual and moral climate. … It provides a list of traditional Russian values and discusses them at length. It sees these values as being under attack through Westernization, which threatens to rob the Russians of their cultural sovereignty, and through attempts to vilify Russia by rewriting history. In sum, the paper marks an important milestone in Russia’s official abandonment of the liberal phraseology of the 1990s and its replacement with a moral code rooted in the country’s own traditions.”
What Trenin calls a “manifesto” is another indication of a new state ideology centered on the age-old Russian security culture’s norm of maintaining vigilance against Western military threats and Western-inspired or -sowed internal dissent, opposition and schism. The first ‘manifesto’ or ‘codification’ of Russia’s revived solidarism came with the constitutional amendments pushed through the Federal Assembly and Constitutional Court in 2020. For example, the new Putin amendment to the Russian Constitution’s Article 67.1 declares the “historically laid state unity” of the country, mentioning unity twice: “The Russian Federation, united by a thousand year history, preserving the memory of its ancestors, who handed us the ideals of faith in God as well as the continuity of the Russian state’s development, recognizes the historically laid state unity.” Somewhat similarly, Russia’s official cultural policy, “The Foundations of State Cultural Policy,” stipulates: “A key unifiying role in the historical consciousness of the multinational Russian people belongs to the Russian language and the great Russian culture. … Neither religious confession nor nationality divides or should divide the peoples of Russia.”
In the new National Security Strategy, national unity is the watchword for the domestic aspect of the new ideology gradually becoming an official state ideology. The need to strengthen “the internal unity and political stability” of the country appears on the second line of the National Security Strategy immediately after the policy aim mentioned first—strengthening Russia’s “defense capacity.” Solidarism is evident throughout the new Strategy. It emphasizes that although “(t)he consolidation of Russian society is growing at the present time,” there are “(u)nfreindly states” attempting to use Russia’s socio-economic problems “for the destruction of its internal unity” and to support “marginal groups” towards creating a “schism in Russian society.” Therefore, Russia must strengthen “its sovereignty, independence, and state and territorial integrality (tselostnost’), defense of traditional spiritual-moral foundations of Russian society, the ensuring of defense and security, and the prevention of interference in the internal affairs of the Russian Federation.” The document further on refers again to “the state and territorial tselostnost’” and “territorial tselostnost’” alone several more times. The Strategy emphasizes far more than any of its previous versions the need to protect Russia’s ontological security. It mentions three times the need to protect Russia’s cultural values and cultural and national identity. Beyond these three references, there is an entire section of nearly four full pages of the Strategy’s forty-four pages devoted solely to the issue under the heading: “The Protection of Traditional Russian Spiritual-Moral Values, Culture, and Historical Memory.” Here the Strategy calls for combatting “the planting of alien ideals,” which is “destroying the foundation of cultural sovereignty and undemining the bases of political stability and statehood.” The U.S. and international corporations are said to be attacking traditional Russian values, and “Westernization is increasing the threat of the loss of the Russia Federation’s own cultural sovereignty.” The document lists Russia’s traditional values, which include “the priority of the spiritual over the material”… “justice, collectivism, mutual help and respect,” and the “unity” of the peoples [ethnonational groups or nationalities] and confessions of Russia. Hence, the Strategy reiterates its call for defense of the “unity” of Russia’s peoples and the country’s “civic unity” and “preservation of the cultural sovereignty of the Russian Federation and unity of its cultural space.”
Leading officials of the state and the United Russia party have reinforced Putin’s messages and policies promoting national political and ontological solidarity. Security Council Secretary and former FSB Chairman Nikolai Patrushev, who since the departure of Vladislav Surkov from the Kremlin and presidential administration has taken up the role of public ideologist, wrote in June 2020: “The generalized idea of the totality of traditional Russian spiritual and moral values is extremely laconic, but far from exhaustive, and is enshrined in the National Security Strategy of the Russian Federation. In particular, these include the priority of the spiritual over the material, the protection of human life, human rights and freedoms, family, creative work, service to the Fatherland, morality and ethics, humanism, mercy, justice, mutual assistance, collectivism, the historical unity of the peoples of Russia, and the continuity of history and our homeland.” Putin’s party ‘United Russia’ promotes the idea of national unity not only with its name. Its party program from the start places unity at the forefront of its agenda. The program’s third sentence places unity at the core of the party’s strategy for the nation: “From the preservation of the country’s unity and independence to the development of Russia as a sovereign world power—such was and remains the strategic course stated and consistently carried out by President V. V. Putin and Chairman of the Government D. A. Medvedev.” The party’s slogan – “The success of each is Russia’s success!”– brings to mind the balancing of the individual and the whole community in the theory of sobornost’.
Russia’s turn to pre-Soviet traditionalism goes hand in glove with the alienation from the West. Values such as family, religious faith, communalism or collectivism survived the Soviet era and have been reinvigorated with new content informed by the pre-Soviet usable past and a refusal to adopt the new Western model. When the USSR collapsed, most Russians were willing to or at least open to adopting republican government, market economics, and a more pluralistic culture. But few have been willing to accommodate the cultural Marxist identitarian turn in Western liberalism, just as many Westerners are. Russians have over the last ten to fifteen years moved to anti-Western positions not just because of American hubris, NATO expansion, and revolution-promotion in countures near to and/or allied with Russia. Increasingly, they have watched the radicalization of minority racial and gender (feminist, gay, transgendered, etc.) indentitarian intolerance in the West and have cowered in confusion and fear for tradition.
Putin has endorsed publicly two of the three foundations of Russian traditionalism: family values and religious faith. For example, in his June 2019 interview with the Financial Times, he argued that Western liberalism had outlived its usefulness, and he criticized multi-culturalism, impunity for illegal aliens, excessive privileges for gays, and pushing religion from a country’s cultural space. His policy and moral support for Russian Orthodoxy, to which he adheres, is an established fact. A major foreign policy intellectual influential in the Kremlin, Moscow Higher School Dean of the School of Global Economics and Global Politics Sergei Karaganov, has been proposing an official ideology for decades and recently laid out his recent thinking towards a new “ideology.” In an interview Karaganov outlined the four bases of what he believes should comprise Russia’s official ideology. The second was Russia’s status as “a nation of traditional values”: “(W)e are a nation of not just traditional values - we are for people to remain people. And what is proposed by the newest ideological currents from the West is the transformation of people into non-people, into ‘mankurt’ [unthinking slave in a famous Soviet novel] who does not have a gender or historical memory and has no attachment to their homeland, to their culture.”
This view has begun to be codified in official state documents signaling to traditionalism’s enshrinement in the forming new Russian ideology. Putin’s April 2020 amendments to the Russian Constitutuon were in part an exercise in establishing a traditionalist ideological pillar (along with legalizing the option of his running for a fifth and sixth presidential term beginning in 2024) based on three principles: traditional family values and the importance of religious faith. Amendments introduced constitutional clauses protecting heterosexual marriage and other family values and reinforcing religious faith as a Russian value. Amendments advocated “faith in God handed down to the people by their forebears,” defined marriage as a union between a man and a woman, and advocated respect for the elderly. More recently, the National Security Strategy enshrined communalism/collectivism as a traditional Russian value. By communalism I mean the value of collectivism represented by the reality and myth of the pre-Soviet era village commune or ‘obshchina’ and the concept of spiritual unity among the community of believers under the Russian Orthodox Church (ROC), so-called sobornost’ (conciliarity). By collectivism I mean Soviet practice and myth of group identity such as the collective farm or a kind of Soviet sobornost’ – partiinost’ (partyness or unwavering feeling for and loyalty to the CPSU). In present Russian discourse, communalism and collectivism are not so delineated but instead conflated. As I have written elsewhere, there is a general tendency in Russian culture and thought to perceive or aspire to several forms of integrality or tselostnost’. In addition to solidarism (national solidarity and ontological unity and sovereignty), the new Russian ideology includes elements of two of the other three forms of tselostnost’: communalism/collectivism and universalism. Thus, the National Security Strategy supports communalism or ‘collectivism,’ listing it among Russia’s traditional values and stating that in the West “freedom of the individual is being absolutized.” Unofficial ideologist Nikolai Patrushev listed “collectivism” as one of Russia’s traditional values in the recent abovementioned interview. 
Historically, there is no Russian tradition that is not rooted in large part in Russian Orthodox Christianity, and the same is true today. The integrality of the ROC and Russian culture and identity was demonstrated by Stalin’s compromises with the denigrated, humiliated, and subdued ROC in order to mobilize Russian national feeling and patriotism as a resource for the Soviet regime to utilize in the wake of the Nazi invasion. The religious revivial of the mid-1970s testifies to Orthodoxy’s persistence under the rubble of Soviet communist atheism. Perestroika and the Soviet collapse led to a strong revival of religion in general, but Russian Orthodoxy in particular, and the Church became the most powerful social organization in the new Russia, closely partnered and robustly supported by the state.
The ROC and state have returned to the kind of mutually supportive relationship typified by the tradition of so-called ‘simfoniya,’ minus any semblance of the kind of balance of power between the two claimed as a goal within the idea of simfoniya and often acheived in Kievan Rus’ and at times in Muscovite Rus’ as well. Today, the Russian state clearly has the upperhand in the correlation of political power between the two. On the other hand, the ROC has a privileged place among Russia’s so called ‘traditional religions’ with an inside track in official circles, state insttutions, and media access and coverage. Putin has been a strong supporter of the ROC and its revival, and the abovementioned constitutional amendment represents that support, though it also applies to Russia’s other traditional religions stipulated in law: Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, and non-Orthodox Christian faiths.
The ROC under Patriarch Kirill’s leadership has become very active in endeavoring to expand not merely the Church’s domestic influence but also its global influence, as it serves as an instrument of Russian soft power projection. The Church is the driving force behind the Worldwide Russian Peoples’ Assembly (Vsemirnyi Russkii Narodnyi Sobor or VRNS). Founded in 1993 in response to the post-Soviet sociopolitical schism created by the Soviet collapse manifested by the October 1993 communist-fascist revolt against the Yeltsin government, the VRNS began as a vehicle for promoting the unity of Russian society and evolved to the mission of the purveying the value of unity to the world at-large. The VRNS has 35 regional branches in Russia, holds annual conferences, and organizes research, publishing and other activities to further the Patriarchate’s Orthodox and Kremlin’s Russian traditionalist agenda. Deputy head of the VNRS and professor Alexander Shipkov has been outspoken in support of Orthodoxy and traditionalism in opposition to modernity’s postmodernist nihilism. Russia must help the West to overcome, he wrote, “the age-old trauma of the European consciousness, bridging the split between tradition and modernity. Russia will have to recreate this integrity by its own example, to get away from false opposition of tradition and modernity.” Shipkov’s Russian Orthodox-anchored ‘Center’ overlaps and is even a synonym for Eurasia. The idea that Russia’s civilizational home is ‘Great Eurasia’ or ‘Greater Eurasia’ and that Eurasian traditionalism has universal applicability and appeal comprise the third pillar of the new Russian ideology: Eurasian Universalism.
Eurasian Universalism’s Eurasian Aspect
The idea of Great Eurasia encompasses a rejection of the liberal Western model and globalist project and the prevention of its further penetration into Eurasia writ large – from Beijing to Belarus – by way of constructing a network of international economic and security organizations, institutions, and infrastructures (EEU, SCO, BRICS, One-Belt-One Road) in order to preserve the mega-region’s diverse but traditional civilizations. Putin is a strong proponent of the Eurasian economic and security integration, as evidenced by the high priority he gives to expanding the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO). He occasionally refers to some of the basic elements of neo-Eurasianism such as the importance of Christian Orthodoxy for Russian culture, the idea of geographic Eurasia and even Eurasian civilization, and the need for civilizational diversity and equality as part of a ‘democratic’ international order. But Putin is not a radical neo-Eurasianist pursuing a Greater Eurasian political union or even confederation under Russia’s aegis. Thus, his is not a neo-Eurasianist ideology per se. Putin has never used the word ‘Eurasianism’ or cited a Eurasianist or neo-Eurasianist thinker in any of his writings or speeches.
Early on, Putin’s neo-Eurasian articulations were limited to aspirations for economic integration. Even his programmatic article for the 2012 presidential campaign on his plan to create a Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) on the basis of the Customs Union and the Eurasian Economic Space included nothing politically, culturally, or civilizationally Eurasianist or neo-Eurasianist. Putin did not mention the Eurasian idea or any related to Eurasianism. Rather, Putin described the EEU’s purpose and goals purely in economic terms both as an engine for Eurasian economic development and competitiveness under a “free trade zone” and as a bridge to other key pillars of the global economic system, in particular the European Union, based on “universal integrative principles as an inseparable part of Big Europe.” Putin envisages the EEU as a mechanism for creating a cooperative but still competitive multipolar international trade and economic system – part of an overall multipolar international system – with the EEU functioning as one of the system’s key centers of power. He writes: “(A)n economically logical and balanced system of partnership between the Eurasian Union and the EU is capable of creating the real conditions for changing the geopolitical and geo-economic configuration of the entire continent and would have an undoubted positive global impact.”
But such thinking is old political thinking in today’s Russia; nothing but the echo of a bygone era of orientation towards the West. Russia is now decidedly facing East, and so we may witness more robust neo-Eurasianism in Putin’s articulations and policies in the future. The more assertive ideologists of a more radical neo-Eurasianism, Aleksandr Panarin and Aleksandr Dugin, have had some influence in Russian elite circles, though there is no evidence of either having any profound influence on Putin’s thinking and policy preferences to date. On the other hand, Putin seems to be coming around to many of their positions, whether or not he holds to all the intricacies of their respective neo-Eurasianist theories. One of the ideas he has adopted is the Eurasianist idea of the mega-region’s civilizations promoting the same traditionalist values that comprise Russian traditionalism: family, faith, and communalism, and he has counterposed Russian traditional values to Western hyper-idenititarianism and gender and ethnonational-cultural denial.
Panarin argued that Russia had a global, universal mission to “propose to the peoples of Eurasia a new, powerful, superenergetic synthesis,” “a new historical paradigm for mankind” based on “people’s conservatism” and “civilizational diversity.” Russian-Eurasian “socio-cultural conservatism” can protect Eurasia’s and the world’s traditional cultures, religiosity, mysticisms, and ethnic and “civilizational diversity and pluralism” from Western-framed globalization, cultural homogenization, “semi-bohemianism” and “consumer hedonism.” The neo-Eurasianist project, Panarin holds, can be based on the supposed synergy of Greater Eurasia’s traditional religions, specifically Russian Orthodox civilization’s supposed unique affinity with the mysticism of Eurasia’s other major religions – Islam, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Through neo-Eurasianism, Russia can modernize the East and reform the West by developing a spiritual, sustainable form of global development in Eurasia and offering its new model to Europe. In this way, Panarin claimed, Russia through Eurasia will save not just the West but the entire world from the impending American-induced global environmental self-holocaust.
Dugin, in his neo-Eurasianist phase (having moved on to what he calls his ‘Fourth Political Theory’), proposes a global eschatological confrontation between between the West’s “mercantile, individualistic, materialist, and cosmopolitan outlook” and Eurasia’s and Russia’s “spirituality, ideocracy, collectivism, authority, hierarchy, and tradition.” In a 2014 article “Eurasia in the Net War,” Dugin gave an exhaustive list of Eurasian and Western cultural antipodes: “(E)ither we are on the side of the civilization of the Land, or we are on the side of the civilization of the Ocean. The Land is Tradition, Faith (for ethnic Russians – Orthodox Christianity), Empire, the people, the sacred, history, the family and ethics. The Ocean is modernization, trade, technology, liberal democracy, capitalism, parliamentarianism, individualism, materialism, and gender politics. Two mutually exclusive value complexes.” In Yevraziiskii put’ kak natsionalnaya ideya (The Eurasian Way as a National Idea), Dugin clearly posits a universal mission for Russia-Eurasia: “(O)nly Russia in the future can become the main pole and haven for the planetary resistance and rallying point of all the world’s forces which insist on their own special path and their own special cultural, national, state, and historical ‘I’”(my emphasis). Neo-Eurasianism’s influence is not insignificant. Panarin’s academic credentials helped spread this ideology among intellectuals, while Dugin’s version influenced some within the soliviki and among ultranationalists.
Neo-Eurasianism has therefore influenced Putin’s ideology and politics. The idea of Eurasian civilizational and cultural diversity evolved from an instrument to rally Eurasia against jihadi terrorism into one that could be used to challenge Western geopolitical hegemony by challenging the cultural homogenization imposed by Western-domnated globalization. As jihadi terrorism seized the mante of revolt from Chechen ultranationalism, Putin tied the need for Eurasian consolidation to the growing threat, raising the Eurasianist idea of the mega-region’s diversity of civilizations and cultures that nevertheless promote traditionalist values similar to each others’ including those that comprise Russian traditionalism in a greeting letter to a June 2004 international conference on “Eurasia in the 21st Century – Dialogue of Cultures or a Conflict of Civilizations.” He called for “the formation of a united cultural, scholarly, and educational space within the framework of Eurasian civilization” and propagating across the mega-region the idea of Eurasian cultural diversity: “The conduct of a policy of true cultural pluralism would have special significance. We should encourage diversity and support active international cooperation in the spheres of culture and information. It is important to make the idea of a dialogue of civilizations understandable and acceptable for the broadest masses of the population of our countries.” In other words, Putin was calling for the ‘construction’ of a united Eurasian civilization and identity encompassing its several member-civilizations.
Putin initiated a proposal on integrating the Eurasian Economic Union into China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ project to be called the “Greater Eurasian Partnership” (GEP) at the April 2017 Sino-Russian summit, to which Chinese Chairman Xo Jinping agreed. By 2017 a General Assembly of the Peoples of Eurasia (GAPE) was being created, and in July of this year Putin issued a call for an undefined, open-ended “integration” of Eurasia stating that the GAPE offered “an excellent opportunity for open and interesting discussion of a broad circle of issues connected with the prospects of the development of multilateral intertaction and integration in the Eurasian space.” In an official January 2021 meeting with Putin, Director of the state think tank, the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies (RISI), and former Prime Minister and SVR Director Mikhail Fradkov announced that in accordance with Putin’s instruction RISI had “taken up arms” – that is, gotten down to serious work – in research and analysis of the GEP – “the theme of Greater Eurasia” and China’s ‘One Belt and One Road’ – in order to examine “all the problems and opportunities of this project.” The 2021 Security Strategy further addresses the GEP, calling for securing the integration of the economic systems and multilateral cooperation within the framework of the Greater Eurasian Partnership.” 
Eurasian Universalism’s Universalist Aspect
The Russian surge in relation to applying the idea of Greater Eurasia to Russian foreign policy is being followed up by a significant revival of universalism – the idea of, belief in, aspiraton to world unity in one or several forms – which was a strand in Russian culture during both the pre-Soviet and Soviet eras. In the noted June 2019 Financial Times interview, Putin directly counterposed Russian traditional values to Western hyper-identitarianism and gender and ethnonational-cultural denial. The interview was given on the eve of the G-20 summit, indicating the global audience his traditionalist gambit was intended to impact. In other words, Putin has signaled that he sees the Eurasian civilization of traditionalist cvilizations as the alternative to the Western liberal order.
The new Russian universality now embedded in Eurasian universality is reflected in the new National Security Strategy. This evidences universalism’s codification and thus entry into an officially issued discourse of the kind that typically establishes and proselytizes official ideologies whether in Russia or elsewhere. Thus, the new Strategy proposes “universal, equal, and indivisible security” instead of security ostensibly just for the West through NATO. Instead of championing the value of ‘international institutions’ such as the UN in opposition to the predominance of the West’s international organizations (NATO, EU, International Monetary Fund, World Bank) as has been the standard Russian position in recent years, the new Strategy speaks of “universal international institutions.” It also promotes Russia’s traditional values as “universal values” even as Russian officials proclaim the need for a global ‘democracy’ of civilizational diversity. In sum, Russia now is challenging the West’s assertion of the universality of its newest values of hyper-individualism, racial and gender ‘diversity,’ and radical identitarianism by asserting the universality of Russia-Eurasian traditional communal, family, and religious values to which supposedly all non-Western civilizations and even many in the West adhere.
The Russian state’s closes partner, the ROC, is undertaking global missions to promote Orthodoxy as a wellspring of universal values. The abovementioned ROC-affiliated VNRS has been designed as a global (‘worldwide’, vsemirnyi) organization. Its website describes the body as “an international public organization.” The VNRS’s global mission is to draw other Orthodox churches and believers, Russian compatriots and emgires abroad into a traditionalist discourse on Russia and the world.VNRS deputy head Shipkov has proposed that Russia’s world task is to essentially save the West from its non-traditional aspect. Russia, through its traditionalist spiritual comparative advantage in civilizational competition against Western hegemony and a North-South rather than the standard Russian East-West geostrategic paradigm, Russia can become the center of an integral world civilization:
North – South – Center, where the center is the meaningful core of Christian civilization. First of all, we mean not an economic center, but a value center that can win world authority. If Russia takes such a place in the world and continues to strengthen its sovereignty, then it will be the main part of the Center. This means that exactly she has to take on a historical role – overcoming the internal historical gap of the West, which occurred in the 18th century. … If Russia cannot manage this task, then someone else will take upon itself the role of the civilizational Center. 
The Russian tactic of soft power exercised through the Orthodox Church overlaps with semi-Eurasianist historian, international sociologist and professor Nikolai Vasetskii, associated with Vladimir Zhirinovskii and his misnamed Liberal Democratic Party of Russia (LDPR). Vasetskii extrapolates from the usually general propositions and strategies in Russia’s Orthodox and Eurasianist discourses in developing a detailed international strategy rooted in Russian and Eurasian traditonalism’s universality. Building on the ‘Russian world’ strategy proposed by Patriarch Kirill and political scientists such as Vyacheslav Nikonov (grandson of Stalin era Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov), he proposes an Orthodox-Eurasianist policy he calls in Gumilevian terms “the Russian world as a symphony of ethnoses” for maximizing Russia’s cultural leverage and other forms of soft power and influence. Vasetskii’s proposed strategy is to build a worldwide network of Orthodox Christian and Russian-oriented states, sub-state regions, and communities. Such entities with significant Orthodox Christian populations are to provide the leverage for maximizing Russian influence and power. Clusters of such states, regions, and populations, in Vasetskii’s analysis, are spread out across the globe. The core or ‘Center,’ using Shipkov’s terminology, is the Slavic core (Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Transdnistria) in addition to East Europe, the Balkans, and Eurasia. Further afield lie African and Near East enclaves, the emigration (diasporas) in America, Europe, Australia, Africa, “and others.” Vasetskii argues convincingly that Patriarch Kirill is such an Orthodox Eurasianist, who frequently uses the term “Eastern-Christian Orthodox civilization” when interacting with political figures, and proposes the VRNS as a key institution for developing and implementing a civilization-building or -reinforcement strategy.
Karaganov’s abovementioned four elements of a new ideology included three of a universal or at least international nature. Two were focused on Russia’s traditional security culture and its norm of vigilance against Western military threats, and one invoked the pre-Soviet Russian ideas of Russian universality:
The first and most important thing that we must realize: we are a victorious people who defeated all great conquerors: the Genghisids, and the Swedish Karl, who conquered half of Europe, and Napoleon, and Hitler. There is no other such nation in the world! Second: we are a nation of not just traditional values…. Third: we are a liberating people. We liberated Europe from Napoleon, from Hitler, and now we are liberating the world from Western hegemony. And we should be proud of that. We are also a people of outstanding cultural openness who are absolutely foreign to racism. These are the things that should underlie our offensive ideology.
Here we have several aspects. Russia’s new universalism entails a historical mission to be Europe’s savior from itself, from the mounting anti-traditionalism of radical secularism, gay rights, massive legal and illegal immigration, neo-Marxism. Russia’s traditional universalism or ‘cultural openness’ – the idea of Russians’ universal ‘receptivity’ or ‘obzyvchivost`’ to foreign peoples’ cultures championed by many Russians, most notably Fedor Dostoevskii – is championed by Karaganov and many other contemporary Russian thinkers but ultimately has its limits. Russia has saved and is defending to this day the ‘good Europe’ or ‘good West’ from the ‘bad Europe’ or ‘bad West,’ to which Russian receptivity does not extend, for it is supposedly transforming ‘people into non-people and unthinking slaves with no gender, nation, or culture.’ Nevertheless, this new Russian universalism represents a return messianism in traditionalist rather than Soviet proletarian form. Although there is no religious element in Karaganov’s statement, this idea of Russia as savior in his and Shipkov’s abovementioned analysis is a step removed from the medieval Russian messianic idea of Russia as a ‘God-bearing’ nation and ‘Third Rome’ still held to in some Russian Orthodox ciricles.
Ideology in the Russian Tradition
The rise of a state ideology is to some extent within the Russian tradition, outside the intensive ideologization of the Soviet system, which itself was an aberration, a deviation from traditional culture and the quasi-ideologies and ideologies of pre-Soviet Russia. In the 15th-17th centuries, the ROC and to a lesser extent the Muscoviete tsar and state held to the idea of Russia as the ‘Third Rome’ – Rome, the first, and Constantinople, the second, having fallen. But this was at most an ideology confined to the proper order of the state and society domestically and an Orthodox religious mission globally rather than representing an expansionist, geopolitical messianism—the first example of Russian imperialism. Peter the Great in founding a new European style state and foreign policy borrowed from the Imperial tradition of Rome, including imperial symbols, sans the religious messianism of Muscovy. Late in his life, Peter sought to relocate the center of gravity of the foundations of post-Kievan Russian statehood away from Moscow, returning it to the pre-Muscovite pillars of Russia by having the remains of Alexander Nevskii – the 13th century Prince of Novgorod, Grand Prince of Kiev and Grand Prince of Vladimir – brought from Vladimir to his new Westernized capitol, St. Petersburg, for a symbolic commemoration of the grand prince’s heroic defeat of the Teutonic armies.
But it was not until the 19th century after the shock to society of the Decembrist revolt that a Russian tsar managed to create a complete, systematic official state ideology: Nicholas I’s ‘Official Nationality’. Indeed, there are some striking similarities between the tasks facing Nicholas and those facing Putin as well as between their ultimate approaches to dealing with them. Upon coming to power, Putin saw his task as restoring order to the chaos of post-Soviet Russia’s weak democracy and fractured economy and addressing the malaise created by the loss of national purpose that seemed to pervade Russia after the Cold War. Nicholas I took the throne after the unexpected death of his brother Tsar Aleksandr II and the disastrous Decembrist uprising and so was intent on restoring solidarity to the officer corps and the country. His manifesto condemning the Decembrists declared: Russia is “a state where love for monarchs and devotion to the throne are based on the native characteristics of the people.” Nicholas then moved to establish a new official traditionalism and state ideology. The new official state ideology would place emphasis on internal sociopolitical and cultural unity and traditional Russian values, rather than mere territorial integrity or some vague assumption of an extant solidarity.
The new so-called ‘Official Nationality’ was proposed in 1833 by Count Sergei Uvarov as an antidote to the Western ideas – in particular France’s ‘Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity’ – which were seen as having led to the Decembrist officers’ uprising. Based on a doctrinal triad of ‘Orthodoxy, Autocracy, and Nationality,’ it was intended to ensure cultural, ideological, and sociopolitical unity of state and society, between the sovereign and ‘his/her’ people. ‘Orthodoxy’ opposed the radical secularism and anti-clericalism of ‘Liberty.’ ‘Autocracy’ counterposed the revolutionary principle of ‘Equality.’ ‘Nationality’, having no relation to any kind of ethnic nationalism, promoted Russian conservative thought in contradistinction to European radicalism. Uvarov, Nicholas’s education minister from 1832 to 1848 and designer of ‘Official Nationality,’ went beyond territorial unity in applying the term tselost’ and began to move political solidarity to the forefront of Russia’s pursuit of unity. He characterized the new ideology as a response to “the rapid collapse in Europe of religious and civil institutions” and a remedy against “the general spread of destructive ideas” in Russia. For her well-being and prosperity, Uvarov posed “the principles which form the distinctive character of Russia, and which belong only to Russia,… the sacred remnants of Russian nationality.” “Sincerely and deeply attached to the church of his fathers, (a Russian) has of old considered it the guarantee of social and family happiness. … A Russian, devoted to his fatherland, will agree as little to the loss of a single dogma of our Orthodoxy, as to the theft of a single pearl from the tsar’s crown. Autocracy constitutes the main condition of the political existence of Russia… The saving conviction that Russia lives and is protected by the spirit of a strong, humane and enlightened autocracy must permeate popular education.” In this statement, we have expressions of national political and ontological solidarity. Nicholas I’s foreign policy directly intervened in Europe in order to crush the ‘bad Europe’ of national and democratic uprisings threatening to undermine the ‘good Europe’ of monarchism.
Possible Future Developments in the New Russian Ideology
In Nicholas I’s ‘Official Nationality’ the Russian national spirit or culture was said to be uniquely and fervently devoted to, and inseparable from both Orthodox Christianity and Tsarist autocracy. Putin has made no explicit statement endorsing authoritarian forms of rule over democracy or republicanism – the modern equivalent of Nicholaevan Official Nationality’s autocratic principle. However, as noted above, in his 2019 Financial Times interview he did explicitly criticize Western ‘liberalism.’ But he did not include among his specific criticisms the idea of democracy, republican government, political pluralism, or individual rights, focusing instead on issues of socio-cultural liberalism: multiculturalism, illegal immigration, and gay rights.
At the same time, in 2019, months before the FT interview, Putin’s then top ideologist, Vladislav Surkov, who would soon resign his position in the presidential administration, offered a similar analysis but went much further, arguing explicitly against democratic government as unsuitable for Russia. In February 2019, Vladislav Surkov, Putin’s chief ideologist during his first two terms and likely still, issued a statist manifesto, rejecting the West and its values, including his own earlier Western-oriented, if West-distancing ‘sovereign democracy.’ Asserting that Putin’s soft authoritarian ‘sistema’ is here to stay, for decades, even centuries, he argued that Russians first accepted sovereign democracy but soon tired of the discussion of what kind of democracy Russia should have or whether it should have it all. Surkov declared Western democracy to be nothing more than the “illusion of choice,” “the most important of the illusions, the crown trick of the Western way of life in general and of Western democracy in particular.” Russia mistakenly had borrowed Western ways superficially, dressing up in “Western institutions,” a suit of clothes worn only for show, for “going out” so that “the differences of our political culture will not be striking to our neighbors.” The Westerner is supposedly looking now for “other forms and ways of living” and “sees Russia” and “Putin’s state” “just gaining speed,” with “full power still far in the future.” Surkov had been the originator of the early Putin era idea of ‘sovereign democracy.’ Then this ideological formula retained allegiance to republican government but only within the framework of a sovereign Russian state immune from Western control. Could this trajectory be a harbinger of Putin’s own should the ‘new cold war’ continue or deepen? In other words, will Putin move to an open rejection of democratic rights and republican rule, adding authoritarianism to the new Russian ideology? After all, Putin has abandoned democratic republicanism in actual practice, moving recently towards mid-range authoritarianism from his early form of stealth, soft authoritarianism, as I wrote back in 2003. Another such harbinger could very well be the new 2019 National Security Strategy’s lack of any mention of ‘democracy’ of the kind included in previous versions, including the previous 2015 version.
The negation and rejection of Russian ‘republican, market capitalist, and rule of law state’ in the mid- to recent Putin era is now transitioning to the embrace and the articulation of a new Russian ‘Official Ideology’ of Solidarity, Traditionalism, and Eurasian Universalism. Putin seems to be moving from a stealth embrace of authoritarian rule limited not just to authoritarian practice with a democratic face but intensified by the act of establishing a new state ideology and soon perhaps codifying ‘authoritarianism’ in that new state ideology, following in the footsteps of Nicholas I, who enshrined autocracy in his ‘Official Nationality.’ Elements of the ideology and supporting symbols such as National Unity Day are insinuating the ideology’s three pillars into the consciousness and culture of the Russian people through educational institutions and media controlled or influenced by the state. The emergence of an official ideology marks Russia’s full and final termination of her early post-Soviet romance with the West and the powerful return to pre-Soviet Russian tradition. Whether or not a state ideology is officially declared, named, and more aggressively propagandized, even mandated, these is little doubt that an official ideology has been emerging and is now gradually being codified in official state documents and endorsed by Russia’s highest officials in the last two years.
 “Satanizatsiya vopreki. Sergei Karaganov o novoi kholodnoi voine i russkoi idee,” Argumenty i fakty, 21 July 2021, (https://aif.ru/politics/world/satanizacii_vopreki_sergey_karaganov_o_novoy_holodnoy_voyne_i_russkoy_idee?fbclid=IwAR0Aq1eyNxYym7uPX-4HXkPZFYiSnrQ062r9wV92VKy1c09xm11wZZiSfGY.
 “Speech at the ceremonial reception for the Day of National Unity,” Kremlin.ru, 4 November 2005, http://en.kremlin.ru/events/president/transcripts/23252).
 Dmitrii Trenin, “Russia’s National Security Strategy: A Manifesto for a New Era,” Carnegie.ru, 6 July 2021, https://carnegie.ru/commentary/84893?fbclid=IwAR3i9NannldVMBY0GRHQE38TqwGizsO6uhfMZOeV6Y32EiDbuBaZCK4MjEU.
 “Osnovy Gosudarstvennoi Kul’turnoi Politiki,” Kremlin.ru, p. 2, http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/41d526a877638a8730eb.pdf, last accessed on 24 April 2021.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, Kremlin.ru, 2 July 2021, p. 1, http://static.kremlin.ru/media/events/files/ru/QZw6hSk5z9gWq0plD1ZzmR5cER0g5tZC.pdf.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 4 and 6.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 6-7.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 8 and 12.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 8, 13, and 18 and 6.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 34-8.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 34.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 35.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 35-6.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 36.
 Nikolai Patrushev, “Nuzhny li Rossii ‘unversal’nyie’ tsennosti,” Rossiiskaya gazeta, 17 June 2020, https://rg.ru/2020/06/17/nuzhny-li-rossii-universalnye-cennosti.html, last accessed on 31 May 2021.
 “Satanizatsiya vopreki. Sergei Karaganov o novoi kholodnoi voine i russkoi idee.”
 See Gordon M. Hahn, “Working Paper: Tselostnost’ in Russian Culture, Politics, and Society (Part I: Monism, Sections 1-3),” Russian and Eurasian Studies, 19 January 2021, https://gordonhahn.com/2021/01/19/working-paper-tselostnost-in-russian-culture-politics-and-society-part-i-monism-sections-1-3/.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 35-6.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, pp. 34-5.
 Patrushev, “Nuzhny li Rossii ‘unversal’nyie’ tsennosti.”
 “O VNRS,” Vrns.ru, last accessed on 15 March 2021.
 A. V. Shipkov, Diskurs ortodoksii (Moscow: Izdatel’stvo Moskovskoi Patriarkhii Russkoi Pravoslavnoi Tserkvy, 2021), p. 252.
 See Gordon M. Hahn, “Putin Myths and Putin Ideology,” Russian and Eurasian Politics, 11 February 2015, https://gordonhahn.com/2015/02/11/putin-myths-and-putin-ideology/.
 Aleksandr Panarin, Revansh Istorii: Rossiiskaya strategicheskaya initsiativa v XXI veke (Moscow: Logos, 1998), pp. 13-15, 222-27, and 357.
 Panarin, Revansh Istorii, p. 357.
 Shenfield, Russian Fascism, pp. 195-7.
 Dugin, Yevraziiskii put’ kak natsionalnaya ideya, p. 85.
 “Vladimir Putin napravil privetstvie uchastnikam Mezhdunarodnoi konferentsii ‘Yevrazii v XXI veke – Dialog kul’tur ili conflict tsivilizatsii,” Kremlin.ru, 10 June 2004, http://kremlin.ru/events/president/news/31133.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 40.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 3.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 7.
 Strategiya natsional’noi bezopasnosti Rossiiskoi Federatsii, p. 34.
 “O VNRS,” Vrns.ru, last accessed on 15 March 2021.
 Shipkov, Diskurs ortodoksii, p. 252.
 Vasetskii’s East European/Balkan region encompasses Serbia, Greece, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbska, Bulgaria, Slovakia, Rumania, Moldovia, and Orthodox segments of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Albania. The Eurasian mega-region includes all of the Transcaucasus (including Abkhazia and South Ossetiya, excluding Azerbaijan) and Orthodox segments in the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia. The African and Near East enclaves include Ethiopia, Antioch and the Orthodox communities in Egypt, Palestine, and Israel, including the Orthodox center of Jerusalem. In addition to this list, Vasetskii notes that “no one has repealed Russian America in California,” and “Russian influences are appearing in China, on the Russian border, and in Mongolia. He also notes the emergence of Orthodox communities and priests among “ethnic Chinese and Japanese.” Vasetskii, Sotsiologiya istorii Rossii: Bazovyie smysly i tsennosti (zapicka sotsiolog), p. 131.
 N. A. Vasetskii, Sotsiologiya istorii Rossii: Bazovyie smysly i tsennosti (zapicka sotsiolog) (Moscow: Akademicheskii proekt, 2019), pp. 128 and 180-93.
 “Satanizatsiya vopreki. Sergei Karaganov o novoi kholodnoi voine i russkoi idee.”
 Richard S. Wortman, The Power of Language and Rhetoric in Russian Political History: Charismatic Words from the 18th to the 21st Centuries (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2019), p. 164.
 Nicholas V. Riasanovsky, Russian Identities: A Historical Survey (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 133.
 Surkov compared the Putin state’s viability with those of the Russian state systems of Muscovite Russia founded by Ivan III, the Russian Empire founded by Peter the Great, the USSR founded by Lenin, and Western examples such as DeGaulle’s Fifth Republic, Turkey’s secularized state, and America’s continued allegiance to the values of the “half-legendary founding fathers.” Vladislav Surkov, “Dolgoe gosudarstvoe Putina,” 11 February 2019, Nezavisimaya gazeta, 2019, www.ng.ru/ideas/2019-02-11/5_7503_surkov.html.
About the Author – Gordon M. Hahn, Ph.D., is an Expert Analyst at Corr Analytics, http://www.canalyt.com and a Senior Researcher at the Center for Terrorism and Intelligence Studies (CETIS), Akribis Group, www.cetisresearch.org. Dr. Hahn is the author of The Russian Dilemma: Security, Vigilance, and Relations with the West from Ivan III to Putin (McFarland, forthcoming in 2021), Ukraine Over the Edge: Russia, the West, and the “New Cold War” (McFarland, 2018), The Caucasus Emirate Mujahedin: Global Jihadism in Russia’s North Caucasus and Beyond (McFarland, 2014), Russia’s Islamic Threat (Yale University Press, 2007), and Russia’s Revolution From Above: Reform, Transition and Revolution in the Fall of the Soviet Communist Regime, 1985-2000 (Transaction, 2002). He also has published numerous think tank reports, academic articles, analyses, and commentaries in both English and Russian language media.
Dr. Hahn also has taught at Boston, American, Stanford, San Jose State, and San Francisco State Universities and as a Fulbright Scholar at Saint Petersburg State University, Russia and has been a senior associate and visiting fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the Kennan Institute in Washington DC, and the Hoover Institution.