By Valeri Chechelashvili, Senior Fellow at Rondeli Foundation
Russia is diversifying its arsenal for fighting against Georgia and apart from more forceful leverage, such as creeping occupation and terrorizing Georgian citizens along the administrative boundary line (ABL), it increasingly utilizes “soft power.” The testament to this was the latest internet blog by Russian political analyst, Aleksandr Dugin, the so-called “Dugin Expertise.”
Aleksandr Dugin is one of the most fervent supporters of the Russian President. There are many who praise Putin in Russia nowadays; however, even in such a situation, Dugin’s assessments nonetheless sound a little strange. Quote: “There are no more opponents of Putin’s course and, if there are, they are mentally ill and need to be sent off for clinical examination. Putin is everywhere, Putin is everything, Putin is absolute and Putin is indispensable.”
This individual, is the leader of the International Eurasian Movement. The essence of his work is creating a Eurasian state by means of integrating former Soviet republics with Russia. This is how Dugin tries to revert the results of the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the 20th century.”
During the 2008 war, Dugin advised the Government of Russia to occupy Tbilisi and form a pro-Russian government. If his advice was not heeded, he predicted there would be another war because the Government of Georgia, according to his assessment, was a puppet of the United States of America. Given such attitudes in the past, his now softened tone sounds odd, if not downright hypocritical.
The format of our letter does not allow us to analyze all of Dugin’s messages; however, two of them should be subject to special attention. First – which is mystical and incomprehensible, as he underlines, why Georgia has ended up on the other side of the barricade in a camp with the enemy and second – the rise of Georgian patriotism and its usage in service to Russian interests.
As for the camps and barricades, practically no one in the 21st century, apart from Russia, thinks in these terms any more. Putting up barricades and building new Berlin Walls has become the business card of this country. The most painful expression of this process for Georgia is apparent in Samachablo (Tskhinvali region) and Abkhazia. However, this is not a problem that only Georgia has with Russia.
Today, the whole civilized world is counted among enemies by Russia while its friends are – Venezuela, Nicaragua, Syria and North Korea; also, supposedly the countries of the Eurasian Economic Union as well, yet not even here are things ideal; our positioning, on the other hand, is absolutely natural.
Dugin is trying to pit Georgian patriotism against European civilization and put Georgia within the “Russian World.” Dugin does not understand the essence of patriotism, even that of the Russian one, let alone Georgian.
He considers Russian patriotism to be confronting the whole world while in Georgian patriotism he sees a force that will bring Georgia within the Russian orbit, making it part of the “Russian World.”
The best explanation of patriotism and its dialectics with the outside world; more specifically, with cosmopolitism, was explained by Vazha Pshavela in his 1905 short letter entitled “Patriotism and Cosmopolitism.”
Bringing Vazha Pshavela’s arguments into a discussion against Dugin is a huge compliment for Dugin but I will nonetheless still call on the opinion of this great poet and writer:
“A person that serves his/her nation reasonably and seeks to advance the homeland mentally, materially and morally is preparing the best of members and friends for the whole humankind, facilitating its development and welfare.
Such an upbringing is beneficial to all nations, so that all nations can show increased strength, energy and distinction, delivering their own contribution to the great treasury of humankind…”
It is interesting that 39 years earlier, Vazha indirectly predicted the creation of global financial institutions…
Dugin says that Georgia now faces a choice not between the West and Russia, but between the West and Georgia. This is, in principle, a mistake as Georgia’s choice is being made based on the spatial identity which relies on values and principles.
Georgian traditions and culture cannot be contained within the framework of the “Russian World,” not just because we have a longer and richer history, including as an Orthodox Christian nation, but because our values and principles are in conjunction with the values and principles used in the European and not the Eurasian space. And this is where Georgian and Russian paths diverge. The outset of this process is the Bolshevik coup of 1917 and the creation of the USSR in 1922. After these events, the Sovietized Georgia became part of the isolationist course.
Before that, at the verge of 19th and 20th centuries, the Russian Empire was not that different from other European empires of that time, its actions being normal for the international practice of the time and Russian culture (19th century literature, music) being part of the European culture. Now, the situation has changed thoroughly as Russia opposes Europe and Western civilization in general and hence our paths have diverged. If Russia wishes, it will be a country with Eurasian culture and values; we, on the other hand, are definitely not a Eurasian nation. “We are Georgians, therefore we are Europeans.” We believe that this fact requires no further argumentation.
With the purpose of placing Georgia into his capricious idea of the “Russian World,” Dugin also actively uses the issue of Orthodoxy.
We are a part of the Orthodox world which the Russian Orthodox Church has chosen to confront. There is no trusting the Russian Orthodox Church and its brotherly embrace is mere hypocrisy; it has always been, right from the reforms of Peter I, or the beginning of the 18th century, a part of the state faithfully serving Russian imperial policy domestically and externally. The Russian Church has never admitted to its sins towards Georgia nor has it apologized for them. And their sins are great: the abolition of autocephaly, appointing drunkard Exarchs, cursing the Georgian nation, banning church services in Georgian, painting our frescoes over with lime, embezzling church treasures and so on.
And today, Kiril’s Church justifies the killing of their fellow Christian Georgians and Ukrainians, including civilians, by Russian soldiers, also apologizing for conquests in general; openly and brazenly, just 45 kilometers from Tbilisi, a Russian church was built on a Russian military base. Kiril’s team does not seem to be eager to rectify the situation at all.
And in general, what values does Russia offer us?
Vladislav Surkov’s “sovereign democracy?” “300-year geopolitical isolation in a cell” or Putin’s “long state” where those who govern are not changed for decades, political murders take place, systemic corruption thrives, internet and civil rights are limited while political opponents go to jail? Russia in its current form has no power of attraction and in the hands of the current regime, it will not have one in the future either.
The difference between Putin and Trump is that the latter knows for certain that he will not be the US President in 2024 while Putin will not resign as a result of elections. He will be removed either because of biological reasons, or due to a coup, or thanks to historical disasters characteristic to Russian history.
A normal society should have nothing in common with this. Georgia is definitely on the correct side of the barricade. We must strengthen our state, increase its attractiveness and economic sustainability as well as our transit function and continue active work as a full member of the anti-Russian coalition. This will, in time, deliver desired results.