This article is devoted to the place of “Eurasianism” in Russian foreign policy in Asia and in the Far East. The author contends that there exist three Eurasianist currents: Pragmatic Eurasianism, Neo-Eurasianism, and Inter-Civilisational Eurasianism. The first type of Eurasianism—its official version—perceives Russia’s Eurasianist identity as providing a justification for Russia’s interests in the West and Asia alike, and thereby necessitates a balanced foreign policy. The second interpretation, most clearly expressed in the works of Aleksandr Dugin, Vladimir Zhirinovskii and Gennadii Ziuganov, is based on geopolitical thinking and is put forward by some political parties and academic circles as a national ideology. The third, more marginal interpretation has been strongly advocated by the director of the Institute of Far Eastern Studies, Mikhail Titarenko, a prominent expert on China. Each version puts emphasis on a different key aspect of Eurasianism with different policy implications. However, the division developed by the author appears more or less unconvincing: The ideological boundaries between these three currents are weak, shifting, and sometimes non-existent. It might rather be argued that there exist three social milieus which use Eurasianist terminology: political power; nationalist parties; and academic circles. Since 2000, the term “Eurasianism” has been increasingly used to comment on developments in Russian foreign policy. However, it is doubtful whether such developments have much to do with Eurasianism. Neither Boris Yeltsin nor Vladimir Putin has ever made Eurasianist statements in the sense of using culturalist terminology to argue that Russia has an Asian essence. Wanting to be respected in Asia is not the same as thinking of oneself as an Asian culture. The idea of Russia as a “great power (derzhava)”, which is clearly becoming dominant in Russia today, is not strictly synonymous with Eurasianism. A feeling of “distinctiveness” does not necessarily signify adhesion to Eurasianism as a doctrine, and many Russian citizens probably have in mind the tautological idea that what is special about Russia is that it is Russian, rather than its being close to Asian cultures. For this reason it seems that this tripartite division does not shed light in a pertinent manner either on the complex dissemination of Eurasianist terminology, or on current directions in Russian foreign policy.
Marlène Laruelle, Woodrow Wilson Centre, Washington, DC