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Daria Dugina How the daughter of a Eurasianist philosopher emerged as a war advocate in the years before her murder

Source: Meduza / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

Story by Andrey Pertsev with additional reporting by Svetlana Reiter. English-language version by Kevin Rothrock.

Daria Dugina, the daughter of Eurasianist philosopher and ideologue Alexander Dugin, died behind the wheel of a Toyota Land Cruiser on the evening of August 20. The vehicle exploded while in motion — the result of a bomb placed under the driver’s side of the car. Just two days later, Russia’s Federal Security Service accused the Ukrainian intelligence community of orchestrating the murder, pinning it on a Ukrainian national named Natalya Vovk (arguing that she deliberately targeted Dugina, not her father). Though the Zelensky administration has denied any involvement in the incident, many Russian politicians and pro-Kremlin media figures are calling it a Ukrainian terrorist attack and demanding retribution. In the years before her death on Saturday, Daria Dugina became one of her father’s closest associates, fashioning herself as a popular “political expert” and pundit who criticized the West with every breath and welcomed the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Meduza recalls how Dugina transformed from a typical, curious philosophy student into an outspoken advocate for war and wild conspiracy theories.

Much of the reporting and commentary about Daria Dugina’s violent death on August 20 revolves around her father, Alexander Dugin — a philosopher whose scholarly misadventures over the decades are well-documented and whose supposed influence over Kremlin decision-making is notoriously exaggerated in the West. Dugina’s own story is relatively obscure and far briefer, but she, too, was an intellectual force in Russia. Or she was shaping up to become one, at least.

Meduza spoke to multiple sources who studied with Dugina in the early 2010s at Moscow State University’s philosophy department, where she shined as one of the brightest, more talented students. In college, Dugina was fascinated with the Platonist school of thought, she played the flute, and she had her own “electronic music project” with a name inspired by Heidegger's work on existentialism. Several times, she plotted to run away from home. She won an academic scholarship to study at the Bordeaux Montaigne University in France from 2012 to 2013. People who knew Dugina at this time in her life point out that she was interested in many things, but not her father’s Eurasianist ideas.

And then something changed.

Daria Dugina’s metamorphosis

By the late 2010s, Dugina started appearing as a “political expert” in the mass media, commenting on foreign and then domestic events. She now embraced the philosophical and political theory of Eurasianism — namely, the idea that Russia is the core of a geopolitical entity that stands in opposition to Great Britain and the United States. Dugina talked about Europe as the “Rimland” between the Anglo-Saxons and Eurasia, and she championed a Russian-led empire to battle against “Atlanticism” for control of the continent.

For Dugina, the empire that would confront Western hegemony was also a “voluntary alliance” formed “for the collective defense of [its members’] sovereignty.” She used organic metaphors to explain the ties that will bind this union, arguing that Russians, Belarusians, and Ukrainians are all “branches of a tree with shared Eastern Slavic roots” (though she also acknowledged that Ukrainians increasingly reject this understanding). Dugina’s Eurasianist empire would need to accommodate the identities of its constituent peoples, including Russians. In other words, the project requires the articulation of a “new, clear, and ambitious formulation” of the idea of Russia itself.

Dugina wrote frequently about the “death of liberalism,” and she welcomed the end of France’s “Macron era” in 2017 and again in 2020. She described Marine Le Pen as the voice of the people, characterized French politics as “a real war,” and hoped that Donald Trump’s presidency in America would redirect Washington’s “all-seeing globalist eye” to East Asia and give Europe “a chance to gain its sovereignty and escape the U.S. diktat.”

Europeans would come to see Russia as an “island of freedom” and an “anti-totalitarian front” against “liberal dictatorship.” Dugina’s ideal Russia merged leftist economics (but not the “gender theories” or “queer satanism” of “leftist politics”) with right-wing conservativism. She reasoned that this marriage of ideas was natural in the Russian context, despite being irreconcilable in the West:

Look at how the Russian people respond to socialism and how they accept it — almost like a religion, like a faith, and the USSR was a state like a religion, except the Soviet man, not God, was revered. Just look at all the mysticism in early Communism […].

When the tanks rolled in

On February 24, 2022, hours after Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, Dugina wrote that she’d had a premonition the night before about Russians on the march: “I had in my head the slogan, ‘Let there be empire!’ and the empire had come true by the time I awoke.”

In June, Dugina visited Mariupol, now occupied by Russian troops. After inspecting the catacombs of the Azovstal iron and steel works (where Azov Regiment soldiers mounted their last stand while defending the city), she appeared on a YouTube show and called the factory “a great place for dark rituals.” Dugina also recognized the “fearlessness” of the Azov fighters, albeit in the most insulting way imaginable: “There was some element of Russianness found in them, but only some — they surrendered, after all,” she said.

Dugina reports from the Azovstal iron and steel works in Mariupol after its capture by Russian troops.

Reporting from the Azovstal factory, Dugina also collaborated with Graham Phillips and Haukur Hauksson — two foreign bloggers whose dubious work the Russian state media sometimes cites and recirculates as authoritative Western journalism. U.S. fugitive and conspiracy theorist John Dougan — a former police officer who claims to have political asylum in Russia — later published the video report on YouTube, where it currently has almost 40,000 views.

Inside Azovstal - I take you into Hell on Earth!
John Mark Dougan

In the Nutcall database, Daria Dugina’s phone number is listed as the press secretary’s contact for her father. Speaking at multiple events organized by the Eurasianist movement, Dugina was listed in promotional materials as “a political expert, philosopher, and mentor of the Eurasian Youth Union.” Just a few days before her death, she delivered a lecture on the “metaphysics of the frontier” at a Eurasianist summer conference in Sergiyev Posad, northeast of Moscow.

Dugina worked closely with the publishing house “Black Hundred” (named after the reactionary, monarchist, and ultra-nationalist movement in Russia in the early 20th century). Developing her ideas about the “frontier horizon” and channeling the inspiration she experienced while visiting “liberated” eastern Ukraine, she had planned to write an essay to be included in one of Black Hundred’s forthcoming books: “The Book of Z,” a collection of stories from combatants and eyewitnesses in the Ukraine war. “Philosophy is born where life and death coexist […]. For me, Novorossiya [a proposed confederation of Russia and Eastern Ukraine] is a space of philosophical meaning,” Dugina wrote after returning from Mariupol.

Dugina delivers a lecture to the Eurasianist School 2022 Conference on frontiers and empire.

In her last “academic paper,” written for the ARMY-2022 international military exhibition, Dugina expounded on the “synergetic effect” of “information flows” in wartime and claimed that the executions by Russian soldiers of civilians in towns outside Kyiv were “staged” and then verified by “actors” posing as bystanders — all with the covert goal of influencing Western audiences and both radicalizing and terrorizing Ukrainians. Dugina also noted sinisterly that linguists have observed that the name of the town “Bucha” (where the first Russian atrocities were reported) resembles the English word “butcher.”

In her final interview, recorded just hours before she was killed, Dugina defended the invasion of Ukraine as “the last nail in the coffin of this global hegemon.” She also accused Bill Gates of using vaccines to shrink the population of Africa and warned against the West’s environmentalist agenda, its veganism, its freeganism, the battle for transgender rights, and the “conversion of people into homosexuality.”

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The father

In an interview last year, Daria Dugina thanked her parents for her intellectual upbringing, reminiscing about her childhood interactions with cultural figures like writer and dissident Eduard Limonov and poet and musician Egor Letov. She said being her father’s daughter was a “big honor.”

Alexander Dugin speaks at a demonstration in support of the self-declared Donetsk and Luhansk “People’s Republics” on October 14, 2014.
Moscow News Agency / Reuters / Scanpix / LETA

The son of a Military Intelligence Directorate (GRU) general, Alexander Dugin bounced between schools of thought for decades before establishing himself as a leader of Eurasianism. In the 1970s, he explored metaphysical realism in a working group with novelist Yuri Mamleev. A decade later, after flirting with the occultism of another writer named Evgeny Golovin, Dugin got involved with the “Memory” National Patriotic Front — an ultranationalist, Orthodox Christian movement. Dugin was anti-Soviet until the attempted coup in 1991. In 1993, he joined the doomed defense of the Parliament against President Boris Yeltsin in Russia’s constitutional crisis.

Dugin joined the faculty at Moscow State University in 2008, becoming head of the school’s Conservative Studies Center and the director of its international relations program. (A source close to the Putin administration told Meduza that Dugin owed this appointment not to the Kremlin but to Vladimir Dobrenkov, the dean of the university’s sociology department and an avowed conservative.)

In 2014, however, MSU Rector Viktor Sadovnichy fired both Dugin and Dobrenkov after the former advocated the murder of anyone who tolerated violence against Russia’s supporters in Ukraine.

The Dugins’ influence

A source close to the presidential administration’s domestic policy team admitted to Meduza on August 21 that he’d only learned of Daria Dugina’s existence from the news about her death. Two other sources with ties to the Kremlin said they had seen Daria’s work republished on popular Telegram channels, but they’d not connected her to Alexander Dugin because she wrote under the pseudonym “Daria Platonova.”

One of Meduza’s sources said “Platonova” was one of the “new talking heads” cultivated and propagated by the Kremlin’s media team, but she’d never been invited to join any of the administration’s “serious projects” (such as commenting for the business-focused news media, like the newspapers Kommersant and Vedomosti). “Judging by her statements, she was an ideological person. Now it’s clear why,” explained Meduza’s source.

Other individuals with knowledge of the Putin administration reject speculation published in the Western press that Alexander Dugin has ever “advised” the president or any senior national defense officials, though some sources say he does have contact with high-ranking officials in Russia’s Federal Security Service.

Dugin’s relationship with prominent religious figures is complicated, as well, though he is rumored to enjoy financial support from Konstantin Malofeev, a devout reactionary who values “empire and statehood above Orthodoxy,” said one source who knows the oligarch. Malofeev allegedly hired “political technologists” to promote himself publicly as a “Russian Donald Trump, advised by Alexander Dugin,” but the Kremlin has ensured that the campaign remains a flop. In fact, multiple sources told Meduza that Dugin’s collaboration with Malofeev only further proves his lack of clout with Russia’s leadership.

Alexander Dugin’s Eurasianist ideas have gradually become more mainstream in Russia, but this is more a testament to his intellectual foresight than his political influence, someone close to the Kremlin told Meduza. “[Dugin’s] views,” he explained, “now largely coincide with the views of the country’s leadership.”

Story by Andrey Pertsev with additional reporting by Svetlana Reiter

English-language version by Kevin Rothrock

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