Imagining Eurasia

For The Diplomat, I ran through the sheer fraudulence surrounding the idea of "Eurasianism," detailed in Charles Clover's Black Wind, White Snow

Despite the disparate histories, Clover manages to deftly thread the narrative of a Eurasia rising from scattered notebooks to actual policy. Moreover, he pairs the theoretical claims behind Eurasia with the massive scholarly deceptions bolstering [Lev] Gumilev’s and [Alexander] Dugin’s works. “As serious scholarship, Eurasianists’ scholarly arguments are barely credible and are best understood as a sort of metaphor,” Clover writes. Gumilev, for instance, concocts neologisms to describe Eurasia’s psychosomatic identity, built around something called passionarnost, or “passionarity.” Later cited by Putin, “passionarity” can be best understood as a mutative patriotism — a sense of selflessness in pursuit of the success of a people, of a state. (“Like all the brilliant ideas … it came to my mind in a loo, of course,” Gumilev would later claim.)

While the notion, in the abstract, remains anodyne, Gumilev claimed an ability to tabulate such “passionarity” via mathematical formulas measured by the variable “Pik.” He augmented his theories with further, fantastical notions of “ethnoi” and “bioenergy.” Slipping into parody, Gumilev — who would refer to himself as a “master of science” — would later stake that “passionarity” arose from cosmic rays. “The biogenic migration of atoms of chemical elements in the biosphere always tends to its maximum manifestation,” Gumilev wrote, apparently with a straight face.

Dugin, meanwhile, would not only occasionally slip into an alter ego named after the director of the Nazis’ department on the study of the paranormal, but would introduce myriad conspiracies — on the Bilderberg Group and the Council on Foreign Relations — to post-Soviet Russia. Dugin’s conspiracy-mongering remains beyond compare; while Russia remains a font of conspiracy, few have gone so far as to claim the KGB was a Western front, as Dugin believed.

Meanwhile, I spoke with The Economist about Azerbaijan's push to launder its autocracy for foreign audiences: 

For chutzpah, this pales in comparison with a jolly that took place in 2013. Nine members of Congress and more than 30 of their staffers were given an all-expenses-paid trip to a conference in Baku, where they received rugs and crystal tea sets. According to a report from the Office of Congressional Ethics, this was funded by SOCAR through a web of non-profits. American politicians are prohibited from accepting money from foreign governments. SOCAR has denied any deliberate deception. Casey Michel, a journalist who investigated the case, calls it “the most egregious ethics violations Washington has seen since the days of uber-lobbyist Jack Abramoff” more than a decade ago. The junket appeared to pay off for Azerbaijan: several of the politicians who went on the trip attached their names to pro-Azerbaijan energy bills and amendments.