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Daria Dugina's assassination could spell trouble for Putin's allies in Russia

Alexander Dugin attends a farewell ceremony of his daughter Daria Dugina, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Moscow on August 23.
Dmitry Serebryakov
Alexander Dugin attends a farewell ceremony of his daughter Daria Dugina, who was killed in a car bomb explosion in Moscow on August 23.

Earlier this week in Russia, there was a televised funeral for Daria Dugina, just days after she was killed in a car bombing in Moscow.

Dugina was a Russian propagandist who supported her country's invasion of Ukraine, both on TV and online. Her death made global headlines, both for its violence and because of the political prominence of her father, Alexander Dugin.

It also signaled that Moscow's elite may not be safe in their own city, said Marlene Laruelle, the director of the Institute for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University.

"The war is progressively coming to them in the Russian territory," she said.

"The message the killing is sending, even if we cannot interpret exactly who did that and who the actual target was, is that if you can have a terrorist act in Moscow, in the middle of the war, it means elites are suddenly not feeling secure anymore."

Laruelle joined All Things Considered to discuss Alexander Dugin's rise and waning influence, how he spread his ideology across the world, and what Daria Dugina's death may mean politically.

This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Interview Highlights

On Alexander Dugin's origins

He was pretty famous in the '90s because he was one of the first ones in Russia to formulate a kind of political language of Russia's great power and empire. But in the 2000s, he really lost some of his prominence, and there are many other ideologists who appeared who are much more influential on the regime's kind of strategy. He has been pretty marginalized inside Russia. He's more famous abroad than in Russia itself.

Alexander Dugin rose to prominence in the 1990s.
Francesca Ebel / AP
Alexander Dugin rose to prominence in the 1990s.

On his beliefs towards Ukraine

He has had very anti-Ukrainian ideology since the beginning, which is some of his most famous work in the mid-90s. He was saying that Ukraine doesn't exist as a state, as a nation, that it's a construction of the West as a kind of anti-Russian strategy.

And that's something that was not so common at that time. But after that, he really has been working on many other countries, creating a big geopolitical vision for Russia as an empire, and he has always been very anti-Ukrainian, to the point that Ukraine has forbidden him from entering Ukrainian territory already for about 15 years. In the mid-2000s he was already persona non grata in Ukraine.

On whether there is any knowledge of Dugin's influence on Vladmir Putin

No, we're not even sure they have met. Putin has never quoted Dugin, Dugin is not part of any official institution, like several other ideologies. He's only on the small internet channel, the far right, orthodox channel. So he's not among the classic propagandists that are actually invited on talk shows.

His daughter was, and that's what is interesting. His daughter was more mainstream in a sense, and she was able to be invited to all of these provocative talk shows. He has been pretty marginal, because his thinking is not an easy one to follow. It's super philosophical, and religious, so it's not something you can air on television very easily and get a big audience for.

Investigators work on the site of explosion of a car driven by Daria Dugina outside Moscow.
/ AP
Investigators work on the site of explosion of a car driven by Daria Dugina outside Moscow.

On Dugin's popularity among international far-right communities

He's really a big name in contemporary far-right thinking. First, because he has been speaking a lot of foreign languages, so he was able to read all of the European far-right productions, to translate in Russia, and also to translate his own work in English, French, German, Italian, Arabic, and Iranian.

So he has really been able to develop networks of international, transnational, far-right people, up to Latin America. He was able to articulate a narrative of this new empire of conservative values against the so-called decadent West and liberal culture and so on. It's really a narrative that has resonated with a lot of European interests among the far right groups.

On what Daria Dugin's death may mean politically

I think her death will be used by the conservative reactionary groups to kind of create a martyr out of her. She was a young, good looking woman, so that will help to create the myth of her martyrdom. I think her death will be used globally, not only by the conservative circles but also by the regime, for some kind of domestic repression. The regime will have to showcase that it can answer to a terrorist act, and that will probably mean higher repression.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Ayen Bior
Ayen Deng Bior is a producer at NPR's flagship evening news program, All Things Considered. She helps shape the sound of the daily shows by contributing story ideas, writing scripts and cutting tape. Her work at NPR has taken her to Warsaw, Poland, where she heard from refugees displaced by the war in Ukraine. She has spoken to people in Saint-Louis, Senegal, who are grappling with rising seas. Before NPR, Bior wore many hats at the Voice of America's English to Africa service where she worked in radio, television and digital. Bior began her career reporting on the revolution in Sudan, the developing state of affairs in South Sudan and the experiences of women behind the headlines in both countries. In her spare time, Bior loves to kayak, read and bird watch.