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But to return to Alexander Dugin's theme of Russia's need for a great mission in the world, this ambition is precisely one of the aspects of Soviet policy criticised in the Letter to the Soviet Leadership. And in The Problem of Russia at the end of the twentieth century, written in 1994 just before his return to Russia, he criticises the empire building projects of the Tsars. Indeed he has little time for the Eurasian theorists of the 1920s, nor for the 'National Bolsheviks' - also admired by Alexander Dugin, founder with the novelist Eduard Limonov in the 1990s, of the 'National Bolshevik Party'. The National Bolsheviks hoped that they could return to Russia and come to terms with the Bolsheviks - that the Bolsheviks were working for Russian greatness, that, in the words of one of the leading representatives (who of course ended up being shot in the Gulag) Nikolai Ustrialov, Bolshevism was like a radish - red on the outside, white (Great Russian patriotic) on the inside. In Russia in Collapse, Solzhenitsyn calls the Eurasians 'nothing but a decadent aspiration and sign of moral weakness.' If put into practise, the 'Russian specificity' would be lost in a Muslim majority. Later in the same book he attacks the journal Vetche (Assembly), launched by Vladimir Osipov as an organ of militant Russian nationalism: 'These new theorists of misfortune are united in trying to find how to save Russia through "eurasianism" or how to rid themselves of Christianity through Neo-Paganism.' He almost certainly has Dugin in mind.

Solzhenitsyn's project was the very modest one of simply restoring a decent life in Russia which involved in his view first of all reducing the territory as far as possible to the Slav Orthodox heartland. He would have wanted to include Ukraine in this Slav heartland but recognised their right to secede if that is what they wanted (in practice this question of secession became more complicated because of the large numbers of Russians living in the seceding entities). The main task was to rebuild Russia from the bottom up, not worrying about democracy at the national level, with the formation and conflict of political parties which he saw as an entirely pointless division of the national effort, but establishing at local level the equivalent of the nineteenth century zemstvos, or even - he wasn't afraid to use the word - 'soviets', provided that these soviets would be in reality what the old soviets were on paper - organs through which decisions could be made at local level by representatives elected as individuals not as members of a party. He greatly admired the local level democracy that he saw in the cantons in Switzerland, but also in the US. Above all, he wanted to restore the interest in and commitment to rural life, to restore the taste the people once had for working the earth, a taste destroyed first by collectivisation then by a rationalisation of the kolkhoz (collective farm) system introduced by Khrushchev, gathering them together into ever larger units.

All this is obviously much less exciting, and perhaps less apparently relevant to our own preoccupation with finding a force that can confront the Anglo American aggression that weighs on the world at the present time but I tend to see it as much more positive than Dugin's great geopolitical project. If it is happening. But I don't know if it is happening or not. What is happening rather confirms Dugin's view that Russia has no choice - it has to have an ambitious foreign policy. The aggression of NATO in Georgia and in Ukraine, the prospect of losing Crimea as a base for the Black Sea fleet, have compelled Russia into adopting a more 'aggressive' stance towards the world, as the US-UK-France-Turkey-Qatar-United Arab Emirates-Saudi aggression in neighbouring Syria eventually forced a very reluctant Vladimir Putin to intervene there.

But on a perhaps more positive note something that is happening within Russia and that I do regard as very positive is the renewal of the life of the Church and in particular of the monasteries, the mood that is reflected in the passage I quoted earlier from Everyday Saints. Whatever the politics of the society, whether they are liberal or authoritarian, a society that encourages the monastic life and regards the Saint as the highest human type is a society that is radically different from the sort of society we are living in. And that is, it seems to me, how 'Mother Russia' can best resist the debilitating force which, for the purposes of the present discussion, we are calling 'liberalism.'