Russian imperial soldiers in Helsinki celebrating after February Revolution.

The Unlikely Origins of Russia's Manifest Destiny

July 27, 2016
Charles Clover
This is a summary of an article originally published by Foreign Policy with the subheading: "How an obscure academic and a marginalized philosopher captured the minds of the Kremlin and helped forge the new Russian nationalism."

The author examines the Russian intellectual fascination with Englishman Sir Halford Mackinder's theory of geopolitics. Mackinder argued that the power of the world was determined by geographic control and that the "heartland" of Russia and Eurasia was the most important territory for controlling the world. Mackinder created this theory to persuade the British to contain the Russian empire, but his geopolitical ideas have been turned on their head in Russia--thinkers have argued that Mackinder's ideas promote the need for Russian manifest destiny in Eurasia. The author proposes that the synthesis of Mackinder's ideas with a sort of Soviet revanchism has been promoted by modern thinker Alexander Dugin. The right wing ideologue Dugin has formulated a world theory called "Eurasianism," which calls for Russian domination of former Soviet states and a rejection of the U.S.-led "Atlanticism" movement. Clover asserts that Dugin's ideas have penetrated the thinking of many Russian government officials, in particular the military leaders, and can be used as a lens to examine Russia's international motivations.

Read the full article at Foreign Policy. This article is adapted from the author's book, "Black Wind, White Snow: The Rise of Russia's New Nationalism."


Charles Clover

Charles Clover is the China correspondent and former Moscow bureau chief for the Financial Times. 

Photo by Jaakola Nestori in archive of the City Museum of Helsinki shared under a CC BY 4.0 license.