Prince Nikolai Trubetzkoy and his Theory of Eurasianism
On April 16th, 1890, Nikolai Sergeevich Trubetzkoy, the great Russian thinker, linguist, and founder of the ideological movement of Eurasianism, was born. Trubetzkoy’s main idea was that Russia is not simply a European country, as the Russian Westernizers insisted, but a particular, separate civilization, the Russian World. This is the most important point.
We are no less different from Europe than Iranians or Indians. Sure, we share common roots with Greco-Roman civilization, but this civilization underwent a schism that began in the 6th century when the Western Empire fell away from Byzantium and then disappeared under attack by Germanic tribes. Already back then, two identities formed: a Catholic identity in the West, and an Orthodox identity in the East. The two gradually drifted away from one another further and further until, in 1054, the Orthodox and Catholic worlds parted ways once and for all. We, Russians, adopted Christianity from Byzantium and have kept none other than this Eastern Christian tradition to this day.
After the fall of Constantinople to the Turks, we took over the Byzantine mission. This is not merely the mission of a country, Trubetzkoy asserted, but the pole of self-conscious and independent Orthodox civilization, its center. But the Slavophiles also recognized this. The innovation of Trubetzkoy and the other Eurasianists after him lies in that they added to this Byzantine religious and cultural heritage the Turko-Mongol component and drew attention to the fact that Russia’s expansion to the East precisely replicated the contours of Genghis Khan’s empire. We once again built this empire, only not from East to West as the Mongols did, but from West to East. This only strengthened Russia’s self-identity. Russians differed from the West religiously thanks to Byzantium, and geopolitically thanks to the Mongols and Turks, from whom we took the baton of ruling over the enormous space of Eurasia, this time Russian and Orthodox.
Trubetzkoy proposed this Eurasian idea for Russia, as an Orthodox and continental civilization, to lie at the heart of a new world view that was supposed to replace communism.
Trubetzkoy literally prophesied that communism would collapse insofar as it had no spiritual, religious dimension, no Christ at its head. But in order not to slide into the abyss of the West, which is an alien civilization to us, the Communist Party was to be replaced with the Eurasian Order.
According to Trubetzkoy and other Eurasianists, this Order was supposed to continue the course toward social justice and opposition to the West, but complete this ideology with an Orthodox, Byzantine dimension and put faith in Christ at the head. Trubetzkoy gave this a special term: ideocracy, or rule by idea.
Eurasianism was neither nationalism nor a mere restoration of the monarchy. Trubetzkoy called for appealing to the deepest essence of the Russian people and other fraternal peoples building the Great Empire together with it. The Eurasian elite was to become a new aristocracy serving God and the people. The Eurasianists named the West the main enemy, a complete antipode to our own civilization, or the main enemy of humanity as Trubetzkoy called it in his first programmatic book, Europe and Mankind. The message of his book boiled down to the need for humanity to save Europe, which was already rotting away by the beginning of the 20th century. And only the Russians had the strength to do this.
Only half of the prophecies of this great Eurasianist came true. The USSR collapsed as the wonderful idea of social justice was established without God and even against God. Instead of a Christian socialism, an anti-Christian socialism was built. And it collapsed. A Eurasian Order failed to be established and take over power from the communists. Instead, the worst enemies of Russia came to power – the liberals, a human enemy far worse than communists.
Now much is becoming clear. It is obvious that Trubetzkoy was right. We have proclaimed the construction of a Eurasian Union and we all the more clearly understand the true nature of the West. The second half of Trubetzkoy’s prophecy, the construction of a Eurasian Order, is, from the point of view of the Eurasianists, the meaning of the historical moment in which now we find ourselves.