Liberating Berdyaev’s New Middle Ages from Duginism

Published on: May 29, 2024
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Berdyaev and Dugin
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In a short piece published recently, the controversial Russian thinker Alexander Dugin celebrates the Russian “Year of the Family” (2024) by approaching the idea of the “New Middle Ages” in a way that clearly serves the natalist concerns of the current Russian regime, whereby he underscores the significance of the central value of the family for the Russian society. In fact, it appears that his whole concept of the “New Middle Ages” nothing but a new project of social engineering that revolves around a state-led pro-natalist agenda. The conception is, no doubt, in no way peculiar to Dugin, as it is today pivotal for many currents in contemporary Christian and non-Christian thought and activism. But, with Dugin, it takes a distinctively special tone by alluding to the Russian existentialist philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev. Dugin concludes his fragment by asserting that “everyone knows that Berdyaev spoke of the ‘New Middle Ages.’ But few understand just how wonderful that is.”[1] 

It is not clear if Dugin means by this statement that he draws on Berdyaev’s conception, or that he only wants to remind his readers of the existence of such an idea. But emphasizing the “wonderfulness” of this idea only the few appreciate indicates that Dugin considers his depiction and future hopes as a legitimate unfoldment of Berdyaev’s The New Middle Ages after exactly 100 years of publishing it.

Admittedly, the very idea of returning to the countryside is not bad by default. However, one does not have to be extensively well-versed in Berdyaev’s philosophy to discover that Dugin’s national-scaled idea is far-off from Berdyaev’s. Dugin has in mind “strengthening the state ideology” and “returning to the land,” where families should maintain some sort of rural life based on largely home-based jobs and on an obviously state-engineered type of regularly relocating of groups of people to sustain the industrial and technological compounds all over the country. Once could ask here about the relationship between the “state ideology” and this “returning to the land.” For Dugin, the reconnection with the roots “entails initiating a widespread relocation from megacities to rural areas and implementing a government program to restructure living arrangements in villages, suburbs, and small settlements.” This quite well reminds of the gulag, doesn’t it? It seems to be a modernized version of the infamous project, where groups and individual persons do not virtually possess any kind of self-determination, and perhaps brutalized if the state discovered that they do not follow “the state ideology” or are not interested in any “wonderful” relocations!

This visualization of the future “New Middle Ages” has in fact nothing to do with Berdyaev’s thought. The divergence is multi-layered, for Berdyaev’s view of the family, to begin with, is quite skeptical, let alone his other views of the society, the nation, the state, and, consequently, any sort of “state ideology.” For example, Berdyaev used to assert that the collective authorities of the world, like nations, states, and even families, are indeed deprived from substances of their own and that they do not possess real personalities. Their reality is “secondary,” depending in their existence and being on human individual personalities who give them personality only in a metaphorical sense.[2] He is even willing to reach to where he attributes personalities to dogs and cats rather than to societies, nations, states, and so forth.[3] Berdyaev also appears to be very skeptical of the concept of the narod (people, or nation, among other possible renditions)—a term very dear to Dugin’s heart and philosophical project—as he rejects decisively what he calls the bozhestvo-narod (people as a deity, or even the deity-people), dubbing it a form of slavery and hypnosis, resulting from an erroneous idea, that is, the idea of sovereignty (suverenitet), whereby Berdyaev even goes to say that “sovereignty is hypnosis.”[4] This is definitely nothing like Dugin. Nor can chapter 9 of Berdyaev’s The Meaning of the Creative Act offer any service to Dugin’s version of the “New Middle Ages,” where Berdyaev asserts, in extremely controversial terms, that the genuine “Christian” family, which is a “racial institute” that the New Testament overcomes, is as impossible as a “Christian” state, and that Theophan the Reculse’s teaching on the good Christian family makes him a good “bourgeois” and even a successful husbandman “in the world.”[5]

All this makes Dugin’s conception of the “New Middle Ages” far from Berdyaev’s teachings in general. It is true that the teachings of both Dugin and Berdyaev have apparently some common grounds to start a dialogue, but the spirit that moves the two projects is quite different. In his New Middle Ages (1924), Berdyaev predicts—without any kind of lamentation anyway—the end of democracy accompanied by a repudiation of the idea of “progress,” but this attitude does not stand out in the name of patriotism, nationalism or some new “state ideology.”[6]

Berdyaev’s conception is somewhat innovative and open-ended and is primarily a prophetic work rather than political manifesto. It is inspired partly at least by what can be deemed a non-revolutionary, quasi-syndicalist, anarchist stance that attempts at combining hierarchy with “social radicalism.”[7] Significantly, it has nothing to do with any collective pre-Christian, or neo-pagan post-Christian, type of “ethnos” worship. 

In Dugin’s model of life, the individual personality is shunned as a Western insinuation into Russian philosophy and thinking—(Russian) personality is considered by him as being only “with the narod” (“s narodom”).[8] From such a perspective, the human being’s ultimate connection does not, cannot, or must not, transcend the earthly here-and-now, or even the state’s, realm. But this shunned human “personality,” that arguably transcends all collective definitions and is connected primarily to the divine world, possessing a creative license that approves newness—this human personality is in fact the foundation and the core of Berdyaev’s philosophy. Dugin’s conception of collective existence in the anticipated “New Middle Ages” wildly surpasses Berdyaev’s emphasis on the sobornost’. It is much more than a Christian model of unity in love that does not stand higher than the human individual personality but abides in it as love and inspiration.[9]

To be fair, there is nothing wrong with celebrating and supporting families or with calling for a renewed interest in the countryside and a healthy lifestyle closer to nature. The problem with calls like Dugin’s is that it tries to distort old philosophical and theological ideas, names of theologians and philosophers, and prophetic contemplations to imbue contemporary “state ideologies” and massive social engineering proposals, that refuses to recognize the human personality, with legitimacy and with the appearance of deep spirituality for a future full of hope.

[1] Alexander Dugin, “Forward to the New Middle Ages!,” Arktos, published on January 31, 2024, accessed on March 9, 2024.

[2] Nicolas Berdyaev, The Beginning and the End, trans. R. M. French, 2nd ed. (San Rafael, CA: Semantron Press, 2009), 154.

[3] Nikolai Berdiaev, O rabstve i svobode cheloveka: opyt personalisticheskoi filosofii (Parizh: YMCA Press, 1939. ]reproduced from[ Tsarstvo Dukha i tsarstvo kesaria (Moskva: Respublika, 1995)), 1.1.

[4] Nicolas Berdyaev, Slavery and Freedom, trans. R. M. French (Naples: Albatross Publishers, 2019); Berdiaev, O rabstve i svobode cheloveka, 3.1.a.

[5] Nicolas Berdyaev, The Meaning of the Creative Act, trans. Donald A. Lowrie, 2nd ed. (San Rafael, CA: Semantron Press, 2009), 210, 211.

[6] Nikolai Berdiaev, Novoe srednevekov’e: razmyshlenie o sud’be Rossii (Moskva: T8Rugram, 2018), 46, 49.

[7] Berdiaev, Novoe Srednevekov’e, 45–6.

[8] A. G. Dugin, Martin Khaidegger: vozmozhnost’ russkoi filosofii (Moskva: Akademicheskii proekt; Al’ma Mater, 2010 ]2011[).

[9] See Berdyaev, The Beginning and the End, 131.

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About author

  • Fadi Abu-Deeb

    Fadi Abu-Deeb

    PhD Candidate at ETF Leuven

    Fadi Abu-Deeb is a PhD candidate at ETF Leuven, Belgium. He specializes in the religious philosophies of V. S. Solovyov and N. A. Berdyaev, focusing on concepts like personhood and sobornost and the relationship between the individual and the collective. He is also lecturer in the department of A...

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Public Orthodoxy seeks to promote conversation by providing a forum for diverse perspectives on contemporary issues related to Orthodox Christianity. The positions expressed in the articles on this website are solely the author’s and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors or the Orthodox Christian Studies Center.


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