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How Daria Dugina's death impacts security for Putin allies in Russia

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

In Russia today, a televised funeral for the woman killed by a car bomb in Moscow this past weekend. Her name was Daria Dugina. She was a Russian propagandist. She supported her country's invasion of Ukraine, both on TV and online. And her death is making global headlines, both for its violence and because of who her father is. Well, let's bring in Marlene Laruelle. She is director of the Institute for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies at George Washington University. Welcome.

KELLY: Thank you.

KELLY: All right. So let's talk about the father. His name is Alexander Dugin. He is a prominent far-right political philosopher whose thinking is believed to have influenced Vladimir Putin. What else should we know about him?

MARLENE LARUELLE: Well, first, I think we should question that first assessment. I think it's more complicated than that.

KELLY: OK.

LARUELLE: He was pretty famous in the '90s because he was one of the first one in Russia to formulate a kind of language, a political language, about Russia as a great power and Russia as an empire. But in the 2000s, he really lost some of his preeminence. There are many other ideologies who appeared who are much more influential on the regime's kind of strategy. And he has been pretty marginalized inside Russia. He's pretty - he's more famous broader than he's famous in Russia itself.

KELLY: What has he said, what has he written specifically about Russia and Ukraine?

LARUELLE: He has been very-anti Ukrainian ideology since the beginning. Already one of his most famous work in the mid-'90s, he was explaining that Ukraine doesn't exist as a state, as a nation, that it's a construction of the West as a kind of anti-Russia strategy organized by the West. 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 kind of big geopolitical vision for Russia as an empire. And he has always been very anti-Ukrainian to the point that Ukraine has forbidden him to enter on the Ukrainian territory already for like 15 years, like in the mid-2000s, he was already persona non grata in Ukraine.

KELLY: OK. So you're describing him as someone who has been very prominent, whose moment, at least in Russia, may have passed. Do we know how influential he has been on Vladimir Putin's thinking? Are these two men close?

LARUELLE: No. We even - I'm not 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 a small internet channel that is a far-right Orthodox channel. So he's not among the kind of the classic propagandist that I usually invited on talk show - his daughter was. And that's what is interesting is that his daughter was more mainstream in a sense than he was. And she was able to be invited in all of these very provocative talk shows. But he has been pretty marginal because his thinking is really not an easy one to follow. It's super kind of philosophical or religious. So it's not something that you can air on television very easily and get a big audience for that.

KELLY: Yeah. You said that his ideas may be more influential outside Russia than inside it these days. And I was looking and seeing he has followers in places like China, in Iran, followers in far-right circles in Europe. What is it that they find appealing?

LARUELLE: Yeah, absolutely. He's really a big name of the contemporary far-right thinking because he has been firstly speaking a lot of foreign languages. So he was able to read all the European far-right production to translate it in Russia and also to translate his own work in English, in French, in German, in Italian, in Arabic, in Iranian. So he has really been able to develop networks of international, transnational, far-right up to Latin America. He was able to articulate a narrative about a kind of new empire of conservative values against the so-called decadent West and liberal culture and so on. So it's really a narrative that has resonates with a lot of European thinkers among the far-right groups.

KELLY: I was following the reports on the memorial service for Daria Dugin, which, as we said, was today in Russia. Business leaders were there. Prominent politicians were there. What are you watching for in terms of how her death is used, to put it bluntly, whether it will be used as justification by Russia for further escalation in Ukraine?

LARUELLE: Yeah. I think her death will be used so first by the conservative ultra reactionary groups to kind of create a martyr of her. She was a young, good-looking woman, so that will help to create the myth of her martyrdom. And so I think that her death will be used globally at the second level, not only by these conservative circles, but also by the regime - not necessarily to put more pressure on Ukraine. I think they already are doing that, but also for kind of domestic repression, right? The regime will have to showcase that it can insert a terrorist act and that will probably mean higher repression.

KELLY: And it will have to answer these doubts over whether Moscow is safe, whether it is safe inside Russia.

LARUELLE: Absolutely. I think that's the key element that was not so much highlighted. The majority of Western discussion was about Dugin (inaudible). I think the message that the killing is sending, even if we cannot interpret exactly who did that and who was the target, that when you can have a terrorist act in Moscow now in the middle of the war, which means that elites are suddenly not feeling secure anymore - right? - the war is also progressively coming to them inside the Russian territory.

KELLY: Marlene Maruelle of George Washington University, thank you so much for joining us.

LARUELLE: Thank you so much for the invitation. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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.