Vol. 3, No. 11 (June 01, 2010)

Eurasianism and its implications for Azerbaijan

Farhad Aliyev, PhD 

Eurasianism as theory and practice is an increasingly important component of Russian modern political discourse.  Not surprisingly, Azerbaijanis have been both attracted and repelled by aspects of this ideology and its potential application in the post-Soviet space.  Given the diversity of ideas and programs that exist under the rubric “Eurasian,” of course, it is impossible to predict with precision the consequences of the strengthening of Eurasian trends in Russia for Azerbaijan, but given the attention this set of ideas is receiving in Russia, Azerbaijanis cannot afford to ignore it.

That situation is further complicated by the fact that many in Moscow invoke Eurasian ideas to justify a neo-imperialist policy.  Given that Azerbaijan is a segment of the South Caucasus sub-region, it thus lies within a zone of discontinuity from the point of view of both Eurasians and their opponents.  That is, the country can be seen as properly part of Eurasia or as just outside it.  Nevertheless, today Azerbaijan is increasingly discussed by adherents of integration in post-Soviet area as a part of Eurasia, especially after the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.

In addition, when analyzing the situation of Azerbaijan relative to Russia, one must not ignore the historical background, that is, the experience of continuing coexistence and the social and cultural ties between the countries even now.  All this allows to a well-known degree some certainty in speaking about the attachment of Azerbaijan more to the Eurasian geopolitical space with all its cultural-civilizational consequences than to the European or any other, including Turkic space with which it is more often grouped. [1] From this, we can conclude that Azerbaijan, being in the zone of interests and the immediate influence of Russia cannot fail to be considered as a segment of the Eurasian geopolitical space.

An official acceptance of Eurasianism by the Russian government would increase the integrative trends on the post-Soviet space with all ensuring consequences.  That does not point to an instantaneous loss of sovereignty by Azerbaijan or other former Soviet republics.  Instead, it could mean in its most probable first step the inclusion of Azerbaijan into “a single Eurasian economic space,” which would take the form of a broadened “Tariff Union.” In a more distant perspective, it is possible to imagine that this would lead to a common currency area and even other deeper and stronger forms of integration.

Eurasianism as an integrative doctrine is the fruit of the intellectual efforts of Russian investigators and consequently cannot fail to be at the center of discussions of Russia as it seeks to be the focus of all integration processes in Eurasia.  (Without going into details, one should nonetheless note that the Eurasia about which the classical figures of the doctrine wrote nearly a century ago corresponds with the borders of the former USSR.  Thus, the current post-Soviet space is itself the Eurasia of the Eurasians, as distinguished from the generally accepted definition of geographers). 

One must also keep in mind that as an addition to the key aspects of the doctrine of Eurasianism familiar to most, there is the Eurasian concept of “place of development,” the region, in the broadest sense of the word, which includes landscape, climatic conditions, and the ethnos as the bearer of culture.  Such an addition is of course justified at least in many cases because the historical co-existence of various ethnic groups has left a unique impression on each of them to a large extent without any regard to the desire of particular individuals or groups within them.  Thus, for Eurasians, Eurasia is a unique place of development, and Azerbaijan, as a part of the South Caucasus, is a constituent element of that place.  Consequently, it cannot fail to be drawn into integration processes in the framework of the latter.

If Russia becomes internally strong, something it is not today, then it can be a center of attraction for the states surrounding it, and Moscow will thus try to draw into its orbit “the peripheral ones” from the point of view of the Eurasian “center.” There are thus at least two possible scenarios for the future: Eurasianism (or ‘Eurasianism like doctrine’) becomes some kind of the state ideology of Russia and leads Moscow to pursue those integrative projects or Eurasianism remains a trend of thought but does not determine the direction of Russian policy in the post-Soviet area.

Theoretically, the strengthening of Eurasian attitudes in Russia and the internal strengthening of the country will almost inevitably influence the course of events on the entire post-Soviet space as a whole and on Azerbaijan in particular because it is obvious that the influence of the West under such a conjunction of circumstances will be reduced or at the very least will be contested by a “Eurasian” Russia which will do everything it can to eliminate Western influence in the Russian neighborhood.

According to Marlene Laruelle (2007, p. 13), “Eurasianism can play an important role in the future” because it already today competes with communism as a political force, especially if one takes into consideration that even the classics of the doctrine often positioned Eurasianism as communism without Marxism.  Consequently, many researchers now say that Eurasianism is in a position to fulfil the ideological vacuum in this region.  Besides, the majority of experts stress that the contemporary neo-Eurasian movement, headed by Alexander Dugin, is supported at least at the declarative level by the government and that suggests that the power structures in Russia have decided to bet on Eurasian ideas at least in the long term. 

In this connection, the author of these lines would like to note the following: It is impossible to reject the possibility of the implementation of certain ideas of Eurasianism in the future, especially as a means of cultural self-defense against the dominance of the West even if it is acknowledged that these ideas will be transformed in the course of that interaction.  However, it is important to recognize that the perspectives of the implementation of the Eurasian doctrine on the post-Soviet space will in the first instance depend on their vitality and elevation to the state level in Russia, a trend that is already in evidence as has been suggested here.

Geographically and historically, the territory of contemporary Russia has long been and is today a place of competition for the construction and demise of broader state formations, the last two of which were the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union.  One would not want to fall into the trap of geographic determination, but it is difficult not to agree that even today’s globalized world of high technologies and science exists in a geographic continuum, the impact of which makes itself felt on present geopolitical subjects almost as a Procrustean bed surviving from the past. 


[1] On September 29, 2009 the first session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Turkic Language countries took place in Baku and resulted in the Baku Declaration.  On October 2-3, 2009 in the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, the ninth summit of the heads of the Turkic Language countries occurred.  The only Turkic language country which did not participate in the work of that summit was Uzbekistan. 


Laruelle, Marlene. “The Orient in Russian Thought at the Turn of the Century”, in Shlapentokh, Dmitry, ed. (2007) Russia Between East and West: Scholarly Debates on Eurasianism (Leiden-Boston).