The Need for a Sovereign Language

Alexander Dugin gave this speech on October 26, 2022, at the Federation Council, where a round-table discussion was held on the topic, “Countering Hostile Narratives in the Information, Cultural and Educational Environment.”

When we talk about narrative, it is a philosophical category that must first be understood, because the notion of narrative is a particular element of postmodern philosophy, which is built on structural linguistics, on structuralism, on Ferdinand de Saussure, the structural linguist who separated discourse and language. This is very important.

What is language? Language is all rules. We don’t speak, we use language; but language never speaks itself. It’s in dictionaries, in syntax—it’s on the level of paradigm; and a narrative, or discourse, is what’s built around language—its vocabulary, its syntax, its laws.

There is an infinite number of narratives. Language is one.

When we talk about spiritual, cultural, civilizational sovereignty—and this is what President Vladimir Putin talks about in his addresses—this becomes more and more relevant every day. We are not talking about narratives of sovereignty—but about a sovereign language, in which billions of narratives of sovereignty can be expressed.

If language is sovereign, then discourse will be sovereign. By using the liberal, globalist, Western European language, it is possible to formulate a sovereign Russian discourse, or two, or three, or ten, in that language. But this is for immediate tasks, for import-substitution within the narrative, in the very short term. And here it matters whether and for how long we say goodbye to the collective West. Or do we want to go back to this global language by letting the smokescreen of sovereign narratives lift for a bit?

I think that’s what the elite want to do—talk for a while and then back off, saying, “Okay, we’ll accept your language and globalism; but not like this—give us a place in it.” It’s doomed, not because we’re ready and they’re not.

We have been cut out, sawed off completely from the West. And we will only be taken back into this West—and only to speak their language—after we have been pushed back to the final margins, so that we say, “We give up.” Our defeat will be a condition of taking us back into that language. Because whether we want it or not, whether we understand it or not, we are doomed to develop a sovereign language. That is, Russia is an independent civilization. It is not part of the Western civilization. It does not resemble others either—neither the Oriental, nor the Chinese, nor the Islamic. But it is as equal as Western or Chinese civilizations. This roughly outlines the structure of our sovereign language, not our narrative of sovereignty.

If we speak this language, everything we say is sovereign. And what a narrative means in this sense is not just a narrator talking on television, not just the structure of education, not just the expert community that will be forced to speak this sovereign language—it is also our science; it is our humanities science today and natural science tomorrow. Because natural science, as the greatest scientists know, such as Schrodinger, Heisenberg, is also a language, in the view of natural science.

So, we need a civilizational language. But our own civilizational language. We do not yet speak it. We do not know it. We now speak “pidgin English,” which is the basis of our terminology, our experts, our iPhones, our technology in our rockets—it is “pidgin English.” That is, even if these technologies are in Russia, the structure of these processors and codes is, alas, taken from a different paradigm.

This is a huge challenge that we face. This task is beginning to be recognized by our authorities.

Interestingly enough, the people are ready, much more than the elite. The people simply do not deeply grasp the impulses that come from above. If they are told “communism,” they think something of their own. If they are told “liberalism,” they think something of their own. If they are told “patriotism,” they think something of their own—which means that they have not gotten used to these narrative games as deeply as the elite have; whereas the elite, once they are told to go West, off they go.

So, the question of language change is actually for the elite.

In order to make a system of sovereign narratives, the parameters of this sovereign language must be established. What are those parameters? We (Russia) have a very different conception of the human being. In every culture, in every language, there is a “man.” There is the Islamic man, there is the Chinese man, and the Western European man who is that post-gendered man who is transitioning into artificial intelligence, into a mutant, into a cyborg—a beacon of transformation and liberation. The Western European man frees himself from all forms of collective identity—this is his goal, his task: to stop having religion, nation, community, gender, and then tomorrow, belonging to the “human race.” Such is the program of the West-European language.

The Chinese have it differently, in general. In the Islamic tradition, too, where it is the relationship of the individual to Allah, and the Islamic man does not understand everything else as freedom or as a person—it is a very different anthropology in that entire billion-dollar Islamic world. The Islamic man may formally agree with some Western models, but in reality, he either does not understand or he reinterprets, because he has his own language—it is very deeply rooted in him. We continue to promote it in the Volga region and in the North Caucasus. So, the Islamic man is immune to the West. India, Africa, Latin America have their own “man,” too.

We need a conception of the “Russian man,” a substantiation of the “Russian man.” And this is Dostoevsky, this is our philosophy, this is Florensky, this is the Slavophiles, this is Solovyov, this is also Berdyaev. But the Russian man, first of all, of course, is a sobornyi (a collective man)—this is the most important thing. Not the individual. For us, man is family, clan, nation, relationship with God, personality. Not an individual, but a personality.

This is where our presence at the European Court of Human Rights ends, because we have a divergence regarding the basic concept of the human being. For the European Court of Human Rights and the liberal Western ideology of human rights, there is only the individual. For us it is not so, in terms of sovereign language.

Can you imagine how human science (that is, the humanities disciplines) changes after we change the basic component? For everything now is different; and there will be the necessity of rewriting all textbooks of sociology, anthropology, political science, psychology in the Russian manner.

Yes, we had our philosophy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to do this. But we need to form an idea of the Russian man who will be different from the rest, and immediately a different language.

The second thing is the idea of the world. This is the most difficult thing. We think that the natural sciences are universal. Not at all; they are Western-centered. This cosmos we are dealing with has been introduced and integrated into our consciousness, beginning with the New Age in the West, ignoring all other pictures of the world.

The Russian cosmos is similar to the medieval European cosmos—and completely unlike the modern West. The Russian cosmos is different, starting even with Feodorov or Tsiolkovsky. Our research is the most interesting and avant-garde in the natural science disciplines, having been based on fundamentally different intuitions about the structure of reality.

If in the humanities we take our philosophical tradition, and throw out everything liberal, all liberal language, and put the Russian man in the center, we get a new language. And in the physical sciences, this task is much more difficult. Here we are just at the beginning; and we have a great deal of work ahead of us.

And, of course, the action is the verb. If we talk about language, we have a completely different understanding of action than the Western European tradition. It is more of an Aristotelian praxis than a techné. It is Sergei Bulgakov’s philosophy of the common cause, because Russians don’t do things the way everyone else does. The Aristotelian notion that praxis is the result of the free creativity of the master and not the technical execution of someone else’s commission suits us. This is the main idea of the philosophy of the economy, which means that our economy is also different. So, we have a different science and a different praxis. It means we have an ethical dimension in action, not a pragmatic utilitarian, optimistic one; i.e., we do something for an ethical purpose. That is, we do, because, it is good—to make it better, more beautiful, to make it fairer.

Changing the narrative in the face of the fundamental challenges our country faces will be impossible without changing the language.

Alexander Dugin is a widely-known and influential Russian philosopher. His most famous work is The Fourth Political Theory (a book banned by major book retailers), in which he proposes a new polity, one that transcends liberal democracy, Marxism and fascism. He has also introduced and developed the idea of Eurasianism, rooted in traditionalism. This article appears through the kind courtesy of Actual Comment.

Featured: “Easter Table,” by Mikhail Shankov; painted in 2005.