"Aleksandr Prokhanov (born 1938) is a prizewinning novelist and also, as editor of the weekly newspaper Zavtra, a leading figure in Russian ‘imperial patriotism’. Ever since 1991, when he signed (and reputedly wrote) the manifesto for the failed putsch against Mikhail Gorbachev, he has been an influential voice in Russian political culture—helping to turn the ‘irreconcilable opposition’ of the 1990s towards Empire, grappling with the difficult question of whether to endorse Vladimir Putin as a savior or expose him as a fraud, and promulgating a bewildering series of ‘conspiracy theories’ in which Russian and international affairs are explained in the most extravagant terms. He has also been a remarkably prolific writer, and the best of his novels are real works of literature, at once muck-raking and lyrical, with Moscow scandal interwoven so tightly with the mystical yearnings of ‘cosmism’ that the reader can hardly prise them apart. The same themes flow backwards and forwards between Prokhanov’s fiction and his non-fiction: World conspiracies, space exploration, the resurrection of the dead, Stalin as a supernatural redeemer—these and other preoccupations recur again and again in his leading articles as well as in his novels.
This book does not seek either to justify Prokhanov or to denounce him: It seeks to understand him as perhaps the most eminent representative of a school of thought that is here defined as ‘post-Soviet esotericism’. Esotericist ideas, some of them strikingly reminiscent of beliefs that flourished in the early Christian centuries, have acquired wide resonance in Russia since the collapse of the USSR. Post-Soviet esotericism thus represents a rare and valuable opportunity to examine a belief system of this nature in the process of its emergence. The book will be of interest to anyone concerned with modern Russian literature or politics, and also more broadly to descriptive logicians and students of negative esotericism.