I watched Close to Eden, or Urga as it also is known, a 1991 movie by the Russian film director Nikita Mikhalkov. The film shows amazingly beautiful images of the steppes, the life of a family of nomads, and it very leisurely walks us through their everyday routines. A Russian truck driver shows up to provide some drama and much comic relief, and Genghis Khan makes an appearance to warn the family about the dangers of abandoning its traditional ways of life. Roger Ebert concluded that it is the kind of movie
that has no reason for existence, except to keep the viewer bemused. It does that with such sly charm that when it’s over, you don’t even think to ask why it was made. You’re simply pleased that it was.
Much as I respect Roger Ebert, he could not be more wrong. Nikita Michalkov is the most powerful man in the Russian movie industry and a strong supporter of President Putin. Far from being politically innocent, the film has a strong Eurasianist message. According to Eurasianists like Lev Gumilev, the Russians are more influenced by the Mongols than by the Europeans. In fact, the Mongol invasion of Russia never happened. Instead the Mongols intervened in order to defend Russia against the incursions by aggressive knight templars working for the Catholic church. It is by identifying with its Mongol past that Russia will become strong again and learn to stand up to the West. Compare Putin’s project for a Eurasian Economic Community. This EEC is not a recreation of the Soviet Union as much as a Golden Horde for the 21st century.