Two decades after initially releasing his book, the author still holds the same biases regarding AIT without having come to terms with recent developments.
Koenraad Elst (°Leuven 1959) distinguished himself early on as eager to learn and to dissent. After a few hippie years, he studied at the KU Leuven, obtaining MA degrees in Sinology, Indology and Philosophy. After a research stay at Benares Hindu University, he did original fieldwork for a doctorate on Hindu nationalism, which he obtained magna cum laude in 1998. As an independent researcher, he earned laurels and ostracism with his findings on hot items like Islam, multiculturalism and the secular state, the roots of Indo-European, the Ayodhya temple/mosque dispute and Mahatma Gandhi's legacy. He also published on the interface of religion and politics, correlative cosmologies, the dark side of Buddhism, the reinvention of Hinduism, technical points of Indian and Chinese philosophies, various language policy issues, Maoism, the renewed relevance of Confucius in conservatism, the increasing Asian stamp on integrating world civilization, direct democracy, the defence of threatened freedoms, and the Belgian question. Regarding religion, he combines human sympathy with substantive skepticism.
The present publication is an English translation of Alain de Benoist’s book The Indo-Europeans. In Search of the Homeland, brought out by Arktos, London 2016. It has to be understood from the outset that the French original’s second and last edition dates from 1997, and no attempt has been made to provide an update. The most recent Indo-Europeanist trend discussed here is the briefly popular Anatolian Homeland Theory by Colin Renfrew, thoroughly refuted here and by now also gone out of fashion among professionals.
Out of India
Even more conspicuous by its absence is the Out-of-India theory (OIT). At this point, I declare my interest: the 2001 issue of de Benoist’s yearbook Nouvelle Ecole carried an article by myself presenting the Out-of-India Theory (OIT), a complete first for its readership. It was at once gainsaid (some would say “refuted”) in articles by leading Indo-Europeanist Jean Haudry and also by editor de Benoist himself. Of course, I don’t mind the expression of rival opinions, not even when they articulate the readership’s own sensibilities. But at least it is undeniable that since then, he knows about the OIT. Therefore adepts of the OIT, or more generally of any responsible search for the Homeland, may object with indignation that the OIT is passed over in silence in this book.
This criticism is misplaced, for there is a perfectly honourable explanation: this book dates back to 1997, when India as Homeland candidate did not figure in de Benoist’s horizon. If criticism is persisted in, it should be directed at the publisher, who chose to republish a book from a past stage of an ongoing debate without providing an update.
There is only passing mention of the (not yet thus called) OIT in its earlier European version, ca. 1800. It has only been called OIT since 1996, and many watchers of the Homeland debate have only gradually learned about it. Even then, they have mostly misunderstood it: while most Hindus reject a more westerly Homeland, it is not true that they therefore subscribe to what Westerners would consider its opposite scenario, viz. an emigration from India. Once you accept the linguistic kinship of Europe and India, you have to assume either an immigration into India or an emigration from India; but most Hindus have never fully interiorized this kinship.
Thus, most Indian archaeologists state authoritatively that the Harappan area shows no sign of an invasion of immigration that could be identified as IE or “Aryan”; but this doesn’t imply that they have explored or even just affirmed a reverse migration from India. Their horizon usually stops at the Khyber Pass and they have no notion of, nor interest in, what has happened in Central Asia and Europe. I find this situation deplorable, but something similar exists on the Western side, that stonewalls any Indian contribution to the debate.
The New Right
Alain de Benoist can rightfully be called the mastermind of the New Right, or in the French original, the Nouvelle Droite. This is a European continental phenomenon, to be distinguished from the Anglo-Saxon Thatcher-Reaganite New Right. The latter was anti-socialist, pro-capitalist, sceptical about communal identity issues, and in the US mostly Christian. The Nouvelle Droite, by contrast, is decidedly against Christianity (one of its icons is the late Lithuanian Indo-Europeanist Marija Gimbutas, much discussed here, who was cremated with Pagan rites), pro social security, against the ongoing post-socialist precarization, against the pursuit of “ever more” brought on by Capitalism (as contrasting with the “nothing in excess” of the Greek philosophers), against unlimited growth, against one-dimensional economic man with his “rugged individualism”.
What makes it “rightist” is its favouring of ethnic and communitarian identities against homogenizing globalism, and its scepticism of the Social Justice Warrior’s ideal of equality, favouring “differentialism” instead. What makes it “new” is that, as against the old monarchists and followers of a leader/dictator, it has nothing against democracy, often even favouring forms of direct democracy; and against the old nationalisms with their cramped emphasis on homogeneity, it favours European unity (official motto: “unity in diversity”) in a federal or confederal form, with ample space for regional identities.
A part of the Nouvelle Droite’s construction of the European identity is not to identify Europe with Christianity, as conservative Christians (and many non-Christian non-Europeans) do, but to bring in the somewhat older Indo-European (IE) identity. The Christian argument is that tribal Europe only became a self-conscious unit by acquiring a common Christian identity: the first time “Europe” (from Phoenician Ereb, “evening, west”, used by the Greeks for the lands west of the Aegean Sea, roughly greater Greece minus Ionia) got used in its present meaning, was in the reporting about the Frankish Christian victory against the Moorish invaders in the battle of Poitiers/Tours in 731. But the New-Rightists look deeper, at the IE cultures of most of Europe before Christianization was imposed.
This is a bit strange, because the oldest European language, Basque, is not part of the IE family; and even Basque is an immigrant language, or at least from the absolute rim of Europe, the Caucasus. This Northwest-Caucasian origin, dating back 8,000 years or so, has been demonstrated by the late Georges Dumézil, who otherwise remains a reference point for the Nouvelle Droite.
The Uralic languages (Finnish, Estonian, Hungarian, Sami/Lapponic, and a dozen more languages in Russia on both sides of the Ural mountains), similarly have immigrated, viz. from Central Asia. They are not IE either, but the settlement of their part of Europe happened in parallel with the great IE trek westwards. This reached the Atlantic coasts of Portugal, Ireland, and Iceland, but where exactly did it start?
The currently prevalent theory put this Homeland (or Urheimat) somewhere near the Volga river, again on the eastern rim of Europe, in what the Russians call the Yamna or Pit-grave culture, beyond 3,000 BCE. In the centuries after 3,000 BCE, this Yamna population spectacularly broke through Central Europe, leaving a deep archaeological and genetic footprint. Next it filled up or assimilated the remaining pockets of Western Europe, with some non-IE or “Old European” languages holding out in parts of Italy and Spain well into the Roman period, possibly in Scotland even beyond.
As for the Indo-Europeans, they too are immigrants. Either they came from India, as Europeans thought ca. 1800 and many Indians think today: or, according to the presently dominant position, they came from the rim of Europe, from Pontus, the area north of the Caspian and Black Seas. That is the mainstream hypothesis, but Alain de Benoist sets out to amend it slightly.
First he goes over the entire history of this debate, starting with Willian Jones’s famous 1786 speech before the Asiatic Society of Bengal. Or rather, starting earlier: though not having similar dramatic consequences, the announcement of a kinship between the Indian and European civilizations had already been made just years before the announcement of a linguistic kinship between India and Europe, by Voltaire, Immanuel Kant, Johann Herder and others. Insufficient attention is paid to the little-known fact that in the first decades, the Out-of-India Theory was deemed natural in Europe.
Next, de Benoist gives a good factual overview of the march of IE linguistics, deemed to have started with the first book on Sanskrit grammar by Franz Bopp in 1816. He introduces the main episodes, such as the controversy since ca. 1870 between the Genealogical Tree model and the Wave model, which pay too little c.q. too much attention to the influence of neighbouring languages upon one other. This factual presentation of the history of the Indo-Europeanist discipline is certainly the greatest merit of the book for laymen.
Gradually, the linguistic distance between Sanskrit and the reconstructed ancestral language (Proto-Indo-European, PIE) was theorized to become bigger, and in proportion with this, the geographical distance between India and the putative Homeland. In much of the 19th century, Bactria remained a candidate, favoured e.g. by Friedrich Max Müller. From the 1920s onwards, the needle pointed more and more stably to Southwestern Russia. But before that, it had pointed to most regions west of India, including the Balkans, the Baltics, Germany, Scandinavia, Belarus, and even Atlantis. In the 1990s, Anatolia was also briefly in favour, but the consensus among Western Indo-Europeanists reverted to the East-European steppe lands. To explain the language family’s actual presence in India, the only explanation was the Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT). This is assumed here, though without any ado because it is not deemed to be the object of controversy. The only controversy is between different Homelands in Europe: East or Central.
The point of this book, except for giving an overview of the Homeland debate’s different phases, is to reopen the debate and relocate the Homeland more to the West, in Central Europe. This way, the IE-speaking tribes no longer carry the “odium” of being immigrants, interlopers into an earlier but long-disappeared Old-European culture. Instead, they become the undisputed core of Europe, the real native Europeans. To anchor the language family even deeper in Europe, the stage of Proto-Indo-European unity is pushed back beyond the Neolithic to the end of the Ice Age in the Mesolithic (more than 10,000 years ago, rather than the usually assumed 6,000), all on the strength of already existing hypotheses by legitimate scholars. This would satisfy the Nouvelle Droite’s identity project, viz. with IE as the backbone of Europe.
In 1997, one could still, narrowly, plead ignorance about the revived OIT. But to republish the book two decades later as if nothing had happened in this eventful period is a bit bizarre. It is but an extreme of an attitude common among Indo-Europeanists, viz. to stonewall any arguments for the OIT and ignore it as not worth mentioning.
The book’s frontpage sports an imaginative action picture of Ötzi, the 5500-year-old “Iceman” found in the melted ice of the Ötztal in South Tirol. He has become something of a mascot of the Euro-Nationalists. Back then it was not known yet, but today we know that he constitutes a formidable pointer to Indian origins.
Prof. Subhash Kak (“Was the Indian Sub-Continent the Original Genetic Homeland of the Europeans?”, Swarajya, 16 Jan. 2016) reports:
“Researchers at the European Academy of Bolzano (EURAC) (…) picked on the stomach bacterium ‘Helicobacter pylori’, which is found in all human populations, with two major strains that are Asian and African. The modern Europeans have ‘H. pylori’ that is a hybrid between Asian and African bacteria. In research published in the 8 January, 2016 issue of the Science Magazine, the EURAC authors announced that the Iceman’s stomach has ‘H. pylori’ that is of Indian origin (but now extinct) and not related to the hybrid variety of the modern European ‘admixture’. This means that Indians as migrants were present in Europe in 3300 BC.”
For good measure, he extends this suspicion of an Indian origin to another European icon:
“The Gundestrup cauldron found in a peat bog in Denmark and estimated to have been made about 2000 years ago has images of Indian deities on it (including, most strikingly, that of a goddess worshiped by two elephants, Gajalakshmi), and thus may have been done by craftsmen of Indian origin, perhaps in Thrace. Trade between India and the West has been traced back to the third millennium BC. Such continuing interaction must have led to diffusion of art and culture.”
Euro-nationalists are, even more than most academic Indo-Europeanists, blind to the input from India. De Benoist has later informed himself a little about this Indian element, but many of his followers still stonewall this information. And even he was ignorant of it back in 1997, a moment in time perpetuated by the present book.