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The professor and his prophecies Known for peddling wild conspiracy theories, Valery Solovey is now wrapped up in a felony hate speech investigation

Source: Meduza
Artyom Geodakyan / TASS

On Wednesday, February 16, law enforcement officers raided the Moscow home of political analyst Valery Solovey. Solovey and his son Pavel were then taken to the Russian Investigative Committee for questioning. As it turns out, Solovey is considered a witness in a criminal investigation into felony hate speech. Solovey and his son were released late Wednesday evening after being questioned. According to unofficial reports, the felony investigation is connected to an anonymous Telegram account called “SVR General” — allegedly, Solovey may have been involved in creating content for this channel, which regularly criticizes the Russian authorities. Meduza recounts how Valery Solovey, a former professor at Moscow’s prestigious MGIMO University, became an extravagant political commentator known for his colorful (and increasingly wild) conspiracy theories.

Valery Solovey was born in August 1960 in what was then the Ukrainian SSR. Today, his hometown of Shchastia is located on the line of contact between Kyiv-controlled territory and the self-proclaimed “Donetsk People’s Republic.” In 1983, he graduated from Moscow State University with a degree in history. He then continued along the smooth path of successful academic career: he entered graduate school, worked at the History Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Soviet Union, became a doctoral candidate, did an internship abroad in London, earned his PhD in history, sat on the editorial boards of academic journals, and finally joined MGIMO’s faculty. 

For a long time, Solovey’s interest in the topic of Russian nationalism was purely academic. His writing appeared in Geopolitika magazine alongside articles by fascist philosopher Alexander Dugin (Solovey also sat on the publication’s expert board). And he supervised the doctoral work of nationalist Vladimir Tor, whose dissertation defense provoked a scandal. Then, Valery Solovey went into politics. 

Against the backdrop of the large-scale protests in 2011–2012, which saw active participation from Russian nationalists, Solovey started his own political party called New Force. In June 2013, the Justice Ministry refused to register it and, three years later, Solovey told the press that New Force was “frozen” due to the “threat of reprisals.” 

Later, in 2017, Solovey joined Party of Growth leader Boris Titov’s campaign team as a consultant on ideology (Titov won less than one percent of the vote in the elections).

Solovey had a brush with the law in September 2020, when he was briefly detained after a “Day of Changes” rally that he organized (a Moscow court later fined him 20,000 rubles, or $260). A month later, he announced the launch of his own decentralized opposition movement. The movement’s street rallies began popping up regularly (despite being poorly attended), and one of them even landed Solovey a 10-day stint in jail. 

In the end, it wasn’t Solovey’s not-so-successful political activities that brought him fame. While he was still a professor in MGIMO’s Public Relations Department, he often made appearances in the media as a political commentator, and he became known for his bold predictions. (Solovey left MGIMO in 2019, claiming he was forced out for “political reasons”.) 

One of his most famous predictions that actually came true was the appointment of the little-known Anton Vayno as Putin’s chief of staff and of Vyacheslav Volodin as State Duma chairman. That said, the majority of Solovey’s “prophecies” (such as his regular predictions about an imminent change of government in Russia) haven’t come anywhere close to reality. 

Nevertheless, thanks to a few exceptionally successful hits, television and radio stations kept asking Solovey to appear on air. Gradually, his predictions and “inside scoops” came to increasingly resemble straight up fantasies — Solovey even declared himself a member of a powerful secret organization (naturally, he didn’t disclose its name).

With time, Solovey became more and more preoccupied with Vladimir Putin’s health, claiming that the Russian president has long been on the brink of death due to some terrible disease. In November 2020, for example, the British tabloid The Sun cited “Moscow political scientist Professor Valery Solovey” in an article claiming that Putin was preparing to step down due to supposed symptoms of Parkinson’s. The news circulated so widely in the Russian and international press that Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov had to refute it.

In addition, since 2019, Solovey has been building an audience through his own YouTube channel, where he uploads recordings of his media appearances and holds live streams. His streams feature interviews with a number of regular guests, the best known among them being the “SVR General,” whose anonymous Telegram channel Solovey often cites. Solovey addresses the purported former general as “Viktor Mikhailovich,” but his real identity remains a mystery. One widespread theory alleges that the “general” is really a Ukrainian lawyer by the name of Viktor Yermolayev, but in a comment to Meduza, Yermolayev refuted these claims. On February 16, the state-controlled news network RT reported that Valery Solovey was detained for questioning due content published on the SVR General Telegram channel that promoted “hatred towards government and law enforcement officials.” 

The “SVR General,” along with top specialist in occultism” Andrey Kosmach (another regular guest on Solovey’s YouTube channel), have long been key sources of the political analyst’s most outlandish stories. Such as, for example, Solovey’s claim that Putin had shamans perform a ritual killing of a black dog so that he could drink the animal’s sacrificial blood (in fact, Solovey has expressed concern over Putin’s purported involvement in shamanism and blood rites more than once.) 

read more about Valery Solovey

‘The emperor has no clothes’ Russian political scientist Valery Solovey says he lost his prestigious job in Moscow academia ‘for political reasons’

read more about Valery Solovey

‘The emperor has no clothes’ Russian political scientist Valery Solovey says he lost his prestigious job in Moscow academia ‘for political reasons’

Story by Alexey Kovalev

Translation by Eilish Hart

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