George Miller-Kurakin: Anti-communist campaigner who inspired Conservative activists during the Cold War

Intellectual and visionary, liberal and anti-Communist, George Miller inspired a generation of Conservative activists in the 1980s, when the Soviet Union seemed impregnable. His operations were so extensive that few of his associates knew the full picture.

He created the Russian Research Foundation and its Soviet Labour Review. He was a researcher and adviser to Anglo-American think-tanks, including the Institute for European Defence and Strategic Studies and the Adam Smith Institute. Later he worked with Anatoly Chubais, the Russian privatisation minister, while Yeltsin's reformers briefly held sway.

For Miller the demise of Soviet Communism was an absolute certainty, provided that the West remained strong. His vision was tempered with patience and humour. He would liken the regime to an elephant, repeatedly stung between the eyes by a mosquito. The insect would be brushed aside time and again – yet, one day, without warning, the elephant would roll over, stone dead, with its feet in the air. Miller lived to see it happen; indeed, he helped to make it happen.

George Miller was born in Santiago in 1955. His father Boris, an engineer, had migrated from Serbia where his own father, a White Russian émigré, had been murdered by a political gang in front of the family. In Chile Boris met and married Kira Kurakin, of the celebrated St Petersburg family, and in 1959 the family moved to Frankfurt to work full-time for the counter-revolutionary National Alliance of Russian Solidarists. Boris then became its representative in London.

The young George attended Bromley grammar school, Queen Mary College and Essex University – from which he graduated with an MA in Soviet Government and Politics in 1979. The Miller-Kurakin family were committed democrats, and it was as a member of the Young Liberals that Miller accepted an invitation to speak to a conference in Valencia about Soviet violation of the Helsinki Accords.

The European Democrat Students, a federation of Conservative student movements, heard him describe how human rights could be used as a lever to destabilise Communist dictatorships. His effect on the audience was electric. As radicals for change in their own countries, they were captivated by Miller's vision of a democratic Russia. Charismatic, pragmatic and persuasive, he signed them up to his cause. The result was East European Solidarity Youth (EESY), whose activists included the future MSP, Brian Monteith. Couriers carried uncensored mail and anti-Communist literature into Soviet Bloc countries and brought information out – a lifeline for hard-pressed dissidents. Periodically, the youngsters were caught and expelled, making good use of the resultant publicity.

"Before George, we made speeches to each other and took on the Left in students unions; but this was the real thing," one of them recently recalled. This was also the height of the second Cold War, with Solidarity yet to emerge and loosen the Soviet grip. Miller co-wrote a Bow Group paper entitled Prelude to Freedom, and leaflets in the name of his Association For A Free Russia were given to ministers, who looked on them with disdain. The establishment viewed the USSR as a permanent superpower. But Miller never doubted that the system was doomed.

Its downfall depended on Nato remaining strong; so, from 1981 until it passed its peak, Miller worked closely with opponents of Western unilateralism. When the tiny Moscow-based "Group for Establishing Trust between the USSR and the USA" was cited by some as evidence that a peace movement could be built behind the Iron Curtain, Miller sent Young Conservatives with anti-nuclear leaflets to test this on the Moscow metro. One was caught and kicked out in a blaze of publicity. Miller also arranged the visit to London of Oleg Popov, one of the group's advisers, who promptly told the media that, while support from CND and END was appreciated: "Unilateral disarmament is no answer. It is nonsense and potentially dangerous".

Miller never sought personal publicity, but never minded taking a lead. With the Coalition for Peace Through Security, he spent a year planning a lively reception for the 1986 Copenhagen "Peace Congress" – the first set-piece effort in a Nato country by the Soviet-controlled World Peace Council (WPC) since its abortive Sheffield Congress of November 1950.

The USSR spent a great deal of hard currency staging the Copenhagen event. It opened with Miller and two others unfolding a giant banner on the platform which declared: "This is the KGB's 'Peace' Congress". On the second day, pictures of him being roughly handled dominated the Danish press. On the final day, dozens of his activists (who had somehow acquired delegates' credentials) mounted a protest against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The ensuing mayhem achieved worldwide media coverage, throwing new light on the WPC's favourite catch-phrase – "The Fight for Peace".

Miller was both compassionate and courageous. Exploiting a distant Muslim family link, he entered Afghanistan to negotiate the release of captive Russian soldiers who had survived by converting to Islam. When others stood by, he was ready to act – saving a young woman who had slipped from a platform by hauling her to safety as a train moved off. He remained, above all, an inveterate optimist with a magnetic personality. A pillar of the Russian Orthodox Church, he was mystical, spiritual, selfless and humane. A hero of our times.

Julian Lewis

George Miller-Kurakin, anti-Soviet campaigner: born Santiago, Chile 25 April 1955; married 1986 Lilia Zielke (one son, one daughter); died London 23 October 2009.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Ben Little, right, is a Labour supporter while Jonathan Rogers supports the Green Party
general election 2015
News
The 91st Hakone Ekiden Qualifier at Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 2014
news
Life and Style
Former helicopter pilot Major Tim Peake will become the first UK astronaut in space for over 20 years
food + drinkNothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
News
Kim Wilde began gardening in the 1990s when she moved to the countryside
peopleThe singer is leading an appeal for the charity Thrive, which uses the therapy of horticulture
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates scoring a second for Arsenal against Reading
football
Life and Style
health
Voices
An easy-peel potato; Dave Hax has come up with an ingenious method in food preparation
voicesDave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
News
i100
News
Japan's population is projected to fall dramatically in the next 50 years (Wikimedia)
news
Life and Style
Buyers of secondhand cars are searching out shades last seen in cop show ‘The Sweeney’
motoringFlares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

£18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Day In a Page

NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

Let the propaganda wars begin - again

'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

Japan's incredible long-distance runners

Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

Tom Drury: The quiet American

His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

Beige to the future

Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own