OBITUARIES:Donovan Brown

Donovan Brown was the archetypal Communist romantic. Through a series of chance encounters he became involved with socialist ideals which took him by way of Ruskin College, Oxford, to the Soviet Union, whence his career took off as a journalist; at the same time he was gentle, suave, debonair.

Born in 1907 in Barrow in Furness, where his father was a ship designer, he early joined the trade union movement. He was sent by the electrical trades union to study political science and history at Ruskin and in 1934 was selected for a visit to Moscow to celebrate the 17th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution. From the whole continent of Europe only he and a Norwegian student eventually arrived for the occasion.

In Moscow they were astonished to receive a visit from the famous General Karakhan who informed them that comrade Stalin wished to meet them. The two students were duly escorted to the Kremlin. The ruler of all the Russias complained jokingly at their inability to converse in Russian. When Brown expressed his belief that English was a universal language Stalin pointed out that he was Georgian and had already had to learn two languages. He then invited the two students to attend a meeting at the Bolshoi theatre.

Returning to England fired with enthusiasm for the new Communism, Brown left Oxford for London, joined the Communist Party, and became a friend of Harry Pollitt. He gave lectures around London. In the late 1930s he became involved in street clashes with Oswald Mosley's Nazi party; after one encounter he and Mosley were lodged in adjacent cells for a week or more at Brixton prison.

During the Second World War Brown was involved with the journal Russia Today and eventually became its editor. George Bernard Shaw and Prince Vladimir Obolensky were contributors. He was also secretary of a Friendship with the Red Army Committee chaired by Clementine Churchill. It was probably the peak of his career.

Post-war shocks besmirched the purity of Brown's ideals. Soviet aggression was rampant, the Cold War, the Berlin wall were blatant signals of Soviet imperialism. Yet he clung to the cultured aspects of the regime. He treasured the discipline, education and cleanliness of Soviet life. He took a post as a sub- editor with Soviet Weekly, a propaganda journal published from Kensington, and remained there until the fall of Communism and the closure of the paper.

At the age of 69 Brown married in Moscow, as his third wife, Nadia Miroshnichenko, Ukrainian by birth. She was a secretary in the Soviet News Agency. He never learnt to speak Russian, she spoke no English, but he brought her to England and in true romantic style they lived in a houseboat moored on Chelsea Reach. They spent summers in Moscow and winters in London.

Donovan Brown, journalist: born Barrow in Furness 25 February 1907; married three times (two daughters); died London 26 March 1995.

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