Obituary: Ivan Bilibin

Ivan Bilibin, journalist, speech writer, political adviser: born St Petersburg 26 December 1908; radio journalist, BBC Monitoring Service 1941-73; married Jean Stevenson; died Reading 9 August 1993.

IVAN BILIBIN worked for more than 30 years for the BBC Radio Monitoring Service and was for over 40 years a speech writer and political adviser to the late Grand Duke Vladimir Romanov, the would-be Tsar of Russia.

Bilibin was born in St Petersburg in 1908, the elder son of the prominent artist Ivan Yakovlevich Bilibin, a member of the Mir Ikusstva, Diaghilev's World of Art group, and an Irish mother, Mary Chambers. He was four when his parents divorced. He arrived in London with his mother and brother on a holiday in January 1917 and they became stateless emigres following the February revolution. Ivan Bilibin remembered how 'I went down to pick up a newspaper at the reception of the National Hotel, in Bedford Square, and saw the headline 'Tsar has abdicated', rushed to my room and shouted, 'Mother, Alexei is Tsar.' The young tsarevich, Alexei, was then my hero.'

Bilibin was educated at St Paul's School, in west London, and at St John's College, Oxford. In 1927 he joined the Mladorossy party a movement of young scions of the Russian aristocracy, led by Alexander Kazem- bek, who wanted to unite revolutionary achievement with historic tradition. Their motto was 'Tsar and Soviets'. The chairman of the Supreme Council of the party was Grand Duke Dimitry Pavlovich who, with Prince Felix Yusupov, had been one of the two principal conspirators in the murder of Rasputin in 1916. Grand Duke Dimitry and Bilibin became friends and it was Dimitry who in 1936 introduced Bilibin to Lord Beaverbrook, who invited Bilibin to join his monitoring service at Cherkeley Court for the Daily Express, where Bilibin worked until 1938 when the station was closed. In 1941 Bilibin joined the Monitoring Sevice of the BBC as a Russian linguist, and stayed with it until 1973. There he met his wife, Jean Stevenson, who also worked at the Monitoring Service. He was on duty on 21 June 1941, when Stalin delivered his famous speech 'Brothers and sisters . . .', when the Germans invaded the Soviet Union.

Bilibin met Grand Duke Vladimir in 1950 and remained close to him until his death in April 1992. He became head of his chancellery and his speech writer and political adviser. From the 1960s to the 1980s he contributed to two monarchist publications, Vozrozhdenie (Renaissance), published in Paris and financed by Abram Gukasov, the Armenian oil millionaire, and the Constantian, published in Pittsburgh. 'I was a monarchist from birth,' Bilibin used often to say. Bilibin wrote Grand Duke Vladimir's 'Address to my Compatriots', which appeared in Boris Yeltsin's newspaper Russia, in Moscow, in January 1991, the first ever such 'address' to be published in the Soviet Union since the murder of the Russian Imperial family in July 1918.

Twice last year Bilibin made return visits to his native St Petersburg and was deeply moved by the experience.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • 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 People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, - 1 Year contract

£50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: HR Manager Shared Services - Uxbridge, Stock...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Human Resource Officer and Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join one of...

Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events business) - Central Manchester - £20K

£18000 - £20000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Assistant (Events busi...

Recruitment Genius: Project Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This privately-owned company designs and manuf...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence