UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Prof Michael A. Branch Memorial Lecture

06 February 2020, 5:00 pm–7:00 pm

Bear_Kirby lecture

The Elephant & Finland: A Cold War Tale by Professor David Kirby

Event Information

Open to





Barbora Posluch


Room 347
16 Taviton Street
United Kingdom

The School was sad to announce the death on 17 June 2019 of Michael Branch, Director of SSEES from 1980 to 2001 and Professor of Finnish. Michael’s association with the School lasted for more than 40 years, from his arrival as an undergraduate in 1959 to his retirement in 2001 after he had secured the School’s new place in UCL. His academic achievements as a scholar of Finnish were matched by his many achievements as Director, during which he steered the School successfully through a period of remarkable change both institutionally and in its region of study. You can read an obituary to the late Professor Branch here

Please note, the lecture will take place in room 347, followed by a reception in the Masaryk Senior Common Room. 

Michael Branch

A message from Professor David Kirby:

I first met Michael in 1969 in the newly-formed Finnish Research Group, a gathering of young scholars working on Finnish-related research topics in Britain.  Under the benevolent and hospitable guidance of Professor Bill Mead, and with active support and encouragement from the cultural attachés of the Finnish embassy, we met regularly to read and listen to research papers by members of the group and visiting academics.  Michael and I also worked together at SSEES for more than three decades, launching an undergraduate degree course in Finnish and seeking to build up the strengths of the institution, a labour of love for Michael, and his lasting achievement.

We also shared an interest in bears, those honey-pawed beasts that loom large in Finnish folklore, and whose attentive representative listening to Väinämöinen playing his lyre was immortalised in stone by the sculptor Erik Cainberg.

My talk this evening will say something about the Finnish Research Group and the historic context in which it came into being.  The core of the lecture will be the contribution of the outsider to the history of another nation.  And I hope to say something about that strangely-neglected research topic, the elephant and Finland.



About the Speaker

Professor David Kirby

Emeritus Professor of Modern European History at UCL SSEES

David Kirby