UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)


Sir John Birch, KCVO, CMG (24 May 1935 – 6 May 2020)

13 May 2020

Sir John Birch

The School is sad to announce the death on 6 May 2020 of Sir John Birch, former Chair of the SSEES Advisory Board and a friend of SSEES for a very long time. 

Before the School became a part of UCL in 1999, John was an elected member of the SSEES Council, which then became the SSEES Advisory Board. After some time, John became a Chair of the Board. His overarching mission was to protect the unique identity of the School as a premier centre for the study of Eastern Europe. He saw the Advisory Board as an active interface between the School and the outside world. Together with other members of the Board, John highly contributed to the work of CEELBAS CDT (Centre for Doctoral Training in Russian, Slavonic & East European languages and culture). 

John’s experience in the diplomatic corps had a great impact on the School. He spent time in the British Embassy in Bucharest and Budapest, where he returned in 1989 after he was appointed the Ambassador to Hungary. He was always personally committed to the principles underpinning European integration, although never uncritical of its shortcoming, and so he joined the UCL European Institute Advisory Board in autumn 2013 and took over as Chair a year later. 

We will miss seeing Sir John at our events. As an expert on Eastern Europe, listening to his advice was always helpful and welcomed not just by our staff, but also students. Mere weeks after being diagnosed with cancer, John passed away peacefully in his sleep at the age of 84.

You can read an obituary in The Telegraph and the announcement by the UCL European Institute.