Michael (or Mischa) Zvegintzov (henceforth MZ) was born on 31 July 1904 at Voroenej on the River Don in the province of Tsarist Russia of the same name. He came of a distinguished family and his father was an active member of the Octobrist (Liberal-Democratic) Party at the time of the first move from autocracy to a Parliamentary system of government by the election of the first Duma in 1904 which actually had only very limited powers. Illness prevented Zvegintzov senior from standing on that occasion but he was a member of the second, third and fourth Dumas, ultimately becoming President. He was killed on the Galician front in November 1915. The Bolshevik revolution of October 1917 and the family's Liberal politics made their position highly hazardous. Many members of the family, including MZ escaped to England via Finland and Sweden, and then endeavoured to start a new life in the difficult circumstances of political refugees. MZ's father had actually entered him for Winchester College when he was in England in 1910 with a Parliamentary Delegation; but it was thanks to the good offices of Dr. Montague Rendall (Headmaster of Winchester College 1911-24) that he was one of the emigrés admitted as scholars. MZ, who was always known to his British friends as 'Zog', made a brilliant start to his new life by winning a scholarship to Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where he took First Class Honours in Chemistry in 1927 and also a Bachelor of Science degree.
On going down from Oxford MZ joined the Gas Light and Coke Company as a research chemist, but after only a year with them he transferred to Imperial Chemical Industries and worked on technical and commercial developments with that firm in England and other European countries for eight and a half years. In 1937 MZ joined the British associates of the General Foods Corporation of America (later amalgamated with Unilever), and worked on food processing and marketing at home and overseas.
In 1940 MZ was released for Government service, and from that year until 1946 he was successively with the Political Intelligence Department of the Foreign Office, the B.B.C.'s European Service and the Political Warfare Department of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF). Between 1944 and early 1945 he was involved in planning the post-war control of Germany in London and at SHAEF, Versailles. He then joined the Military Government of the 21st Army Group in Germany, and later the British Control Commission as Deputy Director-General of the Chemical Branch of the Economics Division, taking charge of the German Chemical Industry in the British Zone of Germany. In the autumn of 1946 he left Germany at the request of his former employers (now part of Unilever) and continued his work on the development of food processing in Britain and on the continent.
Before the war MZ had been an original member of Political and Economic Planning (P.E.P.) the research organisation founded in 1934 of which Israel (later Lord) Sieff, - the Chairman of Marks and Spencer, was Chairman and an important financial supporter. MZ was also an active member of the Royal Institute of International Affairs and was Honorary Associate of the Institute's Belgian and Dutch associated organisations.
MZ was a first class linguist, fluent in French, Russian and German, and he also spoke some Dutch. He travelled very extensively in Germany, France, Holland and Belgium before the war and during the early months of the conflict with Nazi Germany, and copies of the reports he made on his experiences during those visits, which he forwarded to his contacts in the Foreign Office, will be found in his papers.
In 1930 MZ married Diana Lucas, a distinguished graduate of Somerville College, Oxford, by whom he had three sons. He died on 14 September 1978.
A considerable proportion of Zvegintzov's archive consists of the papers produced by Political and Economic Planning and the Royal Institute of International Affairs, some of them by MZ, and of his correspondence with other members on their own subjects. Nothing at all has been found about his early life in Russia, but his papers contain a number of letters in Cyrillic script. These were studied by a Russian speaking Fellow Commoner at Churchill College (Henryk Krzeckowski) in 1980, and the notes attached to them are in his hand. Most of them are family letters, but they have been preserved as examples of the tenacity of a Russian refugee family in maintaining touch with each other. MZ's activities in the immediate pre-war and war time years are fairly fully documented, and the greatest interest in his papers probably lies in the reports he wrote on Germany and other countries, and in the papers he prepared and the broadcasts he made for the BBC's Overseas Service.
Zvegintzov's widow presented his papers to Churchill College in 1980.
Although other copies of the PEP and RIAA papers exist in the archives of those organisations, it has been thought justifiable to preserve MZ's copies because they contain his notes and marginalia as well as relevant letters sent and received by him. If pressed for space at any time, and after consulting the two organisations to make sure that they have preserved copies of the papers in question, it may be found justifiable to destroy these copies.
The papers are open for consultation by researchers using Churchill Archives Centre, Churchill College, Cambridge. Churchill Archives Centre is open from Monday to Friday, 9am-5pm. A prior appointment and two forms of identification are required.
Researchers wishing to publish excerpts from the papers must obtain prior permission from the copyright holders and should seek advice from Archives Centre staff.
Please cite as Churchill Archives Centre, The Papers of Michael (Mischa) Zvegintzov, ZVEG