|Birth||24 October 1900|
17 December 1996
(aged 96 years)
Dame Elizabeth Mary Hill DBE (born Yelizaveta Fyodorovna Hill; Russian Елизаве́та Фёдоровна; 24 October 1900 – 17 December 1996) was a Russian-born British academic linguist. In addition to a career with the London University School of Slavonic Studies, she was course director of the Joint Services School for Linguists (JSSL), a UK Government training programme to produce linguists and interpreters of Russian, for military and intelligence purposes.
Hill was born on 24 October 1900 in St Petersburg, the fifth of six
children (and second of the three daughters) of Frederick William Hill (1860–1924), and his wife. Her father was an English businessman; her mother was Russian. The family had fled the Bolsheviks in 1917 in fear for their lives, relocating to London.
Often known as “Lisa”, Hill worked in several language teaching jobs before entering University College London, where she gained a First-class degree in Russian in 1924 and a PhD in 1928. Her first university appointment was in 1936, when she went to Cambridge as a Lecturer.
During World War II Hill trained military recruits in Russian. In 1948, she was appointed as the first Professor of Slavonic Studies at Cambridge. She held this position until 1968.
In 1984, Hill Married Stojan Veljkovic, but the marriage was dissolved in 1995. She was noted for a ‘capacity for long-standing friendships’, especially with Doris Mudie, whom Hill first met in the late 1920s in London. Initially, Hill and her family were greatly helped by the successful Mudies, although as Hill’s fortunes improved those of Doris declined. Their collaborative efforts produced two edited volumes of letters, Dostoevsky’s Letters to his Wife (1930) and Lenin’s Letters (1937). In 1936, when Hill had gained her first lectureship, Mudie was reportedly ‘penniless’ and had suffered the first in a series of nervous breakdowns.
Hill’s two-year stint, from 1968 to 1970, as Andrew Mellon Professor of Slavic Languages at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was partly motivated by the need to earn money to cover Mudie’s medical expenses. By the late 1960s, Mudie had suffered several strokes and needed constant nursing. Hill’s support for Russian emigres who had once taught on her Services courses was also well-known.