All diplomatic life in Saint-Petersburg
Useful information about the consulates


The Honorary consul

Sebastian Fitzlyon

Sebastian Kirillovich Zinovieff-Fitzlyon was born on January 1, 1948 in London.


He has worked as a chartered valuation surveyor and real estate expert in London, Paris, Sydney and St. Petersburg (since 1992). He has also worked in such companies as Taylor Woodrow (as General Manager of a subsidiary) and Jones Lang (where he was a Partner and department head). Since 1997 he is a general director and owner of the “S. Zinovieff & Co” company (Saint Petersburg) that specializes on real estate sale and estimation. Since 2003 Sebastian Fitzlyon is the Honorary Consul of Australia in Saint Petersburg.

Sebastian FitzLyon is a founding member of the Society of Land Economists in Australia which unites valuers and other property professionals, and he is a founding member of SPIBA (the St. Petersburg International Business Association).


“I am descendant of the Russian Zinovievs ...”

The emblem of the Zinoviev dynastyIn the storms of the Civil war many Russian families lost not only their property, but also family relics. Many families deliberately got rid of all the documents, portraits and photos only not to be accused of being exploiters. As the result, today few of us know our family genealogy till the great-grandparents. But the descendants of the «first wave» of Russian emigration living abroad do know their genealogy. It is another matter that they usually have few family relics. That is why when in Russia they frequently start collecting everything more or less related to the history of their family. Here an example is Sebastian Zinovieff-Fitzlyon, a private entrepreneur and the Honorary Consul of Australia in St. Petersburg.

- So, Sebastian Kirillovich, shall we start from your family tree?
- I represent already the twentieth generation of the Zinoviev dynasty. Our ancestor is considered Zinovy Zinovievich Bratashinsky, a Serbian despot (a medieval title for rulers in the Balkan Peninsula) who lived in the 14th century. After the Turkish conquest, his children settled in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania but then one of the brothers, Alexander entered into service to Vasily I, the Great Prince of Moscow. What happened to Lithuanian branch of our family is not known but I am descendant of the Russian Zinovievs.

- Is it true that some generations of your ancestors are closely related to Saint Petersburg?
- Exactly. The story dates from general-lieutenant Nikolay Ivanovich Zinoviev who was the seventh commandant of the Peter and Paul Fortress. By the way, his tomb can be easily found on the Commandant's cemetery next to the cathedral. So taking into consideration that first sixty years of Petersburg history are the epoch of palace revolutions and the structure of the city administration was not stable those days, you can say that commandants were the real city owners.

- And your ancestors participated in palace revolutions too, didn’t they?
- They were diligent civil servants. But it's another matter that daughter of Nikolay Ivanovich, Ekaterina married Grigory Orlov, the protagonist of the palace revolution of 1762. The newly-married couple had left for Switzerland where Ekaterina died. And after that Grigory Orlov was demented.

- But the Zinoviev dynasty did not interrupted, did it?
- Certainly not. Suffice to say that Ekaterina’s brother, Vasily Nikolaevich had 19 children. Thanks to him new branches appeared on our family tree. 

- And who of the representatives of the following generations, you think, deserves special mention?
- Taking into consideration that the typical career for noblemen was army or civil service, the one who made a great success might have been adjutant general Nikolay Vasilevich Zinoviev who was the commander of the Life Guards of the Izmailovsky regiment. Then he headed the Corps des Pages, a privileged military school of the Empire. And at last he became one of the tutors of the future emperor Alexander III. His house on the Fontanka embankment can be considered a kind of our “patrimonial nest” in Petersburg.

- However, except for the military and state career, usual for noblemen, your ancestors proved to be good entrepreneurs.
-  It all might have started from my great-great-grandfather Dmitry Vasilevich (General A.V. Zinoviev’s brother) who in the middle of the 19th century set up a “Zinoviev” family firm and founded the city of Gungerburg, known as Ust-Narva. There he had his own enterprises: a saw-mill and a cast-iron workshop. I may be mistaken but he seems to have held a post of the head of Narva for some period of time.

- Thus, the destiny of your family turned out to be connected with Estonia.
- Yes, it did. In addition, Dmitry Vasilevich married Sofia Alexandrovna Veirman, the representative of a well-known family of the Baltic Germans. Recently I have found out that my grandfather and one of the relatives of my great-grandmother built a branch line connecting Sosnovy Bor and the station that still has the same name of Veirman. In general, when you start studying the history of noble families of the Petersburg province, you wonder how often they cross not only in genealogy but in geography too.

- You also had a “patrimonial nest” of Koporie in the province.
- This place is known, first of all, owing to a fortress of XIII century. My ancestors settled in here in the end of the 18th century and built up a Grevovo manor. However, we lived in Petersburg most of the time.

- For being closer to the main “center of culture”?
- The main reason, of course, was the civil service and the business interests but “the cultural factor” also mattered. By the way, Dmitry Vasilevich’s daughter Lydia was the second wife of Vyacheslav Ivanov, the well-known poet of the “Silver age” and she also wrote quite good verses. And her brother, my great-grandfather Alexander Dmitrievich is also related to the culture, at least, for the fact that there is a portrait of him painted by Ilya Repin himself. This work you can see in the Russian Museum, to the right of the well-known “Ceremonial session of the State Council”. Alexander Dmitrievich himself is not on this picture of “Ceremonial session…” because he became the Privy Councillor a year after the picture had been finished. But later Repin portrayed him separately.

- And what happened to him later?
- In 1907-1910 Alexander Dmitrievich was the governor of Petersburg but died as an emigrant in Rome. He had seven sons: in some photographs you can see Alexander who died in the war with the Japanese and George who was killed in the First World War. And here are the officers of General Bezobrazov’s staff: the second to the right is also one of the Zinovievs brothers, Dmitry, and the last one to the right is, if I’m not mistaken, General Bezobrazov’s son. My grandfather Lev Alexandrovich, unlike his brothers, did not enter into the military service. He was the deputy of the 4th State Duma. He died in England.

- So, now we can talk about the revolution time. Did the Zinovievs participate in the Civil war?
- Yes, three brothers of my grandfather did.

- What side were they on?
- On the Whites’ side, of course. They were patriots. Mikhail, the youngest of the brothers, fought in the North-Western army headed by General Yudenich and in autumn of 1919 he appeared in Koporie that had been taken back from the Reds. The manor house was plundered and on the floor he picked up four books in English that had been in the family library before. Mikhail brought them to Estonia where our family lived waiting for the end of “the time of troubles” and Alexander Dmitrievich was angry with his son saying: “Misha, how could you take the books from my library without my permission?” And Mikhail answered: “Dad, what are you talking about? The Civil war goes on.” These books are still in our house in England.

- Is there something more remained from the Zinoviev family property?
- Our family left for Estonia in July, 1918 but I know that one of our servants, Maria Yakovleva, crossed the border later to visit our house in Petrograd. There some sailors lived and the only thing that she managed to save was a teapot. But, unfortunately, it has not remained. Now, apart from the books, we have only some tablecloths from Grevovo.

- The Whites lost the war and your family had to emigrate…
- Our family lived in Estonia till April, 1920. Of course, the Zinovieffs suffered less than the soldiers of the Yudenich army interned by the Estonians, but in financial respect everything was not so good. Our enterprise was fading away since there were not enough raw materials - the wood from Russia from the region of Lake Peipsi (Chudskoe Ozero). In April, 1920 the Zinovieffs moved to England. Father finished school there and became an official. In 1941 he married Irene Mead, an Englishwoman, who authored some books on the history of art.

In 1948 they had a son who you are talking to right now. I became the citizen of Australia and worked in the sphere of real estate valuation. Then I moved to Petersburg where I set up my own firm with the old name of “Zinovieff”.

- You personally have a double surname of Fitzlyon-Zinovieff, don’t you?
- Yes, I do. My father did not like the idea to be confused with Grigory Zinoviev (who actually was Apfelbaum), the leader of the Bolshevik’s Petrograd. Then he started to use his surname Lvovich which in English sounds like Fitzlyon, the son of a lion.

Also it is worth mentioning that at various times 3 Zinoviev governed in Petersburg-Petrograd-Leningrad. Two were ours and the one was not.

- What made you return to Russia? Was it nostalgia or “the call of the wild”?
- Well, I wouldn’t feel like using such terms however I am really interested in the history of my family and in this respect I remind of my father who, although left Russia at eight-year age, still knows it and loves it. He is 94 years old but recently he has written a Petersburg guidebook. Our house on the Moika embankment is mentioned there. Recently I have bought back one of the apartments there and now I live in the “patrimonial nest” of the Zinovievs.

- And what can you say about another “patrimonial nest”, the Grevovo estate?
- For the first time I visited Koporie in 1991 and even rented the plane to look down at these places. Two old local women told me that the house had survived the war but later was dismantled and by order of a Soviet general was transported to fort “Seraya Loshad”. I have visited “Seraya Loshad” but there were no any traces of the house. But in the very Kaporie on the minor house place I have found a street lamp that, judging by photographs, stood next to the house porch. My father and his sister Elena Lvovna were photographed next to this street lamp. The local people watched us from the buildings, where the army unit was before, and when I visited Koporie next time, there was no street lamp. It is good that it might have fallen into the hands of people who appreciate antiques. But it is bad that material evidence of the past disappears this way. There is only human memory left that you can not always relay on.

Source: “Antique. Info” Magazine