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The historical path of Russian diplomacy – Ambassador Semivolos



Russian Ambassador to Uganda Vladlen Semivolos

By H.E Vladlen Semivolos 

Every year on February 10, Russia pays tribute to many generations of diplomats who served our country and the interests of our people for generations.

Back in 2002, President Vladimir Putin signed a decree to establish a holiday to commemorate the founding of the Russian Diplomatic Service. Since then Russian diplomats all over the world – at our missions abroad, at Moscow headquarters and regional offices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation honour this holiday every year.This date has a historic significance.

It was February 10, 1549, when Russia’s first foreign affairs agency, the Ambassadorial Order, was mentioned in official records for the first time. However, our diplomatic tradition is rooted in much earlier history. It dates back to the year of 838, when the first Russian diplomatic mission was sent to Constantinople (now Istanbul) to establish direct contacts with Byzantine Empire. The Treaty “On Peace and Love” with Byzantine in 860 signified the international recognition of Russia.

The need for a specialized diplomatic service became vital by the 16th century along with the centralization of the Russian State and the development of its relations with the outer world. In 1549, Russia established its first foreign affairs agency, the Ambassadorial Order, and the first permanent Russian diplomatic missions were opened in the neighboring countries – in Sweden in 1634 and in Poland in 1673.

In the beginning of the 18th century Emperor Peter the Great transformed the Ambassadorial Order into the Collegium of Foreign Affairs with a view to bring the national diplomatic service in line with the standards and needs of the Russian Empire that was becoming a major European power. The pleiad of talented diplomats, such as Andrey Matveyev, Andrey Osterman, Alexey and Mikhail Bestuzhev-Ryumin, Pyotr Tolstoy, Pyotr Golitsyn etc. serving with the Collegium, laid down the foundation of the Russian diplomatic tradition.The modern form of foreign policy management, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, was created by the manifesto of Emperor Alexander I in 1802.

By the 20th century, Russia had a wide network of diplomatic and consular missions all over the world. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs upheld the state interests at every turning point of Russian and world history. At the same time, it promoted the tradition of multilateral and collective approach in solving international issues.

It is worth noting that the Soviet Russia was the first to suggest the international community abandoning secret diplomacy in favor of open negotiations. That line was part of the Soviet Decree on Peace issued on October 26, 1917 before World War I ended with the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Those ideas closely correlate with the principles laid in the foundation of the League of Nations.

During World War II our diplomacy played a crucial role in consolidating the anti-Hitler coalition. It had significantly contributed not only to the victory over the Axis Powers, but also to the postwar efforts to draft permanent and final settlements in Europe and the world. The initial plans for the postwar order were discussed at the wartime meetings between the leaders of the Allied Powers.

Key principles governing interaction between States, including the proposal to establish the United Nations, were determined at the Yalta Conference in the USSR between the anti-Hitler coalition leaders. It was a truly historical achievement.

Another outstanding accomplishment of the Russian diplomacy is a decisive contribution it made to the decolonization process in Asia and Africa.

It was our country that initiated the adoption of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples of December 14, 1960 that marked the end of colonialism and affirmed independence for the countries and peoples under the colonial rule.

One of the core features of our diplomacy is its constant contribution to strengthening the legal foundations of the international order.

For instance, during the American War of Independence the British Crown sought to engage Russian forces to pacify the North American colonies, even offering the island of Minorca in exchange for military assistance.

However, Queen Catherine the Great preferred a role of diplomatic mediator. On February 28, 1780, she issued the famous Declaration of Armed Neutrality that provided for the right of neutral merchant vessels to sail freely and defend themselves militarily and became the basic doctrine of international maritime law.

Russia stood at the origins of many multilateral initiatives that sometimes ran ahead of their time and were implemented only many decades later. Back in the 18th century Russian diplomat Nikita Panin, Head of the Collegium of Foreign Affairs, elaborated the idea of establishing the so-called “Northern Accord” – an alliance of the Northern States, which would guarantee their peaceful coexistence. That project was indeed an unprecedented attempt to create a league of nations, preserving balance of power in Europe in contrast to the common practice of those days to form alliances to change the status-quo. Even though that system was doomed to be temporary, the idea became a forerunner to the future international and multilateral organizations.

In the times of the Napoleonic Wars Emperor Alexander I spoke of the need for European powers to mutually guarantee the safety of their borders. After the defeat of Napoleon, he came up with the first-ever initiative in the field of disarmament by proposing a simultaneous proportional reduction of the armed forces of the European countries.

Russia is an unyielding defender of the legal principles of international order. The establishment of the United Nations Organization, a truly historical achievement, would not be possible without the decisive commitment of our country.

The UN remains the core international institution today, the cradle of international law, and Russia is firm in its resistance to the attempts to undermine the UN role in world politics.The modern-day Russia values the historic traditions and lessons of our diplomatic service.

We strive to meet the high standards set by our predecessors and develop new creative approaches with a view to strengthen ties of friendship and cordial cooperation with other States and promote mutually beneficial partnership on the international arena.

On a daily basis Russian diplomats carry out the noble work of promoting stable and predictable international environment, where all countries can enjoy equal rights, respect and peaceful development. They are tirelessly fighting double standards and hidden agendas, protecting international law and seeking solutions to the most acute regional crises and global threats.

The Russian diplomacy continues to be a guarantor of stability and mediator in world affairs.

We are committed to ensuring a balanced evolution of international relations towards a reliable and stable global governance system.

Russia remains opened to cooperation with all countries in the world, which are ready to conduct dialogue based on the principles of equality, mutual respect and consideration for each other’s interests.

H.E Vladlen Semivolos is the Russian ambassador to Uganda