Russian - Sri Lankan relations

Diplomatic relations between the Soviet Union and Sri Lanka were established on February 19, 1957. But the history of Russian - Sri Lankan relations have started much earlier.

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Russian Consulate was established in Galle in 1891. And the first Russians appeared in Ceylon in mid XIX century. One of them, Count Saltykov, visited this island twice - in 1841 and in 1845-46. This well-known traveller and artist had summoned his observations in a book published in Russia and in France and illustrated with his unique pencil-paintings. Professor Minaev, world-known Russian expert on Buddhism, "discovered" Ceylon for Russian oriental studies. His books are still unique because of their widest range of historical and ethnographical data about Sri Lanka.

In late XIX century well-known Russian writers Anton Chekhov and Ivan Bunin visited Ceylon at the end of the century. The latter, having been so impressed by Anuradhapura, compared the ancient capital of Lanka with the fascination and magnificence of Russian Cultural Center is successfully operating in Colombo providing Lankan children with Russian ballet and chess training, art and musical education. Paris. One of the first notices about the Tooth Relic in Kandy was given to Russians by Countess Mescherskaya: having travelled in India she had the chance to tour Ceylon too.

The island was also visited incognito by Russian Crown Prince ("tzesarevich") during his round-the-world travels. Those visiting today the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens can easily find the tree planted there in 1891 by the future Russian Emperor Nicholas II.

The solid base for the mutual business interests was laid down in the 60s and 70s of XX century by the package of bilateral agreements worked out and signed by our countries in spheres of trade and economy, science technology and culture. Simultaneously Moscow and Colombo reached the agreement on opening of air and sea travel routes and on training of national Lankan specialists in the USSR. In those years the Soviet Union assisted Sri Lanka in constructing of the metallurgical plant in Oruwella, the tyre-producing enterprise in Kelaniya, milling and house constructing plants. Since mid 70s Soviet experts began drilling for crude oil in the island. At the same time large shipments of refined oil and oil products were delivered to Sri Lanka. During the years of our bilateral relations thousands of Lankan students have graduated from universities of the Soviet Union and then Russia in medicine, engineering, education, etc. In 1959 the Friendship Society with Sri Lanka was established in Moscow. The powerful impetus to the further expansion of mutual relations had been given by the visits to the USSR by the then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka H.E. Mrs. S. Bandaranaike in 1963 and in 1974.

The Russian Federation, being the successor of the USSR, has actively developed the positive tendency of interstate relations with Sri Lanka. This attitude gave the possibility to provide the continuity of Russian - Sri Lankan ties. The basis of diverse cooperation which was laid down in previous years opens vast possibilities for its further development and implementation of new forms, though there was a certain decline in it during 90th. Our countries have identical or similar approaches to solution of majority of pressing international or regional issues.

The maintenance of political dialog within the United Nations Organisation and its specialized agencies as well as consultations between the Ministries of foreign affairs of two countries are favorable for the development of Russian - Sri-Lankan mutual understanding and cooperation. Moreover it indicates the coincidence or closeness of positions of Russia and Sri Lanka. The Sri Lankan side welcomed the initiatives of Russia to create under the aegis of the UN a global system of counteraction to modern threats, to formulate a codex of protecting human rights from terrorism.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka Mr. Lakshman Kasirgamar visited Moscow in June 2004. During his talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Mr. Sergey V. Lavrov the Sides exchanged their views on the key issues of world and regional policy, as well as bilateral relations. The practice of meetings at high and the highest levels during working sessions of the UN General Assembly continues - a meeting of Minister Mr. Sergey V. Lavrov and President of Sri Lanka C.B.Kumaratunga took place in New York in September 2004. In 2006 Russia hosted an official visit of H.E. Mr. Mangala Samaraweera, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sri Lanka and H.E. Mr. German Gref, Minister of Economic Development and Trade of the Russian Federation visited Sri Lanka to sign a bilateral agreement on accession of Russia to WTO.

In March 2006 the Russian delegation headed by Mr. Georgiy Muradov, Head of the International Relations Department, Government of Moscow visited Sri Lanka. The main goal of this event was further promotion of cultural links between our two countries including participation in the International scientific conference "Chekhov and Bunin - our contemporaries" at the Russian Cultural Center in Colombo.

Presently Russia and Sri Lanka enjoy gradual growth of bilateral trade. Since 2002 Russia holds the stable position of leading importer of Sri Lankan tea. In 2006 Russia imported 59.2 mln kg of tea for a total sum of USD 149 mln.

Besides tea Russia imports from Sri Lanka rubber, leather, spice and garments. And Sri Lanka imports from Russia steel, ferrous metal wares, newsprint, asbestos, fertilizers, electrical equipments for metallurgical works.

Several Russian and Russian-Sri Lankan enterprises are registered in Sri Lanka with the total volume of Russian investments of US$ 7 million. The Russian company "Mayskiy Tea", joint venture "Ceylon Agrocomplex" (shareholder of which is the Administration of Moscow region) have their representatives in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Tea Board has its office in Moscow.

Russian and Sri Lankan business communities show growing interest for widening of economic cooperation beyond the traditional spheres. In order to expand the scope of trade Ceylon Chamber of Commerce, Sri Lanka - Russia Business Council and Russian side organized a successful visit of the Russian trade delegation in December 2005. In April 2006 the Russian delegation representing major building and infrastructure development companies came to Sri Lanka to study possibilities of their participation in the modernization of the Port of Colombo. At present the Russian Side in close interaction with Ceylon Chamber of Commerce and Sri Lanka - Russia Business Council is organizing the visit of the Sri Lankan business delegation to Russia.

Nowadays about 1500 Sri Lankan students are studying in different Russian universities. Sri Lanka has an Agreement on cooperation in the sphere of education with the Peoples' Friendship University of Russia. In 2000 with the partnership of this University the Center of Russian language was opened in Colombo. Russian Cultural Center successfully operates in Colombo providing Sri Lankan children with Russian ballet and chess training, art and musical education.

The partnership between Saint Petersburg and Colombo has been developing. Some Russian towns such as Ijevsk, Vidnoe, Krasnoarmeysk have their relations with Vennapuva, Nuwara Eliya and Negombo. The delegation from Vidnoe and Krasnoarmeysk visited Colombo in June 2002.

There are Russian - Sri Lankan Friendship Society in Moscow and Sri Lankan Russian Friendship Society in Colombo.