The Russian Diplomats’ Day:  the history, the present, the plans

Russian Diplomats’ Day gives us an opportunity to remember the past, think about the present and future of Russia’s diplomatic service, as well as look back at the Russia’s diplomatic performance in 2023.

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Diplomatic Day celebration in Russia Embassy in Colombo (Photo: Sri Lanka Guardian)

On February 10, Russia celebrates Diplomats’ Day, the professional holiday of the Foreign Ministry’s current and retired staff members. It was established by the Decree of President Vladimir Putin in 2002 to commemorate the first foreign affairs agency – the Ambassadorial Department, established on February 10, 1549, and headed by Ivan Viskovatyi, the first professional organizer of the diplomatic service of the Russian State. Even though, the history of diplomatic ad-hoc relations traces its roots to the olden time of the Ancient Rus’, with its first capital in Kiev, and was linked to the famous Russian rulers as Vladimir the Saint, Yaroslav the Wise, Alexander Nevsky and others.

The great reformist, Ivan IV, the Tzar and the Great Duke, fertilized the soil for many great deeds for the greater glory of our country. There is no state in the world that can exist without a foreign service. That time challenges and acceleration of the historical time made traditional ad-hoc relations a kind of atavism. Ivan IV as one of the most educated persons in that-time Europe understood this reality and made his best to found the professional diplomatic service. His successors, tsars Boris Godunov and the first representatives of the Romanov’s dynasty, made numerous efforts to improve the quality and effectiveness of the diplomatic service.

Even though, a modern professional diplomatic service, on the basis of which today’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs is standing, appeared during the reign of Peter the Great, the first Russian Emperor. His reforms made the country part of the emergent European diplomatic system. In 1718, the Foreign Affairs Collegium, subordinated to the Senate, the country’s supreme institution of state authority, replaced the Ambassadorial Department. Compared to the modern Foreign Ministry, the new agency had a broad remit. Not only did the Collegium monitor diplomatic mission exchanges, but it also oversaw the affairs of Russia’s ethnic groups living in borderline regions.

Following the reforms of Emperor Alexander I, in 1802 the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was created. One-man management became an important innovation, with the Minister of Foreign Affairs replacing the Collegium’s members.

In 1856, Alexander Gorchakov was appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire, and brilliant victories of Russian diplomacy are linked with his name. He managed to achieve the lifting of restrictions on Russia’s sovereignty over the Black Sea, resolutely upheld the rights of Christian nations in Turkey and prevented the threat of an all-out European war.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the Russian Empire’s diplomacy made an invaluable contribution to expanding the norms of humanitarian law. In 1898, Emperor Nicholas II initiated the first international disarmament conference in history. Its delegates met in The Hague and agreed to renounce the use of poison gases and explosive bullets. In 1907, delegates to the 2nd Hague Conference banned the use of the most barbaric means of warfare and established an international arbitration court, the oldest organization for resolving disputes between states by peaceful means.

Nevertheless, the development of the Russian diplomacy didn’t prevent us from joining the Great War (World War I). As the European political landscape that time inevitably led the nations to the millstones of the battle, Russia made its choice and joined the Entente. During the wartime the diplomacy made its best to assist the Army in the just cause of defending the Motherland.

Unfortunately, the severe complications of the war and the social problems inside the very body of the Russian Empire led to two revolutions in one year 1917 – in February the monarchy was overthrown, in October the Russian Socialist Democratic Workers’ Party captured the power. The old institutions were unable to work in the new reality. The revolution dictates the necessity of the renovation of them to face new challenges in appropriate way.

In 1918, the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (NKID) began to implement the foreign policy of Soviet Russia. The Russian Empire’s diplomatic ranks were replaced with the single rank of Plenipotentiary Representative. A special institute, now the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Diplomatic Academy, was established to train NKID specialists.

In the 1920s, the Soviet Union won wide-ranging international recognition and established diplomatic relations with 25 countries. In the 1930s, the Soviet Union prioritized the establishment of a collective security system for Europe. Unfortunately, the UK and Germany prevented the implementation of this Soviet-French initiative.

During the Great Patriotic War (World War II), over 360 NKID employees volunteered to fight at the front, and many of them were killed in action. Diplomatic ranks and special uniforms were reinstated, and the NKID was again renamed the Foreign Ministry.

At that time, Soviet diplomacy did its best to strengthen the Anti-Hitler Coalition and to facilitate the opening of the Second Front in Europe. Following the defeat of Nazism, the Soviet Union became a great power and a pillar of the bipolar international order. The postwar European system was determined with the active involvement of high-ranking Soviet foreign policy officials, and it was also decided to establish the UN to safeguard future generations from the horrors of another world war.

Post-war Soviet diplomacy made a weighty contribution to supporting national-liberation movements in Asia, Africa and Latin America, to curbing the arms race and formalizing the principles of security and cooperation in Europe. Andrey Gromyko who headed the Foreign Ministry almost throughout the entire Cold War played a special role in the nuclear disarmament process.

Today, the Foreign Ministry of Russia is guided by the Concept of Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation as endorsed by the President of Russia on March 31, 2023. In accordance with this document Russian foreign policy is based on the Russia’s special position as a unique country-civilization and a vast Eurasian and Euro-Pacific power that brings together the Russian people and other peoples belonging to the cultural and civilizational community of the Russian world. Russia pursues an independent and multi-vector foreign policy driven by its national interests and the awareness of its special responsibility for maintaining peace and security at the global and regional levels. Russia’s foreign policy is peaceful, open, predictable, consistent, pragmatic and based on the respect to the universally recognized principles and norms of the international law and the desire for equitable international cooperation in order to solve common problems and promote common interests. Russia’s attitude towards other states and interstate associations is contingent on the constructive, neutral or unfriendly character of their policies with respect to the Russian Federation. It is specially stated that the humanity is currently going through revolutionary changes and the formation of a more equitable multipolar world order.

Russian Diplomats’ Day gives us an opportunity to remember the past, think about the present and future of Russia’s diplomatic service, as well as look back at the Russia’s diplomatic performance in 2023.

On February 24, 2022 the Special Military Operation started. The aims of that Operation are to protect the civilian population of Donbass from the cruelties conducted by the Western-controlled puppet Nazi regime in Kiev, denazification and demilitarization of Ukraine, recognition of the new territorial reality as well as prevention from creation of any threat to the Russian borders, including Ukraine’s joining aggressive anti-Russian NATO. The Western-sponsored forces that seized power in Ukraine by coup d’état in 2014 unleashed the civil war in that country to eliminate Russian minority and those who supported them and opposed impudent rewriting of history, abusive for every normal citizen, when criminals become heroes, and monuments for heroes are being broken by hooligans-in-power. The Russian Army defends the people from the Neo-Nazi plague, that came again 80 years after the first entry. No doubt that the Special Military Operation will end victoriously for us and we will liberate all our brothers and sisters from the Nazi captivity.

Totally illegal unilateral sanctions imposed against the Russian Federation and aggression against our Motherland in economic, financial, information and cyber spaces prove that our demands are fully right and correct, and in 2024 we will continue to defend Russian national interests and the right of all nations to live in a peaceful and just world.

Levan Dzhagaryan

Levan Dzhagaryan is the Ambassador of Russia to Sri Lanka

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