The 210th anniversary of the Russian Foreign Office
The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was founded on 8 September 1802 by the Manifest of Tsar Alexander I.
On the same day, a Decree was issued on the preservation of the Collegium of Foreign Affairs (PFA), which functioned before this as a foreign service. The PFA continued to manage the previous range of issues and did not change its staff, however it was transferred under the supervision of a foreign minister – a prominent diplomat and politician of Catherine times, Alexander Romanovich Vorontsov. Due to the unfinished nature and duplication of the ministerial reform, the PFA and the MFA coexisted until 1830, which frequently led to rivalries, parallelism and confusion.
During the times of the first head of the ministry, a Temporary Ministerial Office was formed, which was divided into 4 expeditions managing Asian affairs, correspondence with the mission in Constantinople and with ministers of commerce and the interior, correspondence with Russian authorised representatives abroad and the issue of foreign passports. The Cipher (Cryptographic) Expedition and the Ceremonial Department were also subordinate directly to the minister.
In 1806, a new structure of the Ministerial Office was established. Later, the Expedition of Consular Affairs, the Learning Department of Eastern Languages, the Internal Economic Department, the Department of Foreign Relations, etc. appeared within the MFA.
By 1816, the Ministry obtained a clear-cut structure, which was stable until the ‘40s of the XIX century. A minister of foreign affairs in the office of a Chancellor, the second person in the state administration after the Tsar, was its head. Two State Secretaries were deputies or assistants to the minister. The officials were assigned their ranks in accordance with the international classification established by the Vienna Congress (1815). The diplomatic ranks adopted in 1815 existed in Russia until October 1917.
The Headquarters of the MFA included: the Chancellery, the Department of Foreign Relations (which supervised all political and consular affairs, as well as issues related to Russian nationals), the Asian Department and the Department of Staff and economic affairs.
The structure of the ministry's headquarters also included the Archives, the Commission for the Issue of State Letters and Agreements and the Editorial Offices of Official Editions of the Foreign Service in Russian and French.
Foreign units included: Russian embassies in major powers, missions, resident agencies in small and dependent Eastern countries, general consulates, consulates, vice consulates and consular agencies.
In 1846, based on the proposition of Chancellor Karl Robert Nesselrode, who was the head of the Russian Foreign service for 40 years (from 1816 to 1856), the "Establishment of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs" (a Regulation of the MFA), which determined its new structure and functions, was adopted. According to Article 1 of the "Establishment" "The purpose of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was political relations with foreign countries, petitioning for the lawful protection of Russian nationals abroad and contributing to the satisfaction of fair solicitations of foreigners about their affairs in Russia".
In 1856, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was headed by Alexander Mikhailovich Gorchakov, whose name is related to the greatest achievements in the international arena, as well as the reorganisation of the service. History remembers his famous circulars: one of 1856 laying down the foundations of Russia's foreign policy, and another of 1870 announcing that Russia is no longer bound by the provisions of the Treaty of Paris of 1856, which restricted its sovereign rights in the Black Sea.
In 1859, Alexander Gorchakov approved new "Rules for Contracting and Taking of Office" in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In 1868, a new "Establishment of the MFA" entered into force, and staff numbers of the central units of the service changed (reduced) as well. If 535 officials were registered in the MFA, only 134 established posts were preserved at Alexander Gorchakov's time. Along with that departments were provided with the right to have officials exceeding the regular staff "to strengthen their resources".
In November 1895, Friedrich Fromhold Martens, a member of the MFA Council and a well-known international lawyer, prepared a reorganisation plan of the ministry taking into account the experience of diplomatic services in Western European countries, however, this project was not implemented.
Only after the approval of Alexander Petrovich Izvolsky as minister of foreign affairs in May 1906, a further several years of reform was conducted in the MFA for the purposes of modernisation of the service's structure according to new political conditions, formed due to the revolutionary events of 1905 and the convention of the State Duma.
By 1913, a far-flung network of diplomatic and consular foreign representative offices was created in Russia. Thus, if only 11 Russian foreign institutions existed in 1758, there were 102 – in 1868, 147 – in 1897, and 173 – in 1903, then by the beginning of the First World War Russia maintained diplomatic relations with 47 countries and had more than 200 representative offices abroad.
In 1914, under the minister Sergei Dmitrievich Sazonov, a draft law on new MFA staff was approved, which was not implemented because of the beginning of the First World War. During wartime, a new unit appeared in the ministry – the Division of Legal Advisers. In December 1915, a Special Department of Prisoners of War was created, in April 1916 – the Informant Department for the purposes of obtaining and study of data "about the development of political thought in foreign countries". In order to maintain constant contacts with the Supreme Commander's Headquarters, the Diplomatic Chancellery was created.
In March 1917, the Temporary Government adopted a Decree on changes in the "Establishment of the MFA". The Economic and Legal Departments, and the Cryptographic Division were created.
On 26 October (8 November) 1917, pursuant to the Decree of the IInd All-Russian Congress of Soviets on the establishment of the Council of People's Commissars, the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (PCFA) was established. Leon Trotsky was its head until the end of February 1918 and was remembered in this office due to his "no peace, no war" position in his negotiations with Germany and its allies and for the organisation of the publication of the main mass of "secret" international contracts of the Tsar and temporary governments within a very short time.
In May 1918, Georgy Vasilyevich Chicherin was appointed People's Commissar for Foreign Affairs, and he worked in this position until 1930.
In June 1918, the Regulation on the work of the RSFSR's PCFA was approved, which determined the structural composition of the agency and the order of organisation of representative offices abroad. The generalised experience of the work of the Commissariat became the basis for the Regulation on the RSFSR's PCFA, which was adopted in June 1921. Due to the establishment of the Soviet Union the RSFSR's PCFA was reorganised into the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs of the USSR. In 1923, a new "Regulation on the USSR's PCFA" was adopted. The Collegium as a governing body of the people's commissariat was restored.
In May 1939, Vyacheslav Mikhailovich Molotov was appointed as the head of the PCFA but as a second job; in fact he kept the position of head of government until 6 May 1941 (Maxim Maximovich Litvinov, who fell from favour and was removed from the position of head of the people's commissariat, was later returned to diplomatic work: in 1941-1946 – deputy head of the people's commissariat, at the same time in 1941-1943 – ambassador of the USSR to the USA and in 1942-1943 – emissary of the USSR to Cuba).
When Vyacheslav Molotov came to the PCFA, an immediate "personnel reshuffle" was conducted, but the structure of the foreign service was reorganised three times (in 1939, 1941, 1944).
Dismissals also affected diplomats: according to some accounts in 1936-1940 around 2-2.5 thousand PCFA employees were subject to them, including 7 deputies of the people's commissar, more than 40 plenipotentiary envoys (ambassadors); and almost all the heads of operative divisions and administrations were also replaced; according to other accounts, in the ‘30s-‘50s at least 44 plenipotentiary envoys and 24 heads of divisions were dismissed. Vacancies in personnel made in the team of the people's commissariat by the dismissals of the 1930s and later years started to fill at the behest of party-Komsomol core groups of the leading industries (the so-called "Molotov's call-up"). In August 1939 to hasten graduation of diplomatic staff on the basis of the Institute (previously Courses) for the preparation of diplomatic and consular employees, which was created in 1934, a Higher Diplomatic School (currently the Diplomatic Academy of Russia's MFA) was established.
When the Great Patriotic War began, the PCFA reconstructed its work in accordance with the requirements of military times. In summer 1941, a large group of employees went off to the front and fortification works (146 persons in total or about 23% of the entire staff schedule). 62 persons registered with the Moscow militia. The names of 71 employees, who fell in battle, are indicated on the memorial board in the building of Russia's MFA. A tank column was formed and sent to the front as the contribution of the employees of Soviet embassies.
In October 1941 the people's commissariats, including the PCFA and the diplomatic corpus, were evacuated from Moscow to Kuybyshev. However, Vyacheslav Molotov with his secretaries and a small group of employees of the commissariat remained in the Kremlin. This situation was preserved until August 1941, when all Soviet and foreign diplomats: returned to Moscow.
In 1941 the diplomatic ranks of ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary and envoy extraordinary and plenipotentiary were introduced, but in 1943 – ranks for other diplomatic employees were also introduced.
On 14 October 1944 by decision of the people's commissariat of the USSR, the current MGIMO (University) – the main forge of national diplomatic employees along with the Diplomatic Academy – was created on the basis of the International Faculty of Moscow State University.
In March 1946, the name of the foreign service was replaced to become the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the USSR. The post-war organisation of Germany, the creation of the UN, the entry of the national liberation movement on the international arena, were reflected in the structure and tasks of activity of the USSR's MFA. The extension of the MFA's units dealing with issues concerning North and South America, the Middle East, South-East Asia and the Far East became a new move.
On 4 March 1949, Vyacheslav Molotov was replaced in his position as the head of the ministry by Andrey Januarevich Vyshinsky. However, on the 5 March 1953 Vyacheslav Molotov returned as the head of the MFA and he was its head until 1 June 1956.
In 1953, European departments started to grow. The structure of the ministry of the mid-50s remained without significant changes until 1986. Andrei Andreyevich Gromyko, prominent statesman and diplomat, was the minister of foreign affairs of the USSR from February 1957 to July 1985.
In the perestroika period – from 2 July 1985 to 20 December 1990 – the Soviet MFA was headed by Eduard Shevardnadze. Serious structural changes were made to the MFA headquarters at that time, its management, as well as ambassadors' corpus were significantly renewed, there were "personnel reshuffles" within the framework of the fight against nepotism.
From January 1990 to the August Coup of 1991 of the so-called State Committee on the State of Emergency, the MFA was headed by Alexander Alexandrovich Bessmertnykh, who was then replaced by Boris Dimitrievich Pankin. At the beginning of November 1991 the state government made a decision on a "radical reorganisation" of the MFA and its transformation into the Ministry of Foreign Relations (MFR) with a simultaneous transfer to it of the functions of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Ties. Eduard Shevardnadze, who had returned to diplomatic work for a short time, became the head of this "experimental" structure until its abrogation in December 1991.
According to the Decree of the President of the RSFSR of 18 December 1991 "On the foreign service of the RSFSR", the "abrogated Ministry of Foreign Relations of the USSR was transferred under the supervision and operative management" of the RSFSR's MFA, but on the 26 December 1991, the MSR of the USSR was liquidated, because the USSR no longer existed. On the basis of Law No.2094-I of the RSFSR of 25 December 1991 the RSFSR's MFA was renamed as the MFA of the Russian Federation.
In summer 1991, Russia established the position of the Secretary of State of the RSFSR which was not envisaged by the Constitution – Secretary of the State Council to the President of the RSFSR, who was provided with broad prerogatives in different areas of state administration, including in the area of foreign policy (abrogated as required in 1992). Besides this, the Secretary of State was answerable to the President for the development of the country's foreign policy strategy, "coordinated foreign policy activity of state administrative bodies" and at the order of the President of the country represented him in relations with foreign countries.
The Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 25 February 1992 solidified the "presidential affiliation" of the ministry of foreign affairs, having established that the activity of Russia's MFA "was directed directly by the President of the Russian Federation". The "operative administration of the activity" of the ministry was entrusted to the first deputy Prime Minister Gennady Burbulis (who combined this position with the position of Secretary of State). In that complex and contradictory period, the position of the minister of foreign affairs was occupied by Andrey Vladimirovich Kozyrev (who headed the RSFSR's MFA from October 1990 to December 1991 and the MFA of the Russian Federation – from December 1991 to January 1996).
In January 1996, Yevgeny Maksimovich Primakov was appointed minister of foreign affairs of Russia, from September 1998 Russia's MFA was headed by Igor Sergeyevich Ivanov, but in March 2004 the baton of the head of the Russian diplomatic service was taken up by the current minister of foreign affairs of the Russian Federation Sergey Lavrov, who was later reappointed to this position three times.
On 7 May 2012 the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin signed a Decree "On Measures to Implement the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation", which formalises the main task of Russia's foreign policy and diplomatic service at the current stage – ensuring national interests of the country on the basis of principles of pragmatism, openness and multi-vector nature, in conditions of formation of a polycentric system of international relations. The Decree states the current priorities of diplomatic work and describes in detail a broad programme of specific actions.
In honour of the high evaluation of the contribution of the MFA to the implementation of the policy of the Russian state, the President of the Russian Federation established a Diplomat's Day by Decree of the 31 October 2002, which is celebrated every year on the 10 February. The Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of the 9 July 2010 established a blazonry – an emblem of the MFA, but on the 12 July 2012 another Decree of the President of the Russian Federation «On the establishment of a flag of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation» was issued.
During its entire history, the Russian diplomatic service has been remarkable thanks to its creative approach to its work and has provided the Homeland with great talents in various fields. Many classic authors of literature and art were distinguished in the diplomatic service or were directly related to it: Antiokh Kantemir, Denis Fonvizin, Konstantin Batyushkov, Aleksander Griboyedov, Alexander Pushkin, Fyodor Tyutchev, Dmitry Venevitinov, Nikolay Ogarev, Elim Mestschersky, Aleksey Tolstoy.
The creative element in the life of the MFA's employees has also been preserved in the most recent Russian history. There are many instances of evidence of it: collections of poetry of Russian poets and diplomats "Escape" (2001), "Second breath" (2004), "From age to age" (2006), "My Smolenka" (2008) and others, which include works of prominent Russian diplomats, including Yuri Andropov, Yevgeny Primakov, Alexander Bessmertnykh, Anatoly Adamishin, Sergey Lavrov (author of MGIMO's anthem and dozens of poems), Anatoly Kovalyov, Viktor Posuvalyuk, Mikhail Basmanov, Vladimir Kazimirov, Juri Kashlev, diplomats, who are laureates of the Fyodor Tyutchev's award, Anatoly Pshenichny, Vladimir Masalov, Gennadiy Rusakov, German Gvencadze and many other talented poets from the tall building on Smolensky Square.
ABOUT DIPLOMAT'S DAY
This professional holiday was established by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 31 October 2002 for the 200 years of Russia's MFA.
The very existence of this holiday in the Russian calendar highlights the high public recognition of the diplomat's profession, and the meaning, which our government attaches to our work. And, of course, this day reminds us again about the great responsibility, we have to our state and society, to each Russian national.
Russia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs considers that the establishing of this professional holiday serves the interests of strengthening the Russian independent state and its unchanged support – the Foreign service, the development of a sense of patriotism and pride for our Homeland and its history, continuation of the good traditions of Russian diplomacy, which is rightfully considered one of the strongest in the world.
The introduction of a diplomat's day contributes to the growth of prestige of the national diplomatic service, it stimulates a further build-up of the level and quality of the work of the employees of Russia's MFA and its foreign institutions for the implementation of the foreign policy activities of our country under the leadership of the President of Russia.
The establishment of this professional holiday is also a tribute to the veterans, who honourably defended the interests of our Homeland in diplomatic battles in complicated periods of Russian history and international relations. This holiday is a reason for us to remember the past and to think about the present and future of our diplomatic service.
The choice of the date of this holiday was not arbitrary – it is related to the history of the Ambassadorial Department (or "Posolsky Prikaz" in Russian). The earliest mention of the first Russian Foreign service falls on this day of 1549. Though the history of national diplomacy is much more ancient and goes back to the first landmark bilateral act of the IX century – the Agreement "On peace and love" of 860 with the Byzantine Empire, as a result of which Russia was first internationally acknowledged.
Since the appearance of a single Russian state, one of the permanent goals of our country's foreign policy has been an aspiration to reach out to wide stretches of international ties, non-admittance of isolation. This aspiration has been the main driver of the establishment and further development and improvement of the national diplomatic service.
By the end of the XV century domain diplomacy gave way to single state diplomacy and by the mid XVI century new horizons and opportunities opened up for the country. The Tsar of the Holy Roman Empire sent his ambassadors to Moscow. Russian diplomats were frequent guests in countries of Europe. Our country was also accounted for in the East. Russia turned into a powerful state with an active international policy. In these conditions, it required structuration and organisational layout of the diplomatic service to resolve new foreign policy tasks. The Ambassadorial Department was established back then. Since that time, the diplomatic service has been separated into a special area of state administration and has acquired a special status.
In 1718-1720, the Ambassadorial Department was transformed into the Collegium of Foreign Affairs. A pleiad of talented diplomats, who laid down the main principles and techniques of Russian diplomacy, which later continued to develop and improve, grew in the period of the Collegium's activity.
In 1802, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established by the Manifest of Tsar Alexander I.
After the October Revolution of 1917, pursuant to the Decree of the IInd All-Russian Congress of Soviets on the establishment of the Council of People's Commissars of 26 October (8 November), the People's Commissariat for Foreign Affairs (PCFA) was established. However, in March 1946 the USSR foreign service returned to its previous name – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Currently the organisational structure of the Ministry and its functions are determined by the Regulations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation approved by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation of 11 July 2004 (with amendments in accordance with the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation No.854 of 9 July 2010). The foundations of the foreign policy strategy of our country, by which the ministry guides itself in its everyday activities, are laid down in the Concept of the Foreign Policy of the Russian Federation, the new revision of which was approved by the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev on the 12 June 2008.
The national diplomatic service treasures, studies in-depth and explores our historical heritage, to take it into account in its work, to contribute to the objective perception of active foreign policy, which is traditionally inherent to Russia, and which for centuries has not only ensured for our country the role of an initiative participant in global international processes, but also served as one of the most important guarantees of its security.
In conditions of a global and interdependent world, the diplomatic profession acquires traits of a new quality. The area of diplomatic activities includes all the new areas of international relations, which are related to cooperation in the resolution of various global problems of mankind. However, the Foreign Service may become truly professional and effective, only if it stands on a firm ground of national historical traditions and cultural values. Our respect for the past is a basis for the continuity of the historical process, as well as a preservation and multiplication of the best traditions of Russian diplomacy. This allows Russia to align its international affairs in the best way, and to effectively defend its national interests.
Recourse to history also allows us to draw lessons for today and tomorrow, to compare new challenges and large-scale tasks faced by foreign policy in the modern, drastically changing world with historical and newly acquired experiences. Therefore, a careful and respectful attitude towards our historical heritage is one of the vital elements of formation of the new generations of Russian diplomats.
The professional holiday of Russian diplomats is a tribute to the many generations of our predecessors, who served our Homeland with good faith and fidelity. Through their self-sacrificing work and high professionalism, they proved the significance of the diplomatic service in ensuring the interests of the country in the international arena.
Today we aspire to fully preserve and develop our traditions, which have been famous in our diplomacy for a long time. The best traditions of the Russian diplomats of the past always included enlightened patriotism, high professional culture, deep understanding of national interests, the ability to match diplomatic activities to actual possibilities and resources of the country. As we did a hundred and two hundred years ago, we still have the same requirements of our diplomats: a wide political range of vision, the ability to work with people, knowledge of foreign languages, etc. All employees of the diplomatic front know, including through their own experience, that these qualities and the diplomat's personality in general require time to form. Such traditions are of continued importance, they create the foundation, on which the Russian diplomatic service is built.
The position of our country in the world has always set high professional requirements of Russian diplomats. In modern conditions, these requirements not only stay at the same level, but grow in many ways. The structure of international relations acquires an even more complex nature. Diplomatic techniques are being improved. The intensity of international contacts is growing. We all feel it in our everyday work.
The status of the Ministry as a service directly subordinate to the President of the Russian Federation, the complexity and multifaceted nature of approved tasks set special requirements for its staff. Currently, about 12 thousand employees work in the headquarters of Russia's MFA and its foreign institutions. One third of them, i.e. 4.5 thousand, are professional diplomats, about one fourth of them are persons under 30. The majority of diplomats know, as a rule, two foreign languages, feel at ease in the reality of modern foreign policy, can work with mass media at a proper level, and can handle issues of world culture and science. Besides this, the headquarters and foreign agencies employ a lot of administrative and technical staff – clerks and technical specialists, who ensure the effective functioning of foreign institutions.
Our diplomatic service is regularly supplemented by the best graduates from Russian higher education institutions, the leading specialists working in different areas. It is good to note that the numbers of those who wish to devote their life to diplomacy grows from year to year. This is a reflection of the prestige of this profession which is solidifying in the eyes of the public, despite all the difficulties, and sometimes restrictions related to it. The high honour of being called a Russian diplomat for more than two centuries of history of the Foreign Service always meant selfless service to the Homeland, wide range of vision and competence. And it is very important that this link does not break nowadays. The modern generation of the MFA's employees attempt to write new prominent pages into the chronicle of Russian foreign policy.
On Diplomat's Day, in paying tribute to the memory of preceding generations of the national diplomatic service, employees of the Ministry bring flowers to tombs of prominent Russian diplomats, who were buried in Russia and abroad. They also bring flowers to the memorial boards in the building of the Ministry listing the names of employees of the diplomatic service, who fell on the battlefield in the Great Patriotic War, or died in their line of duty, or during the years of Stalin's repressions.
According to tradition, ceremonial events related to this professional holiday are held every year in the building of Russia's MFA in Moscow and in Russian institutions abroad.