Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s remarks at the opening of a history exhibition dedicated to the 190th anniversary of diplomatic ties between Russia and Greece, Moscow, September 19, 2018
Your Excellency Mr Ambassador,
Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,
We are here today to inaugurate an exhibition marking the 190th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Russia and Greece. Recognising Greece in 1828 despite strong opposition from external forces was an extremely important and wise step for our country.
This opened an entirely new page in the chronicle written over many centuries by the two peoples. In fact, we are united by our spiritual values and culture. It was from Byzantium that Christianity came to Ancient Rus, playing a critical role in the development of the Russian state. The Orthodox faith has remained a powerful unifying factor for Russians and Greeks for more than a thousand years.
At the exhibition that we are inaugurating today there are more than 60 documents and photographs from the foreign policy archives of the Russian Empire and the Russian Federation. Many of them are truly unique. Among the exhibit items is a letter from Greek military commanders to Emperor Nicholas I asking him to support the struggle of the Greek people and help them gain independence. In response, Russia not only supported the principle of establishing a sovereign and independent Hellenic state, but made a substantial contribution toward achieving this goal.
The Greek struggle for liberation has special importance for our peoples, whose friendship is sealed by the blood of Russian and Greek soldiers who fought side by side and faced extreme hardships in the name of the timeless values of truth and justice.
Russia has become a second home to many Greeks, including those who decided to dedicate their lives to diplomacy and military service. Quite a few officers of Greek descent served in Russia’s foreign ministry, including some 150 officers who reached the rank of envoy or even ambassador. Ioannis Kapodistrias is a case in point. His role and place in the history of our countries can hardly be understated. The exhibits here include the directive on his appointment as head of the Hellenic Republic’s government.
A section of this exhibition is devoted to Olga Konstantinovna Romanova, who was the granddaughter of Emperor Nicholas I and spouse of King George I of Greece. Queen Olga was praised in both countries for her charitable undertakings. She was the one who pioneered the foundation of the Hellenic Red Cross, and thanks to her proactive efforts and generous donations a Russian Navy hospital was opened in Piraeus. Olga Konstantinovna made a substantial contribution to preserving Hellenic cultural heritage, and helped open and expand the collections of the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens.
In the harsh years of the Second World War, our countries fought against Nazis as allies. Our country has always praised the role played by fighters of the Greek resistance movement in achieving victory. We have always remembered and will never forget the act by Manolis Glezos and Apostolos Santas, who tore down Hitler’s flag from the Acropolis. I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to our Greek friends for treasuring the memory of Russian and Soviet soldiers buried in Greece.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
The spiritual unity of our peoples and the bonds of sympathy and mutual assistance that unite them, as well as our shared historical past and cultural heritage form an impregnable and solid foundation of Russian-Greek cooperation. Times may change, but we always value the fact that our relations are essentially beyond the reach of outside forces, remaining an important factor of stability and peace in Europe. Resilient in the face of changing political tides, we stand ready to continue strengthening the already-strong partnership between Russia and Greece across the board. The Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation signed by our countries a quarter century ago is another essential factor facilitating these efforts.
I strongly believe that today’s exhibition will make a positive contribution to strengthening cultural ties between our countries and peoples.
Thank you for your attention.