Article by Ambassador of Russia in Greece Andrey Maslov to honor Russia Day, published in “Greek Diplomatic Life” on June 30, 2021
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30 June

Article by Ambassador of Russia in Greece Andrey Maslov to honor Russia Day, published in “Greek Diplomatic Life” on June 30, 2021

On June 12, Russia celebrates its National Day – the Russia Day.

Even though this date goes back only to recent history of 1990, the Russian statehood possesses a glorious centuries-old past, full of astonishing achievements and victories, but also challenges, which we always met with dignity. Relying on its unique experience, Russia is striving for conquering new heights.

Our country is, probably, the most diverse in the world, home for numerous ethnic groups with their traditions, cultures, languages and religions. The Russia Day symbolizes our lasting unity and accord. We are all citizens of the world’s largest state, altogether we share common responsibility for the future of our Homeland and attach due importance to our roots. Solidarity, patriotism, the high level of nationhood define Russia’s stamina and might.

This year, we commemorate 80 years of the most tragic event in our history. On June 22, 1941, the fascist Germany invaded our country to spread death and horror, to wipe our people off the face of the earth. The response was decisive. The heroic Soviet people fulfilled their sacred oath and not only defended the Motherland but also liberated Europe from the “brown plague”. The Victory day 9 May 1945 will remain forever a source of inspiration for us.

In the past three decades, Russia has gone through a major democratic, social and economic transformation. The basis of a new, modern Russia was created. It ensures vast prospects for further development in economy, education, science, culture, as well as for the prosperity of the Russian people. We have defined our national interests and stand up for them. The results of the country’s progress are recognised by its every citizen.

Over centuries, Russia has always been a key international power. It is an indispensable partner in resolving all the acute problems of humanity. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council we focus our efforts on securing global peace. We assert such immutable principles as respecting sovereignty, national identity of each country, non-interference in internal affairs. Russia rejects the policy of unilateral actions and illegitimate sanctions, opposes impudent attempts to replace the universal norms of international law by a vague concept of a “rules-based world order”. We support the objective and distinct trend for democratising international relations and creating a fair, inclusive and polycentric global order, with the UN at its core. There is no space for the false hegemony of any nation or a group of nations. Russia’s foreign policy undertakings are UN-centered, as, for example, President Vladimir Putin’s initiative to convene a summit of the leaders of the permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Russia is open for mutually beneficial cooperation with other countries. We are working closely with partners for combatting the terrorist threat, extremism, cybercrime, tackling the climate change etc. We are an active member of the Eurasian Economic Union, the BRICS, the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the G20 and many other associations. Our efforts to resolve regional conflicts bring undeniable results. Lately, Russia has largely managed to defeat terrorism in Syria and together with the partners in the Astana format stabilise the situation there, helped put an end to armed clashes and restore peace in Nagorno-Karabakh, mediated to reduce tension in Libya.

From the very beginning of the pandemic, Russia extended a helping hand to a number of countries. We are ready to provide the countries in need with safe and highly effective vaccines. Sputnik V, the world’s first registered vaccine, has been approved in about 70 countries with a population of more than 3 billion people. Russia believes that immunisation drugs must be accessible for everyone and be universal public benefit. Naturally, measures to counter COVID-19 are high on the agenda of our cooperation with Athens.

Our bilateral relationship with Greece is of friendly nature and develops progressively. It was confirmed during the meeting of Foreign Ministers Sergey Lavrov and Nikos Dendias in Sochi, on the Black Sea coast, on May 24. The fact that it was their forth meeting since 2019 witnesses the intensity of our constructive political dialogue.

Russia and Greece have close cooperation at multilateral venues and the approaches of the two countries to the majority of global and regional issues are quite similar. We are fully committed to the UN Security Council decisions on the Cyprus issue and to the non-recognition of the unilateral declaration of independence of Kosovo, which is contrary to the UN SC Resolution 1244. We believe that conflicts in the wider area should be settled only by diplomatic means in strict compliance with international law. We stand for a peaceful and fair resolution of the disputes in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean. Unlike many other major players, Russia refers directly to the UN Convention on the Law of Sea and its Article 3 on the breadth of territorial sea up to 12 nautical miles. The sovereign rights of each of the countries of the region should be respected.

Our energy cooperation is of truly strategic nature. Russia remains the most reliable partner for Greece in this sector, covering more than 43% of its needs in natural gas. In 2020 imports of Russian gas by Greece increased by impressive 25%, while in January-May 2021 surged by another 35%. Russian investors implement large-scale projects here, e.g. the construction of a tourist complex in Crete worth 400 million euro. People-to-people contacts constitute an important pillar of our relationship. Before the pandemic, around 800.000 Russian tourists a year visited Greece to see at first hand its unique museums and enjoy magnificent resorts.

The solid basis for our present-day rich bilateral ties and sincere friendship with Greece is ensured by the millennium-long historical connection between our two peoples. Together we have traveled a great path with countless examples of mutual support. For centuries, our countries share a similar cultural code, traditional and moral values, religious beliefs. The Orthodox faith came to our land from Byzantium, as did the book-learning and the literacy itself. Later, hundreds of educated Greeks found a new home in Russia, especially after the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Over the years, the humanitarian ties grew stronger thanks to the effort of such legendary personalities as the Likhud brothers, pioneers of higher education in Russia; theologian Theophanos the Greek; philosopher, astronomer and mathematician, adviser to Catherine the Great Eugenios Voulgaris; personal physician of the empress Elisabeth Ioannis Melissino and many others. Numerous Greeks held prominent positions in Russian diplomatic corps, military, state civil service, science, art and trade.

After the Archipelago expedition of the Russian imperial fleet in 1770-1774, Greek ships got the privilege of trade operations in the Aegean under the protection of the Russian flag. Just then, heroes and benefactors of the Greek Revolution, Lambros Katsonis and Ioannis Varvakis, to name just few, began their activities both in Russia and in Greece. Many young Greeks entered a special School for Foreign Orthodox Students and later became naval officers. According to Greek historians, exactly at that point the modern Hellenic fleet started gaining its power.

A strong philhellenic movement developed in Russia. Russian officers, brought up on ancient Greek literature and art, could not stay indifferent to the cause of Greeks’ self-sacrificing struggle for freedom. Many left their homes to lend a hand to the suffering Orthodox people. As did Nicholai Rayko, the first commandant of the city of Patras and a close ally of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Governor of Greece (1828-1831) and earlier the Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire (1816-1822).

Outstanding Russian poets were inspired by the freedom-loving Greeks’ struggle and dedicated their works to it. Alexander Pushkin, who supported the founder of “Filiki Eteria”, general of the Russian army and aide-de-camp of the Tsar Alexandros Ypsilanti, wrote:

“Arise, o Greece, arise!
Not in vain you strained all your forces,
Not in vain had been violently shaken
Olympus, Pindus, and Thermopylae”.

This year Greece celebrates the bicentenary of its National Liberation Revolution. As Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said, this landmark event is a common feast for our two states. We are grateful to our Greek friends for the wide recognition of our country’s key role in the success of this historical undertaking. 2021 has been declared the Russia-Greece Year of History under the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation and the Prime Minister of the Hellenic Republic. It is the fourth in a row thematic year since 2016.

The program includes exhibitions, concerts, commemorative ceremonies, book presentations. Together we intend to pay tribute to the Battle of Navarino, when the Russian fleet in a joint squadron with England and France gained an epic victory against Ottoman and Egyptian naval forces. Russia was the first country to formally recognize the independent Greek state. We recall the battles when our ancestors fought together for freedom and peace in Europe during the First and the Second World Wars. We remember Russian and Soviet soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the victory and are buried in the Greek soil and at sea.

With such great and truly unique common past we face the future of our relations with confidence and make new ambitious plans. I have no doubts about the bright prospects ahead of us.