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. Russian Consulate was established in Galle in 1892. 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.
Agreement on Economic & Technical Corporation
After commence of diplomatic relations between two countries, first high level delegation headed by Hon. V.A. Sergiyev , Deputy Minister of Foreign Economics Affairs of Soviet Union visited Sri Lanka in February 1958. As a result of discussions both counties had singed an Agreement on Economic & Technical Corporation on 25th February 1958. Based on agreement Soviet Union had supported to Ceylon to construct Steel corporation in Oruwala, Tyre corporation in Kelaniya and Floor Mill in Modara.
Agreement on Housing Constructions
In late 1963, Hon. V.A. Sergiyev , Deputy Minister of Foreign Economics Affairs of Soviet Union and Hon. M.P.Z. Siriwardane had signed an agreement on Housing Construction which was enable to establish a Building High Rice Apartment & Component Factory in Narahenpita Colombo.
Agreement on Goods Exchange
In February 1958, signed the first Trade Agreement between Ceylon and Soviet Union which permitted to exchange goods between counties. According to the agreement from Ceylon its was allowed to send Tea, Rubber, coconut Oil and Coir Products. From Soviet Union granted to send Heavy machinery equipments such as Bulldozers, Tractors, Trippers and cranes , Cement, Sugar and Cotton.
Subsequently in 1964, 1975 and 1977 agreements were updated by Hon. T.B. Illangarathne, Minister of Trade Sri Lanka. Agreement signed in 1977 enabled the currency system as convertible.
Agreement on Air services
Since activities between two countries get increased, both countries interested to establish a direct air service. As a result of discussions Agreement on Air Services had signed on 22nd February 1964 and commenced the flight service on 15th March 1965 by Soviet Government Airline – Aeroflot. But unfortunately it has stopped in 1999.
Agreement on Education
As a result of signed Agreement of Education, first batch of 31 students came to Moscow for higher studies in 1960. This was made possible to launch a preparation of professionals mainly in Medicine and Engineering. During Soviet Regime numbers of students get increased up to more than 100 per year. After the Soviet Union got disintegrated numbers of scholarships got reduced and allowed to the higher educational institutions with paying.
Today our undergraduates are mainly studying in following universities of Russian Federation and other CIS countries.