As far back as 1891 a Russian consulate operated from Galle, while Sri Lanka, Ceylon as it was then know was still a colony of Britain. The island had been visited by count Saltykov in 1841 and in 1845-46 who went on to record his observations in a book. In the late 19th century the famous writers Anton Chekhov and Ivan Bunin visited the island. In 1891 the island was also visited by the Russian crown prince and future Czar Nicholas II, who planted a tree in the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens.
Formal diplomatic relations between independent Sri Lanka and the Soviet Union was established on 19 February 1957. Immediately after the military cooperation began in the 1960s and blossom in the 70 with the Sri Lanka Air Force being equipped with MiG fighters and Kamov helicopters by the Soviet Union.
During the long years of war against the separatist terrorists the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation has been a close friend of Sri Lanka. The Sri Lanka Army is equipped with substantial numbers of Soviet designed small arms, artillery and armored vehicles. The backbone of the Sri Lanka air force’s transport fleet is composed of An-32 aircraft and Mil Mi-17 helicopters and its offensive capability is shored up by Russian designed Mi-24 attack helicopters and MiG-27 ground attack aircraft.
There is new chapter being established from the year 2006 in defiance related matters between the two countries. The Ambassador H.E. Udayanga Weeratunga initiated new areas of development in defense relations and managed the parties to sign the MOU in Military and technological related issues in 2007. As a result of the new developments the 1st Defense Attaché to the Russia Federation Gp Capt S.K. Pathirana was send in September 2007. From 2008 the Russian federation provided short duration military training programs for personnel of the Sri Lankan defense Forces. 2009 sees this cooperation continuing with the addition of degree level military programs being offered.
In recent times there has been further cooperation between the two countries in the military arena. In December 2007, for the first time in many years of defense cooperation the Russian Federation sent a top level military delegation headed by Colonel General Vladimir Moltenskoy to meet with the islands military leadership and also visit major military installations. This visit is indicative of further productive and mutually beneficial defense cooperation between the two countries. In response to the invitation by the Minister of Defense of the Russian Federation Hon Serdukov A, The secretary of defense of Sri Lanka Mr Gotabaya Rajapaksha headed a high level delegation to Russia in September 2008. His visit opened a new chapter in the current bilateral relations between the two militaries.
The successor of the strong relations between Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation is due to the tradition of warm and friendly relations with the defense establishments and the common understanding that the two sides have shown on many global issues.