The bond between Sri Lanka and Russia dates back to 1956 during the tenture of the incumbent Prime Minister S.W.R.D Bandaranayake. It was flanked with a policy that had neutrality in international affairs which laid the foundation between the two countries. Subsequently, both governments found different ways to trade through foreign relations, economic policy and technical relations. The Soviet Union aided Sri Lanka with an amount of $355.9 million to Prime Minister Bandaranayake’s non-aligned foreign policy approach and crafted a new chapter in the evolution of foreign policy. After Prime Minister Bandaranaike’s tenure, Mrs Sirimavo Bandaranaike assumed the seat. Her economic policy also had a special attachment to Socialist strings. As a result, most foreign bilateral relations took place with the Soviet Union. A bilateral trade agreement with the Soviet Union was signed in 1970 (during her second tenure in power from 1970-76). Moreover, a bilateral export trade agreement (mainly for tea and rubber) and import trade agreement were also brokered.
The relationship between Sri Lanka and the Soviet Union has thrived in non-economic fields as well. According to the joint Sri Lanka-Soviet Communiqué (1963), both nations contrived for the “usefulness of the expansion of cultural relations, the exchange of scientific information, the strengthening of the contacts between specialists, working in the field of science, culture, education and health”.
In recent years, relations between both countries have developed at a good pace. The latest example of the ever-growing partnership is the working visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov to Sri Lanka in January of 2021. The Russian Foreign Minister met with the President Gotabaya Rajapaksa, Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa and Minister for Foreign Relations Dinesh Gunawardena. The visit of the Russian Foreign Minister sparked further impetus to the bilateral cooperation and will contribute to the time-tested friendship between both nations.
On the export side, Russia has become one of Sri Lanka’s major tea consumers, while also becoming an import trade partner for the country. Gradually these economic trends have increased national economic growth rate and have also become a reason to promote the national export industry abroad.
The science, technology, defence, agriculture, culture and education domains were also touched upon by the two governments’ bilateral agreements and memoranda of understanding (MOU).
During critical times, the Russian Government has provided short military training programs for the Sri Lankan defence forces. As a result Russian military assistance to Sri Lanka has paved the way for considerable Sri Lanka-Russia defence cooperation.
July 31st of 2021 will usher in a new beginning for the tourism Industry when Sri-Lankan airlines resumes its direct flights from Moscow to Colombo. The bond between Russia and Sri-Lanka has been strong and reopening the country for Russian Tourists only affirms that strength.