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SLRFS contributed towards strengthening bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Russia

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The Sri Lanka–Russia Friendship Society has a history that goes back to 1942 when it was established under the name Ceylon Friends of Soviet Union. During this period, the friendship society published a magazine named ‘Lankan–Soviet Magazine’.

The society was officially registered in 1959 as the Lanka-Soviet Friendship League, which has now evolved into what it is today, the Sri Lanka-Russia Friendship Society (SLRFS) after it was renamed in 1977. The SLRFS currently operates in Colombo with branches in Kandy, Galle and Nuwara Eliya.

With the assistance of Rossotrudnichestvo and the Association of Sri Lankan Graduates from Socialist Countries (ASLGSC), SLRFS publishes a Sinhala language quarterly magazine named ‘Rusiyawa’, which provides timely information on Russia to local readers.

Standing tall for many decades, the SLRFS has been a key contributor towards strengthening bilateral relations between Sri Lanka and Russia.

The All-Union Society for Cultural Relations (AUSCR) was created in April 1925. It was a difficult period for a newly emerged state that did not have international recognition and contacts with other countries. There was a need to tell the world about a completely new political system, to provide objective information that could dispel the myths that have arisen around the young Soviet power and provide support to foreign scientific and cultural intelligentsia.

The AUSCR aimed at “the establishment and development of scientific and cultural ties between institutions, NGOs and cultural figures of the USSR and abroad.”

Olga Kameneva, sister of Leo Trotsky and wife of the first head of the Soviet state Leo Kamenev, had become the chair of the organization. Prior to that, she led the Commission to Foreign Aid (CFA), which was created just over a year after the formation of the Soviet Union and became the prototype of the AUSCR.

Departments of science and technology, literature, studentship and language were represented in the new organization. Prominent figures such as poet Vladimir Mayakovsky, composers Sergei Prokofiev and Dmitri Shostakovich, writer Mikhail Sholokhov, and director Sergei Einstein contributed towards the work of AUSCR in the field of development of foreign relations.

On the part of foreign countries, physicists Albert Einstein and Marie Curie, writers Romain Rolland, Theodore Dreiser and Herbert Wells advocated the establishment of friendly relations with the Soviet authorities.

At the invitation of AUSCR, various delegations of foreign companies, as well as notable figures of science and culture like the French physicist Paul Langvin and writer Romain Rolland, Indian composer and public figure Rabindranath Tagore, Danish writer Martin Andersen Nexco, and many others visited the USSR.

AUSCR sent delegations and representatives of Soviet science and culture to foreign countries to participate in congresses and conferences; theatre troupes, music and dance ensembles; organized exchanges of literature and museum exhibits, etc. It was the AUSCR that first initiated the trips of Soviet citizens abroad.

Even during the war, AUSCR continued to work actively with the friendship societies in different countries. These organizations participated in the resistance movement, which was established in German-occupied territories. All-Union Society sought to unite prominent figures of the world of culture in the fight against Nazism.

Together with foreign friendship societies AUSCR raised awareness by distributing materials which voiced the deeds of the Soviet people in the struggle against the invaders and atrocities of the Nazis in the occupied territories.

With the assistance of Rossotrudnichestvo and the Association of Sri Lankan Graduates from Socialist Countries (ASLGSC), SLRFS publishes a Sinhala language quarterly magazine named “Rusiyawa” which provides timely information about Russia to local readers. The Sri Lanka-Russia Friendship Society has been a key contributor that has strengthened the bilateral relationship between Sri Lanka and Russia, standing tall for many decades.

The beginning of the cold war, emergence of the new political objectives demanded a new format of the AUSCR. In 1958, it was transformed into the Union of Soviet Friendship Societies (USFS). Soviet social and political activist Nina Popova became the first chairman of the newly formed body.

Thus, the society of friendship with Bulgaria was headed by an academician, aircraft designer, Andrei Tupolev, Association for Friendship with Italy by famous Soviet film director Sergei Gerasimov, one with Cuba – by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin, with Vietnam – cosmonaut German Titov. Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin visited Ceylon on the invitation of then Prime Minister, Sirimavo Bandaranaike on December 7, 1961. Around 5,000 people gathered to welcome to first man to go to space.

During the visit, he planted a sapling at the Peradeniya Botanical Garden which still stands even after 50 years plus. Further, the current president of the Russia Sri Lanka Friendship Society is the famous cosmonaut of the country, Vladimir Lyakov, who was a Commander on Soyuz 32, Soyuz T-9, and Soyuz TM-6, and spent 333 days, 7 hours, 47 minutes in space.

Friendship societies united 25,000 enterprises, collective and state farms, educational, scientific and cultural institutions. Over 50 million people participated in the activities of the USFS. Each year, republican society alone held about 25,000 events dedicated to foreign countries.

With the collapse of the USSR in the early 1990s, USFS among other organizations underwent a transformation. It was turned into a Russian Association for International Organization (RAIC) in April 1992. Also, a Russian Agency for International Cooperation and Development (RAICD) was created to strengthen informational, cultural and scientific relations among Russia and other states through the system of representative offices and centres of science and culture based in foreign states. Later, following the government decree of April 8, 1994, functions of the RAICD were transferred to the Russian Centre for International Scientific and Cultural Cooperation under the Government of the Russian Federation (RusInterCentre).

For the first time in the history of the system AUSCR – USFS – RAICD – RusInterCentre the organization entered the structure of state agencies. The Heroine of the Soviet Union cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova headed the newly created body.

Expansion of a structure that emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union such as the CIS necessitated fresh approaches to building a new format of international relations, not only with foreign countries, but also with Russia’s closest neighbours. There was a need to create a special federal body, which would have full authority in the development of Russian cultural ties with foreign countries in general, CIS countries in particular.

The current head of Rossotrudnichestvo, Yevgeny Primakov was appointed Head of Rossotrudnichestvo by Decree of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin under Act No. 416 of June 25, 2020.

Modern Russia has huge potential for expansion of humanitarian contacts as well as for promotion of its culture and rich historical heritage abroad. Today, as many years ago, the need of formulating an objective vision of our country, debunking the myths about it and further expanding the circle of friends on both diplomatic level and among ordinary citizens, remain highly significant.

 

Anastasia Khokhlova,

Director, Russian Centre Colombo.



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U.S. Ambassador to UN Agencies in Rome Cindy McCain to visit Lanka

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Colombo, September 23, 2022: United States Permanent Representative to the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies in Rome Ambassador Cindy McCain will visit Sri Lanka from September 25-28 to highlight U.S. food assistance programs in Sri Lanka and reinforce the U.S. commitment and lasting partnership with the island nation.

In addition to meeting with senior government officials and aid organizations in Colombo, Ambassador McCain will join U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka Julie Chung to travel to Central Province to visit schools, agricultural research facilities, and community organizations and meet with recipients and implementers of relief provided through U.S. government-funded humanitarian assistance programs.

The United States is the single largest country donor to the three United Nations food and agriculture agencies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the World Food Program (WFP).  U.S.-funded UN projects showcase how the U.S. government, the UN Food and Agriculture Agencies, and the government of Sri Lanka collaborate to reduce food insecurity and advance humanitarian relief, livelihood protection, and agriculture-led economic growth, especially at this critical time of increased global hunger.

The United States has provided partnership and assistance to the people and government of Sri Lanka for more than 70 years.  Since June, Ambassador Chung has overseen the announcement of nearly $240 million in new U.S. government assistance to Sri Lanka, including U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power’s September 2022 announcements of an additional $40 million to provide Sri Lankan farmers with fertilizer and $20 million to meet immediate humanitarian needs in the country.

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President urges SL diaspora in the UK to invest in their motherland

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By Sujeeva Nivunhella
reporting from London

President Ranil Wickremesinghe last week urged the Sri Lanka diaspora in the United Kingdom to invest in Sri Lanka projects to revive the economy. Addressing a gathering at the Sri Lanka High Commission in London, he said that he is proud that the British Sri Lankan community for making a mark in every field of the UK economy such as trading, services, business, and requested them to come together as Sri Lankans and people of Sri Lankan origin to help build the motherland.

The President added that Sri Lanka is looking at transforming its economy to a competitive export-oriented one to meet the current challenges and build social systems and modernize the education system.

He remarked on the special affection Queen Elizabeth II had towards Sri Lanka as the Head of the Commonwealth and the longest serving Head of State of Ceylon for 20 years prior to the nation becoming a Republic and stated that her passing is the end of an era.

The president, first lady and party arrived in London on Sept. 17 via Dubai by an Emirates flight to attend the State Funeral Service of Queen Elizabeth II.They were received at the Heathrow airport by High Commissioner Saroja Sirisena and were driven to the Intercontinental Hotel in Park Lane, London where they stayed.

On Sunday (Sept. 18), the President accompanied by the First Lady and High Commissioner attended the Lying-in-State of the late Queen at the Palace of Westminster which was followed by a Reception hosted by His Majesty King Charles III at Buckingham Palace.The President and the First Lady attended the State Funeral Service held at the Westminster Abbey on Monday (Sept. 19).  On the same day, he signed the Book of Condolence. The Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs James Cleverly MP hosted a reception for the visiting world leaders at Church House.

On 20th September, the President met the Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Patricia Scotland QC. They discussed Sri Lanka’s engagement with the Commonwealth Secretariat and matters of mutual interest. He also visited the London Buddhist Vihara during which Ven Dr Bogoda Seelawimala, Chief Incumbent of the Vihara and the Chief Sanga Nayaka of Great Britain invoked blessings on the President and the people of Sri Lanka.

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Families countrywide facing malnutrition, says Cardinal

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By Norman Palihawadane

Colombo Archbishop Malcolm Cardinal Ranjith has warned that the prevailing economic crisis and increasing unemployment and food prices are accelerating malnutrition among hundred thousands of families countrywide.

Addressing a ceremony at the annual get-together of the Archdiocesan Family Apostolate Service held at St Peter’s College Auditorium in Colombo, the Archbishop said that it was a shame that responsible local officials keep denying the prevailing status quo when world humanitarian organizations such as UNICEF continue to warn of the increasing malnutrition levels among children.

Many international organizations have pointed out that malnutrition in Sri Lanka was increasing at an alarming rate but the authorities responsible are hiding the truth and go to the extent of rejecting such reports.

“If they reject the reports of international organizations, then it is their paramount duty of conduct proper surveys to understand the situation. It is no secret that large numbers of Lankan families are starving due to the high prices of food. According to the UNICEF more than six million people consume only a single meal a day. It is so unfortunate that Health Ministry officials who spend their times in the air conditioned rooms in Colombo do not know the plight of the poor in rural areas,” the Cardinal said.He said that 225 MPs were concerned only of their well-being while continuing to ignore the actual and pressing issues of people.

“This country is in dire situation today mainly due to inefficient and corrupt political leaders. It is sad that these so-called people’s representatives are not concerned of the situation of people who are experiencing the worst ever economic and political crisis this country has ever faced,” the Cardinal said.

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