Russia is one of Switzerland's priority partners in terms of foreign policy. Diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Russia are robust and have become closer since the signing of a memorandum of understanding between our two foreign ministries in 2007.
Bilateral relations Switzerland–Russia
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In terms of foreign policy, Russia is one of Switzerland's priority partners. As a member of the UN Security Council and the G20, Russia is a major international player. Since the Swiss and Russian foreign ministries signed a memorandum of understanding in 2007, relations have developed significantly and representatives of the two countries meet on a regular basis.
Since March 2009 – following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia in 2008 – Switzerland has represented Russia's interests in Tbilisi and Georgia's interests in Moscow. Close contact has also been established at parliamentary level.
Russia is a large market with considerable potential for Swiss companies. Switzerland is committed to creating optimal conditions for Swiss businesses and has an action plan on developing economic relations to achieve this. A bilateral mixed economic commission meets on an annual basis to discuss the challenges encountered by Swiss and Russian companies.
The Swiss Business Hub, which is integrated within the Swiss embassy, advises Swiss companies intending to enter the Russian market and promotes Switzerland as a business location.
Cooperation in education and training
In the fields of education and science, Switzerland fosters close contacts with the relevant ministry and with several Russian universities and research institutes. It promotes exchanges and cooperation between education and research institutes in both countries and supports their potential for innovation. On 17 December 2012, Russia and Switzerland concluded a bilateral agreement on science and research which is valid for six years and will soon need to be renewed.
Researchers and artists from Russia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships to the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland and Russia have been engaged in annual consultations on human rights issues since 2003. Switzerland supports several projects on human rights, in particular on detention conditions and prison healthcare provision.
Swiss officials also regularly discuss regional conflicts and peace policy with their Russian counterparts. At the multilateral level, cooperation takes place within the framework of international organisations, especially the UN Human Rights Council, the Council of Europe and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
In the field of humanitarian aid, Switzerland cooperates with the Russian disaster protection authorities.
Swiss citizens in Russia
At the end of 2017, there were 781 Swiss citizens living in Russia, the majority of them living in the greater Moscow area, followed by St Petersburg.
Since November 2016, there has a been a regional consular centre attached to the embassy in Moscow, offering a range of consular services and providing consular protection to Swiss citizens travelling in Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus.
In 2017, the embassy issued over 24,000 visas. In the first quarter of 2018, there was a slight drop in applications.
Russia has great cultural heritage and a very lively and diverse cultural life. Cultural exchanges with Switzerland are vibrant. The Swiss embassy supports a wide range of cultural exchanges throughout Russia, particularly between film-makers, and promotes Switzerland's national languages in the country. It also provides Russians with information on Swiss culture.
To cater to increasing interest in cultural exchanges and to promote contacts among cultural institutions, Pro Helvetia opened an office in Moscow in 2017.
History of bilateral relations
After the Napoleonic Wars (1792–1815), Russia supported Switzerland's re-emergence as an independent and neutral state. In 1814, Tsar Alexander I appointed Russia's first envoy to the Swiss Diet. A few years later, Switzerland opened an honorary consulate in St Petersburg. Diplomatic relations with Moscow were broken off in 1923 following the Russian Revolution and restored in 1946 after the Second World War. Since the signing of a bilateral memorandum of understanding in 2007, relations have expanded. A high point was the state visit to Switzerland of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2009.