In terms of foreign policy, Russia is among Switzerland's principal partners. Relations between the two countries are robust and well established and have become closer since the signing of a memorandum of understanding between our two ministries in 2007.
Key aspects of diplomatic relations
In terms of foreign policy, Russia is one of Switzerland's principal partners. The two countries share many interests. As a member of the UN Security Council and the G-20, Russia is a major international player.
Since the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between our foreign ministries in 2007, bilateral relations have developed significantly. The MoU defines the framework for systematic and closer cooperation in the areas of:
foreign policy and security
justice, policing and migration
economic affairs and science
education and cultural affairs
Representatives of both foreign ministries meet regularly for consultations. There are close contacts at the parliamentary level too, with active parliamentary friendship groups in both countries.
Since March 2009 Switzerland has represented Russia’s interests in Tbilisi and Georgia’s interests in Moscow following the breakdown of diplomatic relations between Russia and Georgia in 2008.
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.
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, the Swiss embassy fosters close contacts with the relevant ministries and with many Russian universities and research institutes. It promotes exchanges and cooperation between education and research institutes in both countries and supports their potential for innovation. For this reason, on 17 December 2012, Russia and Switzerland concluded a bilateral agreement on science and research.
Researchers and artists from Russia can apply for Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships from the State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI).
Peacebuilding and human security
Switzerland and Russia regularly consult on human rights issues. Since 2003, bilateral consultations have taken place on an annual basis in Switzerland and Russia alternately. The two countries also regularly discuss regional conflicts.
Switzerland supports small projects in the area of human rights. Since 1997, it has been working together with Russia to introduce social work in Russian prisons and since 2009 on reform of the juvenile justice system. Since 2007, our countries have also been working together on prison healthcare. Business and human rights is another line of action. The Swiss embassy is supporting a project to improve conditions for workers involved in the preparations for the 2018 football world cup in Russia. Switzerland also backs a project to encourage humanitarian dialogue in the North Caucasus.
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 Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
In the field of humanitarian aid, Switzerland works closely with the Russian disaster protection authorities.
Swiss citizens in Russia
At the end of 2016, there were 800 Swiss citizens living in Russia, the majority of them living in the greater Moscow area, followed by St Petersburg.
Since November 2016, a regional consular centre attached to the embassy in Moscow has offered a range of consular services and provides consular protection to Swiss citizens travelling in Russia, Uzbekistan and Belarus.
In 2016, the representation issued over 25,000 visas, a number which is set to grow judging by the applications handled in the first quarter of 2017.
Russia has a rich cultural heritage and a lively and diverse cultural life. Cultural exchanges with Switzerland are vibrant. The embassy supports cultural projects in Moscow, St Petersburg and regionally, particularly in connection with Swiss cinema and literature in Switzerland's national languages. It also provides information about Switzerland’s cultural presence in Russia and on cultural life in Switzerland to interested circles in Russia.
In 2014, the embassy put on an ambitious programme as part of the Swiss cultural season organised in Russia to mark 200 years of diplomatic relations.
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
In 2014, Switzerland and Russia were able to look back on 200 years of diplomatic 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 an envoy to the Swiss Diet for the first time. A few years later, Switzerland opened an honorary consulate in St Petersburg. Since 1906, Switzerland has been present in Russia with a diplomatic representation.
Diplomatic relations with Moscow were broken off following the October revolution in 1917 and restored after the Second World War. In 2016 the countries celebrated the 70th anniversary of the resumption of bilateral relations. Since the signing of the bilateral MoU in 2007, relations have expanded. A high point was the state visit to Switzerland of the then Russian president, Dmitry Medvedev, in 2009.