From "diplomacy of dance" to "digital diplomacy". To the 25th anniversary of the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad
17 August, 2017
Pavel Mamontov, the Representative of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad
Arkadiy Ryabichenko, Attaché of the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad, Ph.D. in History
It was no coincidence 25 years ago that Kaliningrad was chosen by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation as one of four cities where representative offices were to open at the forefront. After the collapse of the USSR the geopolitical situation changed and the Kaliningrad Region closed for foreign visitors overnight became an "island" in the sea of new independent states. International contacts began to develop rapidly. On August 14, 1992, in order to focus on the region's external relations as a part of Russia's united foreign policy, the Representative Office of the Russian Foreign Ministry was established.
The formative years
For the new body the authorities of the region provided premises in the building on 17 Kirova street, where former House of political Education of the Kaliningrad CPSU was located. The Representative Office has been working here ever since. According to the "veterans", at first there were only 5 employees, 2 rooms and a typewriter rented from a private firm. Compare it to the present 25 Representative Office workers, including seven diplomats.
On January 24, 1993, V.N. Terekhov became the Representative of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad. He was the former Head of the Department of Exploratory Fisheries and Research Fleet of the Western Basin, who used to work abroad. However, he did not hold the post for long due to health problems, and on March 27, 1994, A.I. Kynin, the first Secretary of the Representative Office, began to act as the representative.
A new representative A.A. Korobeinikov (former Consul General of Russia in Rostok) did not manage to depart for Kaliningrad, and on March 31, 1995, A. I. Kuznetsov, Ambassador-at-Large in the International Scientific and Technological Cooperation Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia, was appointed to a position of a representative in Kaliningrad.
Mr. Kuznentsov, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary, Doctor of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, is justly considered to be the Founding Father of the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad, which was recognized by residents and government of the Kaliningrad Region in a short time.
During the first years of Mr. Kuznetsov being in his job, he helped local authorities to prepare the documents that laid the legal basis for the Kaliningrad Region international relations. The creation of the Special Economic Zone (SEZ) in the region was another significant issue to require coordination as well as the organization of the official delegations’ visits abroad.
Moreover, the Representative Office actively managed the relationship between Kaliningrad and its closest neighbours. So, the booklet that was released for the Office’s fifth anniversary said, “It’s already been three years since the Intergovernmental Council of Cooperation between the Kaliningrad Region and the Poland’s North-Eastern Voivodeships started working, agreements with Lithuanian counties are made, the Russian-Lithuanian Commission and the Kaliningrad Region Working group has been operating and the Belarus-Scandinavian relationship has developed effectively. The Representative Office plays a considerable role in all these events."1
Mr. Kuznetsov had to deal with the most of livelihood issues in person. For instance, in 1996 he proceeded to Vilnius to meet the MFA State Secretary R. Šidlauskas when passengers on board of Saint-Petersburg and Moscow direct trains faced complications on the Lithuanian border. As a result, the incidents were ceased.
One of the objectives for the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad appeared to be assistance in organization of significant international events in the region. The decentralized cross-border cooperation conference, initiated by the Russian Foreign Ministry and Council of Europe, was held in 1996 in Kaliningrad, Olsztyn (Poland) and Marijampolė (Lithuania). It became one of the first huge events of that kind. Three years later with the help of the Representative Office Kaliningrad was named the host to the Committee of Senior Officials of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS) session where the Kaliningrad Region was one of the agenda items.
In the early 2000s, Russian Foreign Minister I.S. Ivanov visited the region for the first time. In 2001, the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad hosted a meeting of the Russian ambassadors in Belarus, Lithuania and Poland on the occasion of the Minister’s visit. A year later in Svetlogorsk the XI CBSS Ministerial session with the participation of Mr. Ivanov took place. For the organization and conduct of it, the Representative Office was highly assessed by the Minister.
In the late 1990s, a new direction began to emerge in the work of the Representative Office - the Kaliningrad dimension of cooperation between Russia and the European Union. Mr. Kuznetsov recalls, "I had the opportunity to participate in the process of writing an important document on the development of relations between Russia and the EU and to propose that the Kaliningrad component be designated as a pilot one and the Kaliningrad Region be called a pilot region. The enthusiasm was great. But gradually it was felt that the engine was running but the car was not going because the clutch was not working. Then, the farther in, the depeer. NATO enlarged, and neighbouring countries (Lithuania and Poland) joined it. At that moment, I remember very well, we had impression that the worst is yet to come - the accession of our neighbors to the European Union."
Another urgent task was to provide practical support to the growing Consular Corps in the Kaliningrad Region. In the early 1990s, consulates of Lithuania and Poland opened in the region, and a little later - a Representative Office of Belarus. Foreign diplomats were regularly introduced both to the regional authorities and to the sights of Kaliningrad and other cities. Numerous high-ranking diplomats, including foreign ambassadors, who came to Kaliningrad on visits, were frequent guests of the Office.
From the very first days of its work, the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad began to provide visa support to numerous foreign guests of the region. A significant number of foreign visitors were Germans who had previously lived in the territory of the former Eastern Prussia, the so-called "nostalgic tourists". Visas were also required for those who were bringing in urgent humanitarian aid for the population at that time, as well as for members of delegations of newly-minted twin towns. Stationary visa issuing points of the Representative Office in the city of Bagrationovsk and Khrabrovo airport started their work in 1999 and 2002, respectively.
In the late 1990s - early 2000s the Representative Office in Kaliningrad has broken new ground in terms of technical equipment: the body was connected to the Internet, the automated system of registration of invitations of foreign citizens to the territory of the Russian Federation and the information system "Consul ZU" were implemented.
The region residents intensively used the services of the Office. Due to the specificity of the region, diplomats often had to address issues at returning Kaliningrad sailors who were affected by shipowners' bankruptcies or different accidents while working on fishing vessels abroad.
Diplomats of the Office became more experienced every year and soon began to move towards the new frontiers. As early as in 1998, the first two diplomats from Kaliningrad were sent on long-term missions to the Russian Embassy in Mexico and the Consulate General of Russia in Klaipėda, Lithuania. It is significant that three years later, absolutely all diplomats of the authority gained certificates of Advanced courses of foreign languages of the MFA of Russia on the foreign language skills. A bit later, according to the evaluation of the Office employees, the Center recommended promotion to a higher grade, rank or qualification category in regard to the majority of them.
The outreach work began to gain momentum: articles by the diplomats on topical issues, such as NATO enlargement to the East, were regularly published in leading newspapers in the Kaliningrad Region.
In "cultural diplomacy" Kuznetsov's main assistant was his wife, cultural attaché of the Office Z.I. Kuznetsova. An integral part of work for all employees was participation in various events - romances parties, balls or drama programmes timed to important historical dates. Some diplomats say, it was much harder to learn how to dance Polonaise than to prepare background reports or negotiate with foreign counterparts.
As a part of cultural activities of the Office of that time, the extensive program initiated by Mr. Kuznetsov on the 300th anniversary of the Grand Embassy of Peter the Great was a priority.
With the support of local authorities, monuments dedicated to Peter the Great first appeared in the Kaliningrad Region in 1997-1998; the embankment in the centre of Kaliningrad was named after the Emperor. The local media published articles about the Prussian routes taken by Peter I. The Representative Office assisted in publishing of a book about the Emperor. The international festival of fleets "Sails of hope", attended by guests from 15 countries, was successfully held in Kaliningrad within the programme.
The delegation of the Kaliningrad Region led by Mr. Kuznetsov went to Germany, the Netherlands and Poland along the route of the Grand Embassy. The Representative Office set commemorating plaques in three cities in Germany. The delegation also met representatives of the local business community. At the same time, a monument to Peter I, created by Kaliningrad sculptors, was unveiled in London. Later it was placed in the park area of the Russian Embassy in the UK*. (*A copy of the monument is set in the Petrovsky hall of the MFA Representative Office in Kaliningrad).
The Representative Office in Kaliningrad decided not to dwell on Peter the Great and gave commemorative plaques dedicated to the 200th anniversary of the Italian campaign of Suvorov to the cities of Valeggio and Lecco, Italy, in 1999.
Interestingly, the 10th anniversary of the Office coincided with the 200th anniversary of the MFA of Russia. Besides having the reception, they issued a commemorative envelope and a wall calendar.
The traditional New Year's Eve reception for the consular corps and representatives of the authorities of the Kaliningrad Region has become a tradition under Mr. Kuznetsov in office. Despite a twofold increase in the area in 1996, due to the lack of its own reception hall, the authority had to conduct Protocol receptions in rented premises of restaurants and cafes.
New challenges and achievements
In 2002, Mr. Kuznetsov was appointed as a head of the Consular Section of the Russian Embassy in Poland so it was time he worked abroad. Next March S.V. Bezberezhjev became the representative of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad. He used to be a head of "Kaliningrad" division of the Department for Liaisons with the Subjects of the Federation, the Parliament and Public Associations (DLPA).
In the run-up to the accession of Lithuania and Poland to the European Union in 2004, the new head of the territorial authority faced several challenges. The office was assumed to take an active part in the preparation of agreements with the EU concerning the Kaliningrad Region.
Mr. Bezberezhjev also participated in consultations with the Lithuanian Foreign Ministry on visa issues, which resulted in Russian-Lithuanian intergovernmental agreements on mutual travel of citizens, readmission, the procedure for the preparation of simplified transit and travel documents. It is worth noting that the scheme of visa-free "Kaliningrad Transit" for Russian citizens by land transport, created with the participation of the Office, has been successfully operating. Under the public awareness activities about transit issues, an information point of the Representative Office was opened at the Kaliningrad South railway station, where several thousand citizens of Russia and foreigners were consulted.
In the mid-2000s, it was time for high-raking visits to the Kaliningrad Region. In June 2003, the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, met with the President of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniewski, in Kaliningrad. And on July 3, 2005, during the celebration of the 750th anniversary of Kaliningrad, the Russian President held a workshop with German Federal Chancellor, Gerhard Schroeder, and the President of France, Jacques Chirac. The Representative of Russian MFA in Kaliningrad, Mr. Bezberezhjev, was awarded a letter of commendation from the President of the Russian Federation for active participation in organisation and holding of anniversary events.
With the support of the Office, the region has hosted a number of major international events since 2007: meetings of the Committee of Senior Officials of the Council of the Baltic Sea States (CBSS); the Russian-Lithuanian Intergovernmental Commission on Trade, Economic, Scientific, Technical, Humanitarian and Cultural Cooperation; Russian-Polish Standing Committee on Transport; the Joint Russian-Lithuanian Fisheries Commission; the Joint Russian-European Union Baltic Sea Fishery Commission; the Joint Norwegian-Russian Fisheries Commission and others.
In the second half of the 2000s, with the support of the Office, steady efforts had been successfully made to include the Kaliningrad Region in the programmes of cross-border cooperation of the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument "Lithuania-Poland-the Kaliningrad Region" (2004-2006), "Lithuania-Poland-Russia" (2007-2013). Speaking of the municipal level, attention was paid to assisting of organization of the Euroregions activities, such as "Baltika", "Neman", "Saule", "Lina-Lava". The authorities of the region decided to be actively involved in the State Programme to Assist Voluntary Resettlement of Compatriots Living Abroad to the Russian Federation launched in 2006.
The work of the authority related to visas had new aspects after the adoption in 2006 of the updated version of the law on the special economic zone in the Kaliningrad Region. In 2007 the experiment of the Representative Office on issuing of short-term tourist visas "72 hours" was launched (completed on December 31, 2016).
In May 2005, a significant milestone in the history of the authority was the visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov who positively assessed the work of the Office.
The Representative Office, inter alia, was responsible for the meeting of heads of foreign institutions of Russia in Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Finland and Estonia (2006), held by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation V. Titov in Kaliningrad, and official visit of the Deputy Minister of Russia Mr. Grushko (2008).
2011 was marked by two visits of Sergey Lavrov, who had meetings with the Foreign Ministers of Germany, Norway and Poland in Kaliningrad. During one of the visits Sergey Lavrov noted: "The Kaliningrad Region is a great place to hold more international meetings." 2 Two years later, the XVIII Ministerial session of the CBSS was held in Pionerskiy.
In 2006, the Representative Office embarked on the practical phase of registration of new foreign passports for residents of the Kaliningrad Region (regular passports were issued since the 1990s). Due to the opening of the Office of the Consular Section of the Latvian Embassy in Russia and the visa section of the German Consulate General in the mid-2000s, consular part became more intensive.
When the renovation of the extra 240 m2 of working space was over at the end of 2005, the authority began to actively use the new reception hall for outreach work. New principles of the Russian MFA Representative Office functioning with the public emerged exactly that time. In 2006, the Office opened the School of young diplomat, “in order to acquaint the Kaliningrad youth with the history and traditions of Russian diplomacy, with the realities of the modern world in the field of international relations” 3 on the basis of Kaliningrad Yuri Gagarin gymnasium No.40.
From now on, young diplomats are welcome to visit the Representative Office, where an annual solemn ceremony of awarding "diplomatic" ties and meetings of schoolchildren with diplomatic staff take place. Participants of the School study the history of Russian diplomacy and international relations, the basics of etiquette and public speaking. In 2008, they visited the office building of the Russian Foreign Ministry on Smolenskaya-Sennaya Square. Young diplomats are integral participants of the Baltic Sea Region Euro-Parliament Model, the Kaliningrad session of which was held in 2010 in the reception hall of the Representative Office.
The partnership with the Twice Red Banner Baltic Fleet, which was performed since the opening of the Representative Office, reached a new level under the representative S.V. Bezberezhjev. According to Mr. Bezberezhiev, interaction with the commanders and officers of the Fleet was the most interesting work in Kaliningrad for him.
On may 27, 2005, during the working visit of the Foreign Minister of Russia, Sergey Lavrov, to the city of Baltiysk, Kaliningrad Region, an Agreement on cooperation and patronage relations between the destroyer "Nastoychivy" and the Representative Office was signed. In that September, the Minister signed a Protocol on cooperation and patronage between the Russian Foreign Ministry and the Baltic fleet.
The Office employees visited the ship, and the crew members of the "Nastoychivy", in turn, participated in festive events of the authority. Entering foreign ports, the Baltic fleet vessels received information support by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Back in 2002, a cooperation agreement between the Office and the Kaliningrad State University (IKBFU) was signed. Number of joint activities has been held and, moreover, students of the University are offered to do traineeship within the authority.
The cooperation of the Representative Office with the Baltic Fishing Fleet State Academy (BFFSA) has been productive as well. The Protocol on cooperation and partnership came into force in 2007. In the museum of the world-famous barque "Kruzenshtern", owned by the BFFSA, you can find a welcome letter and a photo of the Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov. The representative of the MFA in Kaliningrad, S. V. Bezberezhiev, solemnly handed them out to the ship's captain.
The Representative Office has helped Kruzenshtern to enter ports all over the world many times, and in Kaliningrad the sailing ship, in turn, was visited by representatives of the local consular corps.
The cooperation with the Center of National Glory and St. Andrew Foundation was also rather productive. Under this cooperation the Representative Office was one of the organizers of F.Golovin memoralization activities in the region.
A series of public hearings "Poland in the European Union: the Experience of the First Years of Membership and Polish-Russian Relations" in the format of a discussion club, held in Kaliningrad four years later, together with the Consulate General of Poland, turned out to be an interesting and useful experience.
The discussion took place in the reception hall of the Representative Office, which was also successfully used as a venue for art exhibitions, meetings and musical performances. The 20th anniversary of the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad was celebrated here as well in 2012.
The Present and the Future of the Representative Office
In 2013, after the departure of S.V. Bezberezhjev to the Black Sea Fleet, Pavel Mamontov, who had previously worked in the Russian embassies in Denmark and the Republic of Seychelles, assumed the duties of a Representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Kaliningrad.
In the same year, Russian-Polish inter-MFA consultations on the application of an intergovernmental agreement on local border traffic were held for the second time in the reception hall of the Office. A workshop on the implementation of the local border traffic agreement in 2015 was also held at the Representative Office of the Russian Foreign Ministry in Kaliningrad.
In 2015, with the support of the Office, technical and conceptual aspects of the cross-border cooperation programs of the European Neighbourhood Partnership Instrument were worked out in the format of "Lithuania-Russia" (2014-2020) and "Poland-Russia" (2014-2020).
Under the auspices of the Office, various thematic events continue to be held in the reception hall of the administrative authority. For example, in 2013, within the framework of the Russian-Lithuanian bilateral round table, a discussion on the prospects for Russian-European cooperation in the light of the Lithuanian Presidency to the Council of the EU was held.
As an example of the activities of the Representative Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in Kaliningrad, prepared at the request of representatives of the regional consular corps, we should mention a seminar on foreign business opportunities after the end of the transition period of the SEZ in the Kaliningrad Region in spring 2016, held in the end of 2015.
In 2012, under the work with schoolchildren, the Representative Office acted as one of the organizers of the Youth Assembly of United and Partner Cities of Kaliningrad. Upon the initiative of participants of this organization last year a street was named after great Russian diplomat, Alexander M. Gorchakov.
Shortly before this, there was a meeting between the representative of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad, P.A. Mamontov, and the participants from 13 countries who took part in the scientific project “IX Diplomatic Seminar of Young Experts” - the event of the Alexander Gorchakov Public Diplomacy Fund, that is a long-standing partner of the Representative Office.
“Digital diplomacy” helps the Representative Office to ease cooperation with young people (accounts on “Facebook”, “VKontakte”, “Twitter”, “Flickr”, “Youtube”, “Storify” were created in 2014-2016).
There is also the fruitful cooperation of the Kaliningrad Representative Office of the MFA of Russia with the museum community of the region. Receptions for the Day of Diplomatic Worker are traditionally held in the Historical and Cultural Center “Grand Embassy” of the Museum of the World Ocean. In the framework of cooperation with the Kaliningrad Regional Museum of History and Art, the Representative Office regularly sends copies of documents from the archives of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia and promotes various exhibitions in Kaliningrad, including thematic ones, such as “From the History of European Diplomacy. To the 100th anniversary of the First World War, 1914-1918 "(2013), "Russian poets-diplomats of the XVIII-XXI centuries to the 210th anniversary of the birth of F.I.Tyutchev "(2014).
The Kaliningrad Representative Office of the Russian Foreign Ministry continues to hold significant international events in the region, for example, the Foreign Policy Commission meetings of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Union of Russia and Belarus, last year, and a seminar for the contact points of the OSCE participating states on UN Security Council resolution 1540 "Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction".
Speaking of the recent events, it should be mentioned that in June 2017 the Representative Office provided an official visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov to the Kaliningrad Region. The minister met the head of the Slovak foreign ministry M. Lajcak.
Today, the Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad works closely with the office of the plenipotentiary representative of the President of the Russian Federation in the North-West Federal District, the Government of the Kaliningrad Region and other authorities. The consular corps consisting of six consular offices and four Honorary Consuls is also under the "care" of the Office.
Due to the expected adoption of a new version of the Federal Law “On the SEZ in the Kaliningrad Region” this year, according to which a separate category of digital visas will be given to tourists entering the region, the office could use its experience in implementing 72-hour visas within implementing this project.
Summing up the 25-year work of the Representative Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia in Kaliningrad, it should be mentioned that A.B. Prokhorskaya, A.N. Rykova, I.N. Senina, O.B. Strunovich, A.A. Uvarovskaya, T.V. Shloyda has been working in the Office the longest.
The anniversary of the Representative Office together with the employees is celebrated by the veterans of the Office, some of which work in the Public Council under the Agency for Foreign Affairs and Regional Cooperation of the Kaliningrad Region (the chairman is Yu.D. Rozhkov-Yuryevsky).
In conclusion, there is a list of countries where the diplomats and employees of the authority worked during long-term official missions abroad: Argentina, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Panama, Mexico, Japan, Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, Turkey.
Now, former employees of the Office successfully work in Russian overseas agencies in Belarus, Venezuela, Latvia, Poland, Sweden and Hong Kong.
Thus, the special event is going to be celebrated not only in Kaliningrad.
1 The Representative Office of the MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad. To the 5th anniversary of the opening. 1992-1997 / Compiler Z.I. Kuznetsova Kaliningrad,1997. P. 5.
2 Qtd. in: Kaliningrad - a meeting place of heads of diplomatic departments // Baltic International Club. Spring-summer of 2011. P. 3.
3 Certificate of the establishment of the School of young diplomats. Kaliningrad, 2006. P. 2.
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The Representative Office of MFA of Russia in Kaliningrad
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MAMONTOV Pavel Anatolyevich