Bilateral Relations

Bilateral Relations

In 1926, the USSR and Iceland, which was then in union with Denmark, reached an agreement “on regular relations”. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on October 4, 1943.

An important milestone in the development of bilateral relations at present was the first ever state visit of Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson to Moscow on April 18-24, 2002.

On May 9, 2005 Icelandic Prime Minister Halldór Ásgrímsson visited Moscow where he took part in events dedicated to the 60th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War. 

On December 14, 2005 Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson visited so called “Northern capital” of Russia, where he had a meeting with the Governor of St. Petersburg Valentina Matvienko.

On June 7-8, 2006 the Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Mikhail Fradkov visited Iceland.

On September 22-23, 2010 Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin received Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson in Moscow on the sidelines of the forum “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”. The willingness to intensify cooperation in promising areas in the field of energy, air traffic, ecology, Arctic exploration, science and culture was confirmed.

In January 2011 Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson was awarded a commemorative medal “65 years of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945” for his contribution to preserving the memory of the common victory in World War II, the heroic pages of its history, in particular, about the Arctic convoys.

On September 22, 2011 Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had a conversation with President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson during his visit to Arkhangelsk to participate in the forum “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”.

President of Iceland Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson also visited the Russian Federation in 2012, 2013 and 2014. 

Representatives of the State Duma and the Federal Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation have repeatedly visited Iceland to participate in international inter-parliamentary events held on its territory. In particular, on October 5-9, 2007 the delegations of the State Duma headed by Deputy Chairman of the Chamber Lyubov Sliska and the Federal Council headed by Chairman of the Defense and Security Committee Victor Ozerov took part in the 53rd session of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly held in Reykjavik.

On September 17-22, 2008 the delegation of Althingi headed by speaker Sturla Böđvarsson visited Russia.

On May 11-14, 2011 the delegation of the State Duma headed by the deputy chairman of the lower chamber of the Russian parliament Lyubov Sliska visited Reykjavik.

On May 14, 2013 Chairman of the Council of Federation of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Valentina Matvienko visited Iceland and had a meeting with acting speaker of Althingi R.Rikardsdottir. 

A dialogue between the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Iceland prior to the events in Ukraine in 2014 was maintained on a regular basis.

Thus, on November 24, 2004, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, as part of his participation in the IV ministerial session of the Arctic Council in Reykjavik, held talks with his Icelandic counterpart Davíð  Oddsson. The ministers expressed satisfaction with the ongoing development of Russian-Icelandic relations in various fields, outlined guidelines for further interaction.

On March 24, 2006 the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iceland Geir Haarde paid a visit to Moscow.

The heads of the Ministries of foreign affairs of Russia and Iceland have repeatedly met on the sidelines of international forums. In particular, on  October 26, 2006 they met in Salekhard within the framework of the  5th ministerial session of the Arctic Council, on September 25, 2008 at the  UN General Assembly in New York, on November 2, 2010 at the ministerial session of the Northern Dimension in Oslo.

On November 29, 2011 during the working visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland Össur Skarphéđinsson to Moscow, the Declaration “Partnership for Modernization” and the Joint Statement on Cooperation in the Arctic were signed. During the visit, a Memorandum on the supply of dairy products was signed between Russian Federal Service for Veterinary and Phytosanitary Surveillance (Rosselkhoznadzor) and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) as well as an agreement on cooperation between the Ministries of Culture of Russia and Iceland.

The exchange of visits by the heads of various ministries and departments of Russia and Iceland as a whole contributed to the development of a legal framework for bilateral interaction, the foundation of which is the Declaration on the Foundations of Relations between the two countries signed in December 1994.

In September 2006, the Chairman of the Accounts Chamber of Russia  Sergei Stepashin visited Iceland. In October 2007 Iceland's Auditor General  Skuli Eggert Þórđarson paid a return visit to Moscow, during which a Memorandum of Mutual Understanding on cooperation between the Accounts Chamber of the Russian Federation and Iceland's General Audit Office was signed.

On March 1, 2010 Russian-Icelandic intergovernmental agreements on readmission and visa facilitation came into force (signed in September 2008).

In October 2010, Russian Minister of Energy Sergei Shmatko paid a working visit to Reykjavik. He held talks with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland Össur Skarphéđinsson and the Minister of Industry, Energy and Tourism of Iceland Katrín Júlíusdóttir.

On October 25-26, 2011 Katrín Júlíusdóttir paid a return visit to Moscow. Russian-Icelandic intergovernmental agreements on cooperation in the field of geothermal energy and tourism were signed.

On March 31, 2012 Secretary of the Security Council of the Russian Federation Nikolai Patrushev paid a visit to Iceland. 

On May 19, 2012 Minister of Internal Affairs of Iceland Ögmundur Jónasson took part in the St. Petersburg International Legal Forum. On the sidelines of the event, an Agreement on Cooperation between the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Iceland was signed.

The Ukrainian crisis in 2014 had a noticeable impact on Russian-Icelandic relations. Iceland, which is not a member of the EU, has joined all anti-Russian sanctions imposed by the European Union. In turn, Russia imposed retaliatory restrictive measures against Iceland.

Over the past few years, Moscow and Reykjavik have taken steps to refine bilateral political dialogue at various levels.

In particular, President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson paid working visits to Arkhangelsk (March 29-30, 2017) and St. Petersburg (April 8-11, 2019) to participate in the meetings of the International Arctic Forum “The Arctic: Territory of Dialogue”. In the frameworks of the events he held talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Chairman of the State Duma Vladimir Volodin and Speaker of Alþingi Steingrímur Sigfusson held a conversation on the sidelines of the meeting of the heads of the PACE parliaments on October 24-25, 2019 in Strasbourg. Steingrímur Sigfusson was invited to visit Russia.

Speaker of Alþingi Steingrímur Sigfusson visited the Russian Federation on June 27 – July 1, 2021. He held talks with Chairman of the State Duma Vladimir Volodin, met with Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Konstantin Kosachev, First Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation Vladimir Titov. The sides discussed issues of intensifying Russian-Icelandic parliamentary cooperation, prospects for strengthening ties between Russia and Iceland in various formats in the Arctic. Speaker of Alþingi invited Chairman of the State Duma to pay a working visit to Iceland.

Steingrímur Sigfusson visited so called "northern capital" of Russia, met with Governor of Saint Petersburg Aleksander Beglov and Chairman of the Legislative Assembly of Saint Petersburg Vyacheslav Makarov. The parties discussed the possibilities of broadening cooperation in the fields of tourism, shipbuilding, as well as intensifying contacts within the framework of Arctic cooperation.

In October 2018, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia Sergey Lavrov and Iceland Gúðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson exchanged messages on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. In the message of the head of the Icelandic Foreign Ministry it was noted that “despite sometimes differing political views of our countries, bilateral relations have always been characterized by mutual respect and friendship ...”. At the same time, the hope for the further development of relations between Iceland and Russia was expressed.

On June 11, 2019, on the sidelines of the 108th session of the International Labor Conference in Genève Russian Minister of Labor Maksim Topilin and Icelandic Minister of Social Affairs and Children's Rights Ásmundur Dađason met.

On August 30, 2019 during the visit of Vladimir Titov, the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, to Reykjavik, he had a conversation with President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, a meeting with Minister of Foreign Affairs Gúðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson, political consultations with permanent state-secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Iceland Stúrla Sigurjónsson.

On November 26, 2019 Minister of Foreign Affairs of Iceland Gúðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson paid a working visit to Moscow, during which a Joint Statement on ensuring the continuity of the chairmanship of the two countries in the Arctic Council was signed by the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of Russia and Iceland. Gúðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson invited Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov to pay a working visit to Iceland.

On May 19-20, 2021, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov paid a working visit to Iceland, where he took part in the ministerial session of the Arctic Council (the hairmanship of the AC passed from Iceland to Russia for the next two-year period). Sergey Lavrov also met with the President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, as well as the Prime Minister of Iceland Katrín Jakobsdóttir.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had talks with the Icelandic Minister of Foreign Affairs Gúðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson. The ministers discussed the entire range of Russian-Icelandic relations with an emphasis on strengthening political dialogue and normalizing trade and economic cooperation.

The parties annually hold trade and economic consultations and sessions of the Joint Russian-Icelandic Fisheries Commission.

Contacts between the two countries are intensifying at the regional level. In recent years, delegations from St. Petersburg, Leningrad and Murmansk regions, Karelia, Yakutia, Yamal-Nenets Autonomous Okrug and other regions of the Russian Federation have repeatedly visited Iceland in order to participate in the international forum "the Arctic Circle".

The institute of honorary consuls contributes to maintaining ties between Russia and Iceland. The honorary consul of Russia in Iceland is businessman Ágúst Andrésson. The Honorary Consul of Iceland in Russia is Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Kozitsky factory Boris Ivanov.

In both countries there is traditionally high interest in mutual cultural exchanges, development of cooperation in scientific, educational and humanitarian fields. In 2007 Icelandic physicist, director of the Icelandic Innovation Center Thorsteinn Sigfusson became a laureate of the Global Energy Prize. In 2010 he received a grant from the Government of the Russian Federation to conduct research in the field of hydrogen energy at the Tomsk Polytechnic University.

Contacts have been established between Russian and Icelandic educational institutions, student exchange is carried out on an ongoing basis. In 2008 an agreement on academic cooperation between the Moscow State University and the University of Iceland was signed. In 2007 the teaching of the Russian language, literature and culture has been restored at the University of Iceland after a three-year break.

In June 2016 on the Icelandic initiative rector of the University of Iceland Jón Atli Benediktsson paid a visit to Moscow, during which documents on scientific and educational cooperation with the Moscow State University, the Higher School of Economy and the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History were signed. 

In October 2017, during the visit of the delegation of the Arkhangelsk region to Iceland headed by the governor Igor Orlov, Memorandums of Understanding were signed between the University of Reykjavik, University of Iceland and the Northern (Arctic) Federal University named after M.V. Lomonosov (NArFU), which is a recognized center of scientific research and education in the Russian Arctic. In November 2018, a partnership agreement was signed between Murmansk State Technical University and Akureyri University, in January 2021 - between St. Petersburg State University and the University of Iceland. 

In November 2019, with the support of the Russkiy Mir Foundation, the project of the Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies in Reykjavik on digitization of Icelandic-Russian and Russian-Icelandic dictionaries and its publication on the website of the Institute.

Russia ranks 19th among Iceland's international partners in terms of joint scientific publications.

Bilateral cultural ties are constantly expanding.

On November 30, 2011, the Ministers of Culture of Russia and Iceland signed an agreement on cooperation in Moscow. Since 2013, Iceland has hosted the Russian Film Week every year.

During the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, “Icelandair” and “Wow Air” operated charter flights for Icelandic fans to Russian cities where the Icelandic national team played (Moscow, Volgograd, Rostov-on-Don). At the end of their performance, the Icelandic national team expressed gratitude to Russia on their official “Twitter”: “Thank you, Russia, for a warm welcome.”

Special attention in Iceland is traditionally paid to the issues of preserving the historical truth about World War Two. On November 1, 2017, an opening ceremony of the monument “Hope for Peace” in memory of sailors who participated in the Arctic convoys took place in Hvalafjord with the participation of President of Iceland Guðni Thorlacius Jóhannesson, Minister of Foreign Affairs Gúðlaugur Þór Þórðarsson, Governor of the Arkhangelsk Region Igor Orlov. Three other monuments were raised in Iceland with the support of the Russian Embassy in memory of the Arctic convoys: in 2005 - in Reykjavik and Isafjordur, in 2014 - in Bolungarvik.

The St. Nicholas parish of the Russian Orthodox Church in Reykjavik is working on the issue of building an Orthodox church. An agreement on leasing a land plot for construction has been concluded with the city administration of Reykjavik. By now, the development of the architectural project has been completed, and search for funding sources is in progress.