Friendship between the peoples of Russia and Greece goes into the depths of time. Greeks had been settling in the Northern Black Sea area even in 6–5 BC. Modern cities of Odessa, Feodosiya, Yevpatoria and Sevastopol that were founded on the sites of ancient Greek settlements, have retained their Greek names to this day.
In 957 AD Princess Olga, ruler of the Ancient Russian state, visited the capital of the Byzantine Empire and converted to Christianity. In 988 AD her grandson Prince Vladimir Svyatoslavich christianised the Ancient Rus, thus laying the new foundation of the continuously growing communication between Greeks and Slavs.
Russian church art, philosophy and theology are all of Greek origin. Many Greek scholars and figures laboring on Russian soil became an integral part of Russian culture: Theophanes the Greek, a Russian icon painter; Maximus the Greek, a Russian saint, thinker and scholar; Alexander Konstantinovich Ipsilanti, a Russian general.
Saint brothers from the city of Thessalonica, equal-to-apostles Cyril and Methodius, devised the Slavonic alphabet and the Church Slavonic language. The Gospels and church texts were for the first time translated into Slavonic word for word. For ages Church Slavonic had been not only the church language but also the language of science and of Russian literature.
After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the establishment of Ottoman supremacy in Greece, thousands of Greeks came to Russia seeking shelter from cruel persecutions. Several decades later a Greek quarter appeared in Moscow. In the middle of the 17th century the Greek monks that had brought to Moscow a copy of the miraculous Iberian Icon of the Mother of God, were granted St. Nicholas Monastery in Kitay-gorod (a historical district in central Moscow).
Greek scholars and theologists brothers Joannicus and Sophronius Leichoudes were the first teachers at the Slavo-Greco-Latin Academy in Moscow, established in 1687. Many of the Acade-my's graduates became outstanding figures of science, state, diplomacy, church, art and culture, among them great polymath and scientist Mikhail Lomonosov, mathematician Leonty Magnitsky, first Russian Doctor of Medicine Piotr Postnikov and many others.
In 1775 the theological faculty of the Academy evolved into a separate institution, known today as the Moscow Theological Academy — the higher educational institution of the Russian Orthodox Church. The Academy itself is now titled the Moscow University.
Numerous Greek scholars, monks, priests and translators of sacred books had not only helped the Russians absorb the Byzantine culture, but also played a significant role in the history of the Russian state. In this matter, the fate of Ioannis Kapodistrias is very telling.
Ioannis was born on Corfu on 11 February, 1776. Educated in philosophy and medicine, he entered the diplomatic service. After the liberation of Corfu from the French forces by Admiral Ushakov in 1799, Ioannis worked as a chief medical director of the Russian military hospital on Corfu. In 1800 Ushakov offered him the position of the Secretary of the Legislative Council of the Septinsular Republic, and he accepted.
After the Ionian Islands had been ceded to France, the young politician entered the Russian service, and from 1816 to 1822 he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Empire. After his retirement due to health problems, in 1822 Count Ioannis Kapodistrias was elected the ruler of Greece for 7 years.
One of the central streets of the Greek capital, the Queen Olga Avenue, is named after Grand Duchess Olga Konstanti¬novna Romanova, the granddaughter of the Emperor Nicho¬las I, his son Konstantin's daughter. Princess Olga was the grandmother of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, the husband of Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, and Head of the Commonwealth.
Like all the children in the Grand Duke Konstantin's family, Olga was raised in Orthodox religion, received excellent education and was fluent in several languages. Grand Duchess Olga was married to George I, King of Greece, thus becoming the Queen-Consort of Greece.
There is hardly another people with fate as close as to that of the Russian people. For many centuries, united by the common religion and common cultural traditions, Russia and Greece have been supporting each other in their struggles for freedom and independence.
Since the origins of the Russian state, from Kievan Rus and to this day, the cultural connections and mutual aid between Russian and Greek nations have never been interrupted and continue evolving to this day.