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1. the conduct of the relations of one state with another by peaceful means
2. skill in the management of international relations
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an official activity carried out by heads of states, governments, and special bodies dealing with foreign relations, for the purpose of implementing the aims and tasks of the foreign policy of states and defending the interests of the state abroad. Diplomacy serves the interests of the ruling classes (in a socialist state, those of the working people). In literature, diplomacy is often defined as the “science of foreign relations” and the “art of conducting negotiations.” The word is derived from the Greek diploma—in ancient Greece, the designation for folded, inscribed name-plates that were conferred on envoys as credentials and documents confirming their authority.

The word “diplomacy” gained currency in Western Europe at the end of the 18th century as the term for state activity in foreign relations. The basic forms of diplomatic activity are congresses, conferences, and meetings, correspondence in the form of declarations, letters, notes, and memoranda, the preparation and conclusion of international treaties and agreements, the day-to-day representation of the state abroad by its embassies and legations, the participation by representatives of the state in the activity of international organizations, and the clarification in the press of the position taken by the government on given international questions. International law prohibits interference by diplomatic representatives in the internal affairs of the country in which they reside. (In the practice of imperialist diplomacy, especially in semicolonial and dependent countries, this rule is continually violated.) Agencies and individuals performing diplomatic duties have universally recognized rights and diplomatic privileges in the country of residence (for example, immunity and inviolability of diplomatic personnel and premises, the right to carry on correspondence by code and closed diplomatic communication, the right to fly the flag of one’s own state, and customs privileges).

The goals of foreign policy that must be achieved by diplomacy determine the character of the organization and methods of diplomacy. The character of diplomatic activity is closely connected with the political structure and social foundations of the state. In slaveholding societies, where military conquest was resorted to regularly to replenish the labor force, foreign policy was carried out primarily by military methods. Diplomatic ties were maintained only sporadically by embassies, which were set up for a definite mission in a given country and which returned home when it had been fulfilled.

During the period of feudal fragmentation the “private” diplomacy of feudal sovereigns became widely practiced. Between wars, they concluded peace treaties, entered into military alliances, and arranged dynastic marriages. Byzantium maintained wide diplomatic ties. With the development of international relations in the mid-15th century, states gradually began to maintain permanent missions abroad.

The diplomacy of bourgeois society has much in common with that of the feudal period, insofar as both are the diplomacies of exploitative states. At the same time, the diplomacy of capitalist states took on some new features engendered by the aims of their foreign policy, which included the struggle for markets, partition and eventually repartition of the world, and world economic and political supremacy. Under the new conditions the scale of diplomatic activity was significantly increased, and diplomacy began to be used by the state to build support among wider circles of the ruling class in foreign countries and at home and to establish contacts with various political parties and representatives of the press. Diplomacy became more dynamic. In the premonopoly stage of capitalist development, diplomacy played an important role in the struggle for the achievement of the aims of some antifeudal, democratic, and national liberation movements, in the formation of nation-states in Latin America and the Balkans, and in the unification of Germany and Italy. Basically, however, diplomacy was always used by the major capitalist states as a means for achieving their expansionist, aggressive aims.

In the age of imperialism, the bourgeois diplomacy of the developed capitalist countries serves the influential groups of the capitalist oligarchy. In their interests diplomacy and military methods have been used in the struggle among imperialist powers for colonies, and since World War II (1939-45) they have been used to pursue a neocolonialist policy. The granting of loans with crushing terms and of financial and economic “aid” to other countries (for example, dollar diplomacy—a method of US foreign policy), as well as military and political pressure, espionage, and diversionary tactics, are among the diplomatic methods of the imperialist states. The diplomacy of imperialist states has often used internal struggles in other countries as pretexts for diplomatic and military intervention (for example, US intervention in the internal affairs of Guatemala in 1954 and US attempts at aggression against Cuba and intervention in Indochina in the 1960’s). Profoundly hostile to the interests of the people, bourgeois diplomacy was and remains a secret diplomacy.

A variety of methods have been applied to imperialist diplomacy in its relations with the Soviet Union and the other socialist countries, including diplomatic preparation of the anti-Soviet intervention of 1918-20 and attempts to prevent the regeneration of Soviet power by applying economic pressure (the Geneva Conference of 1922). Western diplomacy pursued a policy of nonintervention that was designed to direct the aggression of Hitlerite Germany against the USSR. However, with the outbreak of World War II the Western powers were compelled to switch to a position of supporting efforts to create an anti-Hitlerite coalition. After World War II, the Western powers’ cold war and “bridge-building” policies were intended to undermine the world socialist system. Before the war the Western powers had attempted to use the League of Nations against the Soviet state, and after World War II, they tried to use the United Nations against the socialist countries.

From the moment of its entry into the international arena the Soviet state has opposed imperialist diplomacy with its own, the aim of which is to secure peace throughout the world and the movement of mankind along the road of progress. Soviet diplomacy has gained the respect and support of broad strata of progressive public opinion throughout the world.

The change in the balance of forces between the capitalist and socialist systems in favor of the latter, the growth of democratic and socialist forces throughout the world, and the disintegration of imperialist colonial systems and the formation of new independent states have prompted bourgeois diplomacy to use an increasing variety of methods in the struggle for the preservation of imperialist positions. Occupying an increasingly important place in the activity of contemporary bourgeois diplomacy is ideological diversion against the socialist states, which is conducted in a great variety of ways with the aim of undermining the socialist structure in these states. Bourgeois diplomacy makes extensive use of anti-Soviet propaganda, contributing to the swelling of the war potential of the most powerful capitalist states, the unleashing of wars, and the creation of focuses of potential military conflict in various regions of the world, including the Near East. At the same time, the new distribution of ferees in the international arena and the active diplomacy of the socialist states—above all the USSR—have compelled bourgeois diplomacy to conclude treaties that have contributed to some alleviation of international tensions and to the settlement of disputes. In bourgeois diplomacy the struggle between two tendencies has manifested itself with increasing clarity. On the one hand there is a striving to regulate the international situation by peaceful means and on the other, an interest in heightening further international tensions.

Bourgeois diplomacy has sought to direct the foreign policy of the developing countries into channels dictated by imperialism. This policy has been opposed by the diplomacy of the developing countries, particularly those oriented toward socialism, which have been directing their energy toward consolidation of their independence. Having overcome various difficulties, they are liberating themselves from the vestiges of economic and political subordination to the forces of imperialism.

The forms and methods of the diplomacy of the Soviet Union and other socialist states are determined by the goals adopted by their foreign policies. Of these the most important are ensuring peaceful conditions for building a communist society in the USSR, consolidation of the world socialist system, and comprehensive support for movements for national liberation. One of the bases of the foreign policy of socialist countries is the Leninist principle of peaceful coexistence between states with different sociopolitical systems. The relationship between the socialist countries is based on the principles of socialist internationalism, fraternal alliance, and mutual assistance. Having no need to mask their aims in any way, the socialist countries reject secret diplomacy. Based solidly on principles, socialist diplomacy is at the same time distinguished by flexibility and readiness to make certain compromises in the interests of consolidating the forces of socialism and democracy and strengthening peace and security. The diplomacy of the socialist states constantly exposes the aggressive designs of imperialist governments and the diplomatic maneuvers masking them.


Istoriia diplomatii, 2nd ed., vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1959-65.
Tarle, E. V. “O priemakh burzhuaznoi diplomatii.” In Istoriia diplomatii, vol. 3. Moscow-Leningrad, 1945. Pages 701-64.
Levin, D. B. Diplomatiia: Ee sushchnost’, metody iformy. Moscow, 1962.
Diplomatiia sovremennogo imperializma: Liudi, problemy, metody Moscow, 1969.
Blishchenko, I. P., and V. N. Durdenevskii. Diplomaticheskoe i konsul’skoe pravo. Moscow, 1962.
Nicolson, H. Diplomatiia. Moscow, 1941. (Translated from English.)
Nicolson, H. Diplomaticheskoe iskusstvo. Moscow, 1962. (Translated from English.)
Cambon, J. Diplomat. Moscow, 1946. (Translated from French.)
Sallet, R. Diplomatiche skaia sluzhba. Moscow, 1956. (Translated from German.)
Satow, E. Rukovodstvo po diplomaticheskoi praktike. Moscow, 1961. (Translated from English.)
Granet, P. L’Evolution des méthodes diplomatique s. Paris, 1939.
Nicolson, H. The Evolution of Diplomatic Method, 3rd ed. New York, 1954.
Wright, Q. The Study of International Relations. New York, 1955.


Russia and the USSR. Diplomacy came into being in Russia during the period of the formation of the ancient Russian state of Kievan Rus’, whose treaties with neighboring countries regulated questions of war and peace, trade, and the status of foreigners. Kievan Rus’ exchanged embassies with neighboring states, and marriage contracts with the ruling houses of France, Bohemia, Norway, Poland, and other states occupied an important place in its diplomacy. During the period of feudal fragmentation the Russian principalities exchanged embassies with each other and neighboring states. Congresses of princes and mixed commissions were held, and arbitration and mediation were practiced to settle border disputes. Between the 13th century and the first half of the 15th century Rus’ maintained relations with the Golden Horde, Byzantium, Lithuania, and the Baltic principalities. Alexander Nevsky and Ivan I Danilovich Kalita conducted an active diplomacy.

In Muscovite Russia diplomacy developed successfully under Ivan III (1440-1505). Under Ivan IV (1530-84) the Posol’skii Prikaz (Foreign Office) was set up in 1549, diplomatic ranks were established, and a complex diplomatic ceremony developed in Russia. In this period the activity of Russian diplomats promoted the formation and strengthening of the centralized Russian state.

Peter I (1672-1725) pursued an active foreign policy. The Collegium of Foreign Affairs was established during his reign (1717), replacing the Posol’skii Prikaz. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs was established in 1802. The institution of the consulate developed from the late 19th century. Basically, diplomacy between the 18th and early 20th century served the great power aims of the Russian tsarist regime and the interests of the nobility, landlords, merchants, and capitalists.

The Great October Socialist Revolution and the emergence of the Soviet state brought the establishment of a new socialist diplomacy. The first decree and first diplomatic document of Soviet power was the Decree on Peace of Oct. 26 (Nov. 8), 1917. It advanced a program for a general democratic peace and new international relations without annexations or indemnities, the enslavement of peoples, territorial conquests, or secret diplomacy and based on respect for the right of nations to self-determination. V. I. Lenin played the leading role in developing the principles of Soviet diplomacy and organizing the Soviet diplomatic service. At a meeting organized by Lenin on June 30, 1-18, problems in the organization and functions of the People’s Commissariat for Foreign Affairs and of foreign missions of the Soviet state were worked out. In a world divided into two social systems, socialist and capitalist, Soviet diplomacy began to implement the Leninist policy of peaceful coexistence between states with different social structures. It achieved the conclusion of the Peace of Brest-Litovsk in 1918, thus extricating the country from the imperialist war. The results of the Genoa Conference and the conclusion of the Treaty of Rapallo with Germany in 1922 were achievements of Soviet diplomacy, which succeeded in breaking up the anti-Soviet front of capitalist states that had been attempting to isolate the Soviet state diplomatically.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s, Soviet diplomacy gained recognition of the Soviet state by the majority of capitalist countries. It led a successful struggle to ensure foreign relations that would be most favorable to socialist construction. In a complex international environment Soviet diplomacy fought for the establishment of a stable peace and against the unleashing of war by the imperialist powers. At the League of Nations it made proposals for universal and complete disarmament and the creation of a system of collective security. During World War II (1939-45), Soviet diplomacy showed initiative and achieved the creation of the anti-Hitlerite coalition, which had profound importance for gaining victory over fascist Germany and militaristic Japan. Soviet diplomacy made a major contribution to the determination of the bases of the postwar peace, as was reflected in the Charter of the UN, postwar peace treaties, and the system of peace-keeping.

With the rise of other socialist states, Soviet diplomacy exerted significant influence on the strengthening and development of socialist international relations and socialist international law, which regulates relations between the socialist countries. This was reflected in the system of bilateral treaties between socialist countries, such as the treaties on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance, and in the creation of international organizations of socialist countries, above all the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (1949) and the organization of countries of the Warsaw Pact (1955).

The diplomacy of the USSR toward other socialist countries seeks to ensure their unity and joint defense, strengthen their sovereignty and independence, and further develop relations between them on the basis of socialist internationalism. The diplomacy of the Soviet state in the postwar years has continued to implement the principle of peaceful coexistence between states with different social structures. Soviet diplomacy has used all the forms and means made available by international law for the struggle for peace, including treaties of friendship and alliance, nonaggression and neutrality pacts, treaties of mutual assistance and economic cooperation, and participation in international organizations, disarmament conferences, and the creation of a system of collective security. The Soviet government and the governments of the other socialist countries have taken the initiative in proposing universal and complete disarmament and the creation of security systems for Europe and Asia. Soviet diplomacy played a major role in the conclusion of a number of treaties, including those on the prevention of nuclear tests in outer space, the atmosphere, and under water (1963), the treaty on the principles by which states are to be guided in the exploration and use of outer space (1967), and the treaty on the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons (1969).

Soviet diplomacy achieved major success in bringing about a lessening of international tension and in the development of relations of peaceful coexistence with capitalist states (for example, relations between the USSR and Afghanistan, Italy, Iran, and France, the conclusion of a treaty with the Federal Republic of Germany in 1970, and the four-party agreement on West Berlin in 1971).

Soviet diplomacy gives assistance to the national liberation movement and the young and independent states of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. On the initiative of Soviet diplomacy the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted the Declaration on Granting Independence to the Colonial Countries and Peoples (1960) and the Declaration of Nonintervention in the Internal Affairs of States and Peoples and on the Protection of Theft Independence and Sovereignty (1965). Soviet diplomacy supports the heroic struggle of the peoples of Indochina against US aggression and the struggle of the Arabic peoples against the aggression of Israel.

The theoretical basis of Soviet diplomacy is the Marxist-Leninist understanding of the international situation, the laws of social development, and the laws of the class struggle and the Marxist analysis of the correlation of internal and international forces, which takes into account the national and historical features that are specific to the development of every country. Characteristic of the diplomacy of the Soviet state are adherence to principles, purposefulness coupled with flexibility and maneuverability, a readiness to resolve disputes by peaceful means and by negotiations based on respect for sovereignty and on nonintervention in internal affairs and respect for territorial integrity, and faithful execution of obligations. Soviet diplomacy rests on respect for the principle of the equality and self-determination of nations, broad cooperation in matters pertaining to the development and strengthening of the independence of states, and implementation of the principles of peace and peaceful coexistence with states that have different socioeconomic systems. Soviet diplomacy also promotes and defends the interests of states that have come into existence as a result of the national liberation movement, and it supports the struggle against imperialism and colonialism in all their manifestations.

The Soviet Union implements its diplomatic ties with the countries of the socialist community on the basis of the principle of socialist internationalism and fraternal cooperation in the name of common goals, with complete respect for the sovereign rights and national interests of each socialist country.

The methods of Soviet diplomacy are varied and are determined by its essence. Foremost among its methods is its relentless struggle to strengthen and develop peaceful relations, which has expressed itself in a series of constructive proposals. Soviet diplomacy uses compromises in the interests of peace and peaceful coexistence, without, however, retreating from the basic principles of the socialist system or communist ideology. It makes wide use of the method of negotiations, coordinates diplomatic actions between the socialist states, and uses international organizations for the purpose of cooperation and the development of peaceful relations and relations of peaceful coexistence in the interests of the popular masses of all countries.

Unique features of Soviet diplomacy are its organization of public opinion, its unification of the forces struggling against war and for the support and strengthening of peace, and its castigation of and struggle with aggression and against aggressive pacts and alliances. Soviet diplomacy takes important steps to implement the principle of peaceful coexistence and develop trade and economic, scientific, and cultural ties with countries that are willing to do so.

The achievements of Soviet diplomacy are determined by the leadership of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, which sets its scientifically founded direction, content, and methods. The Program of the CPSU emphasizes that the CPSU considers the main goal of its activity in the area of foreign policy to be ensuring peaceful conditions for building a communist society in the USSR, developing the world socialist system, and cooperating with all peace-loving peoples to use all the means available to protect mankind against the holocaust of another world war. Of great importance to Soviet diplomacy are the resolutions adopted by the Twenty-fourth Congress of the CPSU (1971), which set forth a program for the struggle against imperialist aggression and for peace, international security, and cooperation among peoples.

As of 1971, the state interests of the USSR in the political field were represented abroad by 144 embassies and consulates. The USSR participated in the work of over 400 international organizations, and more than 7,000 functioning treaties and agreements had been signed by representatives of the Soviet Union.


Istoriia diplomatii, 2nd ed., vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1959-65.
Istoriia mezhdunarodnykh otnoshenii i vneshnei politiki SSSR, 1917-1967 gg.: Sbornikdokumentov, vols. 1-3. Moscow, 1967.
50 let bor’by SSSR za razoruzhenie, 1917-1967: Sbornik dokumentov. Moscow, 1967.
O sovremennoi sovetskoi diplomatii: Sbornik statei. Moscow, 1963.
Zorin, V. A. Osnovy diplomaticheskoi sluzhby. Moscow, 1964.
Bakhov, A. S. Na zare sovetskoi diplomatii: Organy sovetskoi diplomatii v 1917-1922 gg. Moscow, 1966.
Vygodskii, S. Iu. U istokov sovetskoi diplomatii. Moscow, 1965.
Kovalev, A. G. Azbuka diplomatii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1968.
Blishchenko, I. P. Vneshnie funktsii sotsialisticheskogo gosudarstva. Moscow, 1970.
Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniia: Bibliograficheskii spravochnik, 1945-1960. Compiled by V. N. Egorov. Moscow, 1961.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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