Russian Embassy pays tribute to diplomat

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Feb 9, 2014 - 19:45
  • Updated : Feb 9, 2014 - 19:45
Sergey Chirkin (left), court counselor of the Russian legation in Korea, poses for a photo with General Counselor A. Somov (second from right) at the former Russian diplomatic facility in Jeong-dong, downtown Seoul, in this undated 1911 photo. (Russian Embass)

Long-time expatriate in Korea and former Russian diplomat, Sergey Chirkin, died in Seoul in 1943.

Early last century, when Russia was an empire and Korea was a united country, Chirkin was senior diplomat working in Seoul. In 1911, when he held the rank of court counselor, Chirkin was instrumental in securing the return of the remains of servicemen killed during the Russo-Japanese War that had ended some five years earlier.

So, it was only natural for officials from the Russian Embassy to pay their respects to Chirkin when they marked this year’s Diplomatic Service Day, a red letter day for diplomats in Russia, at Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery on Thursday.

With a small number of guests in attendance, a Russian Orthodox priest led a service at the cemetery and Russian Deputy Chief of Mission to South Korea Oleg V. Davydov laid a handful of red roses at his headstone.

Russian Deputy Chief of Mission to South Korea Oleg V. Davydov says a prayer after laying a handful of red roses at the headstone of former Russian diplomat Sergey Chirkin at Yanghwajin Foreigners’ Cemetery on Thursday. (Philip Iglauer/The Korea Herald)

“He returned to Korea by way of India after the revolution in the 1920s and lived here for 20 years. There was no Russian Empire at that time, and he was not a diplomat either, but he was accepted by the diplomatic community along with Soviet diplomats,” said Maxim G. Volkov, a counselor-level envoy at the Russian Embassy.

On Feb. 10, Russian diplomats mark their professional day ― Diplomatic Service Day ― established by President Vladimir Putin by executive order in 2002. The date Feb. 10 was chosen because the earliest mention of Russia’s first foreign affairs agency, called Posolsky Prikaz, occurred more than 500 years ago on Feb. 10, 1549.

“We are commemorating him on this day because he was an exceptional diplomat,” Volkov said.

A lot more is expected of Russian diplomats these days, as new areas of international relations are included in the sphere of diplomatic activity stemming from globalization and the integration of Russia into world politics and economy, the Russian Embassy said on its website about the meaning of Diplomatic Service Day.

Traditionally on this day, the ministry’s staff pays tribute to the memory of previous generations of workers of Russia’s Foreign Service by laying flowers at the graves of the outstanding Russian diplomats buried in Russia and around the world.

“When he was leading our Consul General here in Seoul ― because at that time it was already under the Japanese, and the Japanese were an enemy of Russia ― the remains of Russian soldiers were returned home from the Far East. He organized all this,” Volkov said.

By Philip Iglauer (