When Northern Rhodesia gained independence from the United Kingdom as Zambia on 24 October 1964, the Soviet Union sent the government of Kenneth Kaunda a telegram recognising Zambian independence, and offered to establish diplomatic relations with the new state. On 30 October 1964, the two countries exchanged notes, establishing diplomatic relations between the two.
Political relations between the Soviet Union and Zambia were challenged by Chinese presence in Zambia, and the cordial attitude of the Kaunda government towards the West, however, Kaunda visited the Soviet Union on state visits in 1974 and 1987.
Relations between the two countries soured in 1976, when Kaunda said on the Soviet and Cuban presence in Angola, "(t)hey drove colonialism and fascism out the front door, only to let a plundering tiger and its cubs in the back door." Soviet support for the Zimbabwe African People's Union, which operated primarily out of Zambia, helped to stop relations from detiorating further, and ties became warmer after Abel Muzorewa, the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe Rhodesia launched airstrikes inside Zambia in 1979. After the strikes, Zambia unsuccessfully sought Western military aid, which saw Zambia turning to East Germany for military aid.
In 1981, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and the United National Independence Party established ties. Several Soviet delegations visited Lusaka with a view to turn UNIP into a Marxist-Leninist party, and UNIP officials made reciprocal visits to Moscow. The African National Congress moved its headquarters to Lusaka in 1984, and it was in Lusaka that the ANC devised strategy, with the covert assistance of Soviet military and intelligence personnel. In aid of this goal, the Soviet embassy in Lusaka was the largest in Southern Africa, and was staffed by 129 officials, including "approximately 25 KGB and GRU officials with diplomatic cover, and another 50 without".
Between 1979 and 1983, the Soviet Union exported US$180 million in arms to Zambia, comprising seventy percent of Zambia's arms imports. Imports included MiG-21 fighter aircraft, tanks, armoured personnel carriers, S-125 surface-to-air missiles and radar equipment. To train Zambian Defence Force personnel to use and maintain the equipment, the Soviets had some 500 military personnel based in Zambia.
Russian Federation relations
On 31 December 1991, Zambia recognised the Russian Federation as the successor state to the Soviet Union, after the latter's dissolution. Russia has an embassy in Lusaka, and Zambia has an embassy in Moscow. The current Ambassador of Russia to Zambia is Boris Malakhov, who was appointed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on 6 October 2008, and presented his Letters of Credence to President of Zambia Rupiah Banda on 22 January 2009. The current Ambassador of Zambia to Russia is Frederick Shumba Hapunda.
In 2008, bilateral trade between Russia and Zambia increased from the 2007 level of US$11.4 million to US$17 million. Russian imports from Zambia were mainly of tobacco, and Russian exports to Zambia comprised agricultural machinery, motorcycles, and food.
On 25 August 1966, the Soviet and Zambian governments signed an agreement on cultural co-operation, which carried over to the Russian Federation. A Russian Centre of Science and Culture opened in Lusaka in 1989. The centre, which operates within the framework of the Federal Agency for Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation, and in co-operation with the Russian Embassy in Lusaka, carries out political activities with the aim of strengthening relations between Russia and Zambia, by providing the public with objective information on the domestic and foreign policies of Russia, and by providing Russian language training. As of 2013, approximately 1,450 Zambians are enrolled and studying in Russia, making Zambia the largest recipient of Russian government sponsored scholarships in sub-Sahara Africa.
- Conley, Robert (24 October 1964). "Northern Rhodesia Reborn as Zambia; Britain Ends Rule". The New York Times. p. 1. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- Ginsburgs, George; Slusser, Robert M. (1981). A calendar of Soviet treaties, 1958-1973. BRILL. p. 908. ISBN 90-286-0609-2.
- Gamba-Stonehouse, Virginia (1987). "Towards a Common Strategic Language: Case 1: Soviet Intervention in Angola, 1975". The Falklands/Malvinas war: a model for North-South crisis prevention. Taylor & Francis. p. 14. ISBN 0-04-497026-9.
- Pascoe, William (21 July 1986). "Moscow's Strategy in Southern Africa: A Country by Country Review" (PDF). Heritage Foundation. Retrieved 14 August 2010. (Archived at WebCite)
- Замбия. Связи с Россией и СНГ [Zambia. Relations with Russia and the CIS] (in Russian). Polpred.com. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- Donaldson, Robert H.; Papp, Daniel S. (1981). "The Soviet Union and Southern Africa". The Soviet Union in the Third World. Taylor & Francis. p. 89. ISBN 0-89158-974-0.
- "ANGOLA: A Tiger at the Back Door". Time Magazine. 9 February 1976. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- "УКАЗ Президента РФ от 06.10.2008 N 1444" (in Russian). Presidential Press and Information Office. Retrieved 16 October 2008.
- "RB receives credentials from Russia, Korean envoys". Lusaka: Zambia News and Information Services. 22 January 2009. Archived from the original on October 9, 2011. Retrieved 14 June 2009.
- Government of the Soviet Union; Government of Zambia (17 December 1971). "Trade Agreement between the Government of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and the Government of the Republic of Zambia" (PDF). Lusaka: United Nations Treaty Series. Retrieved 26 July 2009.[dead link]
- Российско-замбийские отношения [Namibia-Russia relations] (in Russian). Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 17 February 2009. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- Двусторонние документы [Bilateral documents] (in Russian). Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 1 March 2006. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
- Встреча Л.И.Ефремовой с председателем Всероссийской Ассоциации выпускников иностранных медицинских вузов доктором Наджирулл Амином [Meeting of Dr. Nadzhirull Amin with the chairman of the All-Russian Association of graduates of foreign medical schools L.I.Efremova] (in Russian). Federal Agency for Commonwealth of Independent States, Compatriots Living Abroad and International Humanitarian Cooperation. Retrieved 26 July 2009.
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