Britain and Russia: 450 Years of Contact

Paul Dukes looks at the ups and downs of the relationship between the land of the lions and that of the double-headed eagle.

The beginnings were accidental. In 1553, an expedition was sent from London under the Arctic navigator Sir Hugh Willoughby with the aim of finding the north-east passage to the Indies. An accompanying letter from Edward VI (r.1547-53) asked all those in authority ‘... in all places under the universal heaven’ to consider that:

... the God of heaven and earth greatly providing for mankind, would not that all things should be found in one region, to the end that one should have need of another, that by this means friendship might be established among all men, and every one seek to gratify all.

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